I can not say enough positive things about this book, it might be because the very first gardening book I ever read was the original Square Foot Gardening book. It provided me with the basic tools to setup my first garden with great success. Provided I can basically credit my success to gardening and the eventual creation of this blog directly to the initial reading of this book, in many ways I look at Mel Bartholomew as the original “cheap vegetable gardener” with the many cost saving tips he mentions in his books. Though the original book written many decades ago can still be applied today, there were a few parts of this book that made following all the techniques difficult, one specific example is his “perfect soil” consisted of 7 different ingredients which many could be purchased at your local nursery but one specific ingredient “wood ashes” are much less common with majority of houses using alternate fuels for heating these days. The good news this problem as well as many others were taken care of in his latest installment of his series All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!
As the title explains the primary premise of square foot gardening is by dividing your garden into one foot by one foot squares. Not only is this beneficial for garden organization but also allows an easy way to implement intensive gardening in your own backyard garden allowing you to grow more vegetables in much less space compared to growing the same plants in rows. Be eliminating the need for rows or more specifically the need for spaces between rows you can plant more vegetables in a smaller space. This is visualized below with the visualization in the left being 144 carrots being grown using the square foot method compared to the visualization in the right using conventional row methods (with minimal gaps between rows) yielding 60 carrots with both being planted in a 9 square foot area.
Now with no rows you might be thinking, “How can I weed, water, or harvest without having access through rows, the solution to this is actually quite simple by creating a series of small beds no more than 4 feet wide. This provides easy access to do your garden maintenance by only requiring a maximum of a 2 foot reach required to access any square from one of the four sides. Below you can see my then two year old daughter demonstrating the ease of this.
Now I have talked a bit about the process lets get back to the book. What is great about this book is it provides chapters on all of the stages of starting your own garden. It goes from picking your best location to start your garden, creating vertical trellises, starting seeds indoors/outdoors, watering and maintaining your plants, and finally harvesting. But wait there’s more…there is also a great section on extending your gardening season with hoop covers and cold frames with detailed directions on all of these.
Though the content of the chapters are great the section I keep coming back to year after year is the appendix in the back that lists the common types if vegetables which provides great visuals to how and when to plant and harvest each of these veggies as well as specific care instructions to deter various disease and pests associated with that particular plant. Unfortunately this section was removed from the new book, but the good news is since the previous version has been in print for over 30 years you can pickup a copy used for almost nothing.
Overall if there is on gardening book I would recommend to someone starting out with gardening All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space! would be the first book I would recommend. Not only is the advice very effective it is also economical providing great methods using many materials you may already have in your back yard.