Square foot gardening mistakes

Are you thinking about starting a square foot garden? Square foot gardening is perfect for those with limited space or are new to gardening and would like to plant many things or get a greater yield from a smaller space. Square foot gardening is incredibly useful for companion planting and management of soil in a smaller space. Learn about some of the square foot gardening mistakes that are made and how to avoid them.

Are you thinking about starting a square foot garden? Square foot gardening is perfect for those with limited space or are new to gardening and would like to plant many things or get a greater yield from a smaller space. Square foot gardening is incredibly useful for companion planting and management of soil in a smaller space.

I converted my garden to a square foot garden this year (square centimetre really). Last year I just had a throw it in and hope for the best scenario, and while that was great, I really wanted to increase yield and grow a greater variety this year. I also wanted to utilise the space of my garden better.

But square foot gardening is no easy feat and still requires work and commitment to get going. While waiting for my seeds to germinate, and also waiting on my husband to finish the garden extension, I deep mulched my garden beds and have been patiently waiting to start planting. But I also have made a few mistakes along the way which I would like to share for anyone else looking to start their square foot garden.

Doing too much digging

One mistake people often make when creating a square foot garden is digging too deep. You may think that you need to pull out the shovel and dig through heaps of soil, but this is not the case. It is best to till about 15 cm deep before you begin planting your seedlings, and what I did was till and mix horse manure and ash into my base soil. I also then topped it with a mixture of seed starting soil and clean fill. When you do too much digging, you are wasting your time and lowering your chances of getting your plants to grow as much as you would like them to.

Not choosing the ideal spot

Choosing an optimal spot for your square foot garden is essential. If you select an area without a combination of direct sunlight and shade, you could have trouble getting certain plants to grow. Some vegetables need to receive a few hours of daylight each day, but you do not want to overdo it with the sunlight. 

Because it is so important to choose the ideal spot, plan in advance. Consider monitoring the area you are planning to use as your square foot garden to see how the sun and shade hit that area over the span of several days. You may then decide where you should start your garden. If all else fails or you can’t or don’t have much control over where the garden can go, make sure to read up on the best conditions for each seedling/plant you want to sow and plant them in those conditions.

Not using the best materials

If you plan on starting a square foot garden, you need to use the right materials. There are specific materials that will come in handy for you when you get started, including cardboard or newspaper, large boards, moss, mulch, compost, and high-quality soil. Make sure that any repurposed material is safe to use in the garden and won’t cause any damage to the soil or what you’re planting.

Do as much research as possible on the materials you are thinking about using before you get started. A lack of proper materials could keep your plants from thriving, which is problematic for you as a gardener.

Not utilising drip irrigation

It’s not entirely necessary to start with, but drip irrigation is one of those must-haves for a square foot garden. When you first kick off, you can go out and water your garden by hand twice a day. This has the secondary effect of encouraging you to be out in your garden, checking for weeds and monitoring for bugs. If you do not want to stress over the idea of watering your plants, you should set up a drip irrigation system, but I would wait until I saw how the garden performed before doing so.

A drip irrigation system helps water droplets trickle through the soil, reaching the seedlings and helping them transform into full-grown plants that continue to thrive. It also saves you time in the long run by automatically watering for you.

Some people skip out on using a drip irrigation system because they have concerns about the cost. While it might sound expensive, you can purchase do-it-yourself irrigation kits online and set them up around your garden.

Skipping out on using mulch

Not everyone realizes the importance of using mulch in a square foot garden. It might seem non-essential, but there is more to mulch than meets the eye. Using mulch in your square foot garden is the perfect way to keep your soil moist and in the best condition for your plants to grow. If you skip out on using mulch, your soil can become excessively dry. 

The dry soil creates conditions for seedlings that are not necessarily ideal. Besides keeping the soil moist and in better shape, mulch protects plant roots and keeps unwanted weeds at a minimum. After all, you do not want weeds popping up and destroying the plants you are working hard to grow.

In my case, I deep mulched using a rhodes and lucerne bale of hay that went partly mouldy and lay it on thick. When planting, I simply pulled the thick carpet of the mulch back, added some soil starter and top soil back and planted my seeds. When they sprout up, I’ll chop the mulch to sit around the plants and let it keep going.

Forgetting to use the right soil amendment

A soil amendment is essential for several reasons. It helps to create better conditions for seedlings. If you want your seedlings to thrive and eventually turn into large plants, you need to provide the best soil possible. Of course, you need to base your amendment choice on the specific vegetables you are growing in your square foot garden.

Some of the different options that work well as soil amendments include:

  • Biochar
  • Wood Chips
  • Grass Clippings
  • Manure
  • Wood Ash

Before you use a soil amendment, get more information on the type of soil you are using and which conditions are best for your plants. You want to use an amendment that will naturally improve the state of the soil, creating better growing conditions for all your vegetables.

Not giving the garden the attention it needs to thrive

As with anything, you need to give your square foot garden some attention if you expect your vegetables and other plants to grow. Put in the effort to dig the right amount of space and use the proper materials in the beginning, to avoid running into issues with your plants at a later time.

Pay attention to your plants and monitor their growth over the days and weeks that will pass. Take any necessary measures to protect your plants from pests and unwanted weather conditions, such as hail storms and snowstorms. When you give the square foot garden enough attention, you can have plenty of success with it.

If you would like to start a square foot garden on your land, there are some mistakes that you will likely want to avoid making. If you can avoid the mistakes when you first start working on the garden, you can prevent yourself from dealing with extra stress and issues with your plants. Instead, you can get your plants to thrive, providing you with plenty of vegetables to use to make meals throughout the year.

What are some square foot gardening mistakes you’ve made in the past?

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