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Square Foot Gardening at Bernheim

By volunteer

The Edible Garden hosts a variety of different vegetables, as well as flowers for attracting pollinators. We also explore techniques to minimize the time needed for maintenance chores like weeding, watering, and thinning seedlings. Helping aging gardeners maintain enthusiasm and ability to continue a satisfying endeavor is also important. 

Establishing a square foot garden seemed a logical approach. Five open small, raised beds were moved to an area being renovated and converted into square foot gardens. Mel Bartholomew has been promoting the idea of square foot gardening in his many books on the subject. 

The square foot garden’s beds began with an assembled soil of vermiculite or perlite, and compost. An addition of a 1-inch layer of coconut coir maintains moisture and slows the growth of weeds. Subsequently, the coir can be integrated into the existing soil to improve the soil structure and provide nutrients. 

Each 12” x 12” growing unit was demarked with bamboo which was available in plentiful supply.  A white plastic mesh, supported by metal wire hoops, was used to prevent insect damage, light frost, and hungry animals. 

Each square growing area can support various numbers of plants: single plants of cauliflower, cabbage, sweet pepper, eggplant, broccoli, or basil; four plants of Bok choy, kale, Swiss chard, lettuce, or parsley; nine plants of bush beans, beets or spinach; sixteen plants of carrots, radishes, cylindrical beets, or onions. Flowers that repel insects can also be grown. 

Peas or pole beans can be grown using vertical supports and larger vegetables, such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes, or summer squash, may require the use of two or four squares.  

So far this year, we have harvested two consecutive crops of radishes as well as beets, lettuce, cauliflower, Swiss chard, curly and Lacinato kale, snow peas, Bok choy, parsley and basil. So far, 16 lbs. of produce have been delivered to Isaac’s Café for inclusion in their tasty menu. 

As one crop is finished, it can be replaced with another. Peas followed by pole beans, Bok choy by potatoes or sweet potatoes, lettuce by tomatoes. 

Weeding has been very easy and watering minimal. Maintenance of the square foot gardens has required less than four hours a week. We look forward to planting our summer and fall gardens.  

Come out to the Edible Garden and see what’s growing. The Square Foot Garden demonstration beds can be found on the Northeast side of the Edible Garden. Square Foot Gardens are a great way to grow food when one has limited space.  


Tony Jevans and Cliff Keller, Volunteers                       







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