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Square Foot Gardening

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Anyone using this method?  I've read the book, and it sounds like a great approach.  I've been planning on starting a square foot garden this year, and am planning on doing the work myself.  I've priced the materials, chosen my location, and was planning to start soon.  My husband isn't convinced.  He thinks the boxes won't be sturdy enough and that they won't last very long.  He thinks that boxes made with 2x6's aren't going to stay screwed together, the wood will rot, and that I should be using pressure treated 4x4s.  Based on what I read in the book I don't want to use pressure treated wood.  I guess I feel like the author has put in the work of years of trial and error and I can take advantage of that by just following the plan and not trying to tweak it.  Any personal experiences?  Thanks!

post #2 of 12

I've used this method, though not exclusively. It has definite positives, and a few minuses - certainly a solid choice.


2x6s are PLENTY sturdy enough for this task. Ours are years old and not coming close to coming apart.


They will rot eventually, yes, but you'll get years and years of use first, and it won't be the end of the world to replace down the road. If you're growing food, you do NOT want to use pressure-treated.


People have different standards for what they deem acceptable, so if yours is a family who needs their yard looking absolutely picture-perfect, nary a weed in sight, fence whitewashed 3 times a year - then yes, the look of the untreated wood will degrade. For people who aren't picky or who like the rustic look, it looks fine - even beautiful.


Even for those who insist on picture-perfect, there are ways of achieving this with untreated wood. You can place flowers all around the perimeter, for example, hiding the wood behind beautiful foliage.


There are other options as well. I believe cedar holds up for a lot longer - but you'll pay more money of course. You could also look into bricks, which offer longevity and looks. One of my SFGs is brick - I never even mortared it. I just bought some "interlocking" pieces and stacked them 2 high. Not as solid as your DH might want it, but it's lasted years. If you actually mortar them, that's as solid as you can get.


My DH wanted pressure-treated too, but I just blew him off and did it my way. It must be a guy thing or something. DH is now happy with how it turned out.




post #3 of 12

Definitely don't use pressure treated unless you want poison in your food!


One of my beds is made out of cinder blocks.  Then I plant onions and marigolds and herbs in the holes of the blocks.  Works well for radishes, too.  Some of my beds are made out of old upright freezers.  The hubby took out the compressors and the kids shot drainage holes in the back.  We tipped them over, put them up on some bricks and I have insulated mini greenhouses!  I want to paint the outsides, but haven't gotten around to it yet.  My swiss chard made it thru our horrible, horrible summer, and all winter so far, w/out being covered, and my lettuces and carrots are doing great, uncovered.  I can quickly cover them if necessary, though.  Some of our beds are made of wood, and are holding up just fine.  And my newest are plastic 4'x4'x5' water containers for livestock.  I will get to harvest at chest height!


I set out to do the sfg, but what I really do is more a combo of that and lasagna gardening, mostly out of laziness.

post #4 of 12

Oh, I forgot to mention, not only are 4x4s unnecessary, they are problematic. Only 4 inches high means you won't be able to get deep enough soil in there to grow well. You'll need it 6 inches high. And 2 inches wide is, again, more than sturdy enough. I've got one that is 4 years old, and I grant you it doesn't look like shiny new wood, but it's not falling apart in the slightest. And I live in a place with harsh winters (the thing is buried under snow every winter) plus a lot of shade and moisture (I grow irises in there... those are flowers that grow in the woods). I can't really think of a worse environment for untreated wood but it's still fine.

post #5 of 12

i use 2 x 8's.  go to your hardware store and ask for "plumbers hanging tape'/  It's silver metal tape with holes in it. You use it on the outside corners of your beds to reinforce them.  You just screw screws into the holes, one on each side, and it acts like a tape holding the corners together. This helps prevent the screws from pulling out when the beds are full of soil/  Also, remember the shape of your beds.  don't make a bed wider than four feet.  Four by eight is perfect.  If you make square beds, harvesting from the middle is quite a stretch/ and you don't want to ever step on your soil.

post #6 of 12

I made mine out of 2x12 boards, 10 feet long 3 for each bed with 1 cut in half, making my beds about 5x10. As pp said it made it a little difficult to reach the center; I'm 5'3" tall. After a few years I decided to rearrange how the beds were sited to make access easier with my wheelbarrow. There was a little decay on the bottom edges but they were still structurally sound enough for me to tip them up, turn them around and drag them to their new locations. They were 10 years old and still going strong when I moved out of state. I never painted them or anything, so they were quite weathered which looked just fine to me.

I used what was called hem-fir dimensional lumber. Although cedar will hold up longer, it can inhibit germination. So I would suggest using cedar only if your use transplants exclusively and it could be a problem with anything you direct seed (eg corn, beans squash, carrots, beets, radishes, cut-and-come-again greens)

I used 2x12s because I wanted the soil bed to be as deep as I could make them. It took a lot of soil  and compost to fill them though.

post #7 of 12





Edited by mattemma04 - 4/21/12 at 2:59pm
post #8 of 12

I don't garden this way now that I live in the country, but I used to.  When we were in suburbia I applied the square foot method but I used bricks for the frame work (just laid out, not morticed).  It was quick, easy, tidy looking and easy to rearrange.  You might even be able to luck out on free used bricks from construction like I did.

post #9 of 12

For the ground around my garden beds, we have old carpeting, turned upside down.  That is a tremendous help when it's just rained.  I don't have to slop around to get to my beds.  Keeps the weeds away, too.  Also, my FIL has been giving me some black plastic shelves that are used at Wmart in their garden center.  They have holes all in them and they use them under plants so they can water them and the extra water goes thru.  My FIL's son gets them for free and grinds them up to make the flooring for horse trailers.  Anyway, so far I have 3 and heard he just got me 5 or so more.  They are about 10 ft. long and 2 ft. wide.  I am using them around my freezer and livestock waterer beds for a really nice walkway!  I put these sheets of black vinyl my dh got for free years ago (a HUGE stack that we've used under roofing for the goat barn, as urine guards for the rabbit hutches, and many, many other things) to keep the weeds down.  I'm going for extremely low maintenance this year. 


My potato beds (made out of old fencing w/cardboard or newspaper at the bottom and on the sides to keep the dirt in) will go at the end of each of my longer wooden raised beds (20'x3') and butt up to the edge of the walkway.  That will remove 2 big areas where weeds would otherwise grow.  To harvest, the kids will cut the zip ties holding the fencing shut, and knock over the dirt pile and play find the potatoes.  Then we can shovel the remaining dirt into the other beds to reuse it. 


The last 2 weekends we've been raking the goat barn to fill the livestock containers.  A pile of old broken bricks went into the bottoms.  One more day of shoveling and hauling poo and we should be ready to put up those potato bins and get 'em filled w/taters.  Need to also get onions, carrots, beets, and turnips in by the light of the next full moon.  All root crops should be planted then, or so all the old timers say, and I listen when old timers speak around here!  We had to postpone our next bee meeting so everyone could plant!


p.s.  I live in the country but started raised bed gardening to save ourselves alot of work vs. the traditional row garden.  Too many weeds to fight all the time.  Plus we grow rocks under our soil like you would not believe, and there are few spots on our land to garden and I no longer believe in tilling.

post #10 of 12
Originally Posted by Chicky2 View Post


p.s.  I live in the country but started raised bed gardening to save ourselves alot of work vs. the traditional row garden.  Too many weeds to fight all the time.  Plus we grow rocks under our soil like you would not believe, and there are few spots on our land to garden and I no longer believe in tilling.

There are lots more choices than this!  Actually, I do have many raised beds, but not square foot method (think long, narrow  enough to reach across raised beds), and I usually raise the height by without just raised soil or with hay bales or I even use the many rocks I take out.  Also, I've done a lot of no dig row gardens by killing the grass first with cardboard mulch and then direct planting transplants or loosening with a garden fork.  I've also dug but not tilled, just planting into sod. And occasionally, I hand till and add lots of organic matter. It all depends on the soil, what you're planting, etc. Weeds can be managed with mulch and weed barriers, even row covers help. I think in some circumstances, square foot gardening is still applicable to country living, but I grow for farmer's market and as a partial income, and I don't find I have adequate compost for all those raised beds, even with animals.  Eventually, I need to use some of the existing soil on the property to get the kid of output I want if I don't want the questionable monetary and environmental expense of purchased soil. 


Like I said, square foot gardening has it's place in the country, but just putting out there that not square foot gardening doesn't mean rows and tilling, or necessarily increased work. There are more choices out there! (I hydroponically grow micro-greens on jute with no artificial light, too!)

post #11 of 12

We're using the cinder block beds this year.  also we're going to tripod all the viney plants.  Last year half our yard was pumpkin and zucchini vines. 

post #12 of 12

My boxes are over 5 years old and just now have a few places that are looking like they will need to be replaced. Love the SFG method and highly recommend it.

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