Jen's Reviews > All New Square Foot Gardening

All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew
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's review
Apr 12, 08

bookshelves: gardening
Read in April, 2008

I guess whatever works for people is great, and it seems like he has a lot of converts...but I sure wasn't crazy about Mel's method and even less so about his delivery. It is like listening to a used car salesman - and immediately after saying that while I was reading, I read the next paragraph, where he compared his book to a brand new shiny Cadillac. Sheesh.

He essentially advocates container gardening, cloaked in the guise of shallow 6" raised beds. The beds are self-contained, filled with a vermiculite mix, and broken down - literally, he is very emphatic about this - into 1 foot squares. So, effectively, you are planting each crop in 1/2 cubic foot of soil. And not fertilizing, beyond applications of compost he alludes to but never explains. (Wouldn't these tiny bins soon overflow?) He says it works, but there are very few pictures of actual vegetables in his book - instead it is a lot of petunias and such, which I find pretty ugly planted in a visible grid.

I like that his method could encourage rotation, but if you are actually concerned about pests I question whether moving a plant family over one foot would actually make it out of reach of a fungus or insect.

If you want a garden, but don't actually want to spend much time gardening, and are a bit of a control freak (he waxes poetic about the beauty of these nice neat 4x4 containers) who doesn't want the messiness of plants, this could be a good book for you. If that sounds sassy, I don't mean it that way - I really do think that this is his audience.

Oh, one more thing - he also talks about "Square Meter Gardening", his effort to stop hunger by bringing his method to starving people in the third-world. It just seems awfully absurd, patronizing, and potentially damaging, to bring this method that is focused on purchasing and importing soil (NOT enriching or using any of the existing soil) and is presumably designed for temperate zones where a lush summer vegetable garden isn't that hard to come by, to dry poor countries. I don't know that it is economically nor ecologically feasible. Is his assumption really that subsistence farmers are starving because they just don't know how to farm? (I believe so, since he actually uses the "teach a man to fish" cliche in his proposal.) If so, I doubt that Mel's method will go a long way towards changing that.
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message 1: by Kit (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kit Thank you. You articulated just about all my thoughts on his delivery. At one point I believe he recommended people use their smartphones to take a picture of a pest to send to their extension office for identification, followed by this: "That way you save on gas--one more way that SFG is saving you money and time!" I'm sorry, but just how is SFG helping me save money and time via smartphone again? Just how are the two related? Ugh.


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