When it comes to artichokes, I do not recommend planting them in a Square Foot Garden. These perennial plants grow so huge that it would be better to plant them in an area separate from your SFG boxes. I have seen artichoke plants do very well in their own 4×4 box using plant spacing of one per 2 square feet. It was amazing to see these exotic plant varieties growing so well, even here in Utah with our high altitudes and limited growing season. Mel B.
Asparagus can be easily grown in a Square Foot Garden. Because it is a perennial and takes several years to even get started before the first harvest and since people like a lot of asparagus and it only produces one crop a year, we suggest you assign or plant an entire 4×4 in only asparagus. Have you ever grown it before? The plants get very bushy throughout the summer and need quite a bit of room to spread out so leave good aisle space around it. (After you have harvested the asparagus, consider using the feathery leaves as filler in flower arrangements.) Traditionally, you plant one per square foot, but I’ve found that if you can afford enough of the roots, four per square foot will produce a much bigger crop earlier and I think you know the conventional way of planting them is to put about half or 3 inches of your Mel’s Mix down, determine your spacing, make little mounds of Mel’s Mix at each plant location and then you drape the roots, which you buy in the nursery or through mail order, over each one of those little mounds and then pour in the rest of the 3 inches of Mel’s Mix. That would cover the roots an inch or two and that is about all you have to do. On all the rest of your square foot garden, remember we advocate a different crop in every square foot and that has as many different advantages as explained in the “What Is SFG?” and “How to SFG”. Mel B.
Spacing should be 4 per square foot for basil if you plan to continually clip and harvest side branches and tops, or 1 per square foot if you are going to let the plant grow to maturity and then cut the whole plant at one time. Mel prefers planting 4 per square foot for a continual harvest and a larger cash crop.
Prolific and easy to grow, beans (whether of the bush or pole variety) are a terrific crop for any garden. Bush beans grow lower to the ground; each plant yields one large crop all at once. Pole beans, which are grown on a vertical frame, take longer to grow, but provide a steady, continuous yield all season long. A single planting of pole types is adequate, while additional plantings of the bush types are needed to have a constant harvest. To determine the yield from pole and bush beans, carefully read in the book the difference between pole and bush beans. You can expect approximately 1 quart basket full of beans from each square.
We usually keep blackberies and raspberries away from a Square Foot Garden where other crops are planted. Remember that things like blackberries and raspberries spread underground through their root system and keep coming up where you don’t want them. However, you could go ahead and plant raspberries in the same box, and we would recommend that you build a long, narrow box (2′ wide by however long) and plant only blackberries – 1 per square foot. That would help keep them under control and they wouldn’t be coming up in other parts of a box where you had other crops planted. You would want to add more compost to the soil each year to replenish the nutrients. Blackberries would need some sort of support to hold them up as they grow since they tend to spread out along the ground. Mel suggests not mixing blackberries and raspberries in the same SFG box either. Both plants will send out suckers and try to take over. Blackberries and raspberries will ripen at different times also, making harvesting more difficult. Mel says to think of blackberries and raspberries more like a hedge, plant your 2×2 box with just one kind of plant. Adding a tomato tower will give this hedge more structural support and keep going up, not out as much. Plants take the path of least resistance so if you train them to go up and snip the runners that go out, you can control the shape a bit more.
We usually keep blueberries away from a Square Foot Garden where other crops are planted. Remember that things like berries spread underground through their root system and keep coming up where you don’t want them. However, you could go ahead and plant blueberries in a box set aside just for that purpose and we would recommend that you build a long, narrow box (2′ wide by however long). Plant them at 1 per square foot. That would help keep them under control and they wouldn’t be coming up in other parts of a box where you had other crops planted. You would want to add more compost to the soil each year to replenish the nutrients. Blueberries like acidic soil and the pH of Mel’s Mix is near neutral. Peat moss is acidic and so you could add a higher proportion of peat moss to the Mel’s Mix. The ideal pH for blueberries is 4 to 4.5 and it needs to stay at this level throughout the life of the plant. You would need to have the soil tested periodically to check the pH and make any adjustments as necessary.
Brussels sprouts are quite big but we have planted one per square foot and put a few throughout the garden near the north side of the box so they don’t shade other crops, and it has worked well. Homegrown brussels sprouts are so tasty compared to what is bought at the grocery store they are well worth growing.
It is a beautiful sight in the spring to see the bulbs you planted in the fall begins to bloom! You can easily do this in the fall in a Square Foot Garden by removing the Mel’s Mix from the box (lay a tarp by the box) and then by planting the bulbs in the bottom in any design you would like. Then, just replace the Mel’s Mix and wait for spring! Since it takes awhile in the spring for the bulbs to quit blooming and for the foliage to die back, you can go ahead and plant some things in around the bulbs which can start to grow. I recently did this with beans. My bulbs are in a 2×8 box. When it was time to plant the beans, I just planted them in the back squares spacing them around the bulbs and then put up a vertical frame as the beans began to grow. By the time the beans were ready to take over, the bulb foliage had died back so it could be removed. Then, I had the squares in front of the beans where I could plant other crops after the bulbs were finished. You get the idea of what can be done. Plan out where you will put the bulbs in your boxes. As beautiful as it would be, you most likely wouldn’t want to put bulbs in all your boxes because they would get in the way of many things you want to plant in the spring before the bulbs are finished growing.
Carrots are related to the wildflower Queen Anne’s Lace. The seeds are so small that planting them can be very tedious: practice dropping a pinch (2 or 3 seeds) on some white paper until you get the hang of it. Carrots can be either long and thin or short and stubby; pick the shape and size that best suits your garden. There is nothing more exciting for kids of any age (grown-up kids included) than pulling up a carrot they planted months ago! Its sort of like fishing you dont know how gig it is until you see it, but you hope its a whopper. The long, thin ones can be grown in your SFG with the addition of a high-rise box (see Chapter 4 in The All New Square Foot Gardening Book).
Celery is a difficult crop to grow and not many people try it. If you do try it, space the plants 4 per square foot. If you desire nice white stalks, try the system Mel devised for double deep leeks. You can read all about it by clicking the “High Rise” tab, or in Mel’s Column on “High-Rise Gardening”.
Collard Greens are spaced 1 per square foot if you are going to be harvesting the leaves frequently or 1 per 2 square feet if you are going to let it get full size.
When the original Square Foot Gardening book was first written in 1981, the only varieties of corn were very tall, large, and bushy plants and we spaced 1 per square foot. Since then, they have started developing many smaller varieties of corn, still with large ears so that today, most of the varieties offered the home gardener can be spaced 4 per square foot. Because the corn is planted in a square and not in a row, that actually aids the pollination process. More and more studies are showing that this is the case and here we Square Foot Gardeners are already planting our corn in a square! If you feel that the corn may need some extra support as it grows, you can drive a steel 3 or 4 foot fence post in each corner of your box and then horizontally tie on some nylon netting made for gardening. The corn would then grow right up through the large openings in the netting and the stalks would stay stable through a wind storm. We do sell the inexpensive nylon netting. For more information, please see the “Garden Store” page of our website. Of course, these solutions are best implemented at the beginning of the season when the plants are small.
Cucumbers do well in a Square Foot Garden. Plant them using a vertical frame and they will grow right up, all by themselves. During the hot weather cucumbers like to be mulched and also need a lot of water because of the moisture content in the fruit. There are several options for pruning cucumbers. You can leave the plant as is, and let all the side shoots grow. Or, you can prune it back to one main stem if you would like. You can compromise between these two methods and prune the side shoots back so they are no longer than 12 to 15 inches. It’s your choice. Be sure to pick the cucumbers as they grow. If you let cucumbers grow too large on the vine, the plant will stop producing. Pick off the large cucumbers and put them in the compost pile, and eat the smaller ones. Often people think they have under-planted cucumbers because they let the large cucumbers grow, and then the plant stops producing.
As far as growing garlic in a Square Foot Garden is concerned, it does best in a cooler climate. The spacing is 4 per square foot if it is elephant garlic and 9 per square foot if it is the smaller, regular garlic. Mel has also experimented with that smaller garlic at 16 per square foot and found that it worked equally well. It is ready to dig up and harvest when the tops turn brown and die back. Make sure to dry out the cloves completely before storage.