Square foot gardening is a method of growing plants in confined, small square spaces that are normally 12” by 12”, thus the name. The size of the confined area may vary a bit,
but the concept and the name remains the same.
Square foot gardening is an extension of the French Intensive Method of growing, which is a method of controlled compacted gardening that saves space.
The phrase square foot gardening was popularized by Rodale author, Mel Bartholomew, in his 1981 book and later PBS TV show of the same name. Instead of the conventional French Intensive Method, Bartholomew framed his garden in 1" by 1" squares, framed with wood.
The result was an easy to manage, relatively weed-free garden.
When a square foot area is completely planted with lettuce, for example, there is little room for weeds to germinate and grow. Because the space is framed with wood or rocks, perennial weeds growing outside the area aren’t able to spread into the garden.
The nutritional needs of the plants also have to be completely met with square foot gardening. For this reason, each planting bed contains a rich blend of compost, manure, and soil for the optimally enriched growing environment.
Because the growing medium is so rich with nutrients and the garden is confined, the roots can completely feed on the improved soil, which also increases yields.
The downside of square foot gardening is it is far more difficult to do companion or succession planting because of the confined space. The upside is, of course, is that square foot gardening reduces the amount of soil that needs to be amended and decreases the hours spent on weed control.