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Square Foot Gardening: A New Way to Garden in Less Space with Less Work

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  8,042 ratings  ·  888 reviews
One of the bestselling garden books ever is fresher than ever! Ready to inspire a whole new generation of gardeners.

When he created the "square foot gardening" method, Mel Bartholomew, a retired engineer and efficiency expert, found the solution to the frustrations of most gardeners. His revolutionary system is simple: it's an ingenious planting method based on using squar
Paperback, 346 pages
Published March 1st 2005 by Rodale Books (first published January 1st 1981)
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Average rating 4.14  · 
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Apr 12, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gardening
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
Mar 07, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If I were rating this gardening method, I would give it five stars. No question. But alas, I'm rating the book, and I kind of hate it. The information in it is awesome, but the delivery feels less like a book and more like an infomercial...a really, really long infomercial. Seriously, the whole thing just sounds like a sales pitch. Look, Mel, your method is amazing. It's wildly popular and successful. You don't need to sell it anymore. We are all coming to this book because we are (for the most ...more
UniquelyMoi ~ BlithelyBookish

Includes Photos of Our Own Garden

Mel Bartholomew is famous for his Square Foot Gardens, and in All New Square Foot Gardening, he gives us the tools we need to have the garden of our dreams. Pictures, easy to follow illustrated instructions, tips and tricks... regardless of the level of your gardening expertise, this is a must have book!

We live in the High Desert of Southern California where the soil is either sandy or like clay. We haven't had much success with our gardens in the past, but
As a gardening method, Square Foot Gardening is pretty great. This book, though -- this book is not great.

Mel is a big fan of science and math, so let me break down this book by the (estimated) numbers:

20% Discussion of how amazing Square Foot Gardening is, or how amazing Mel Bartholomew is
20% Actual gardening content
10% Weird and/or culturally insensitive stuff
10% Charts that don't render correctly in the ebook version
40% Repetition of all of the above

The book starts with a full chapter on th
Jun 26, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gardening-howto
I agree with the review just before mine in almost every respect. What I personally found most insensitive in the book was his plan to bring his method of farming to so-called "developing nations". The way he talked about it was so patronizing that if only I had read that first (it's at nearly the end of the book) I would have never read any further. He dismisses other cultures' diets in a single sentence and, as the previous reviewer notes, acts like the only reason people anywhere are starving ...more
May 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people with really lousy soil
Mel Bartholomew is a huge advocate of box gardening. Box gardening is a great idea, especially when you have alkaline clay like we have in our backyard. Constructing the boxes is a snap -- okay, more like a whine, because it takes a drill. He doesn't emphasize enough, though, that the gardens take a huge amount of water, because the wood seems to wick the water away from the dirt.

Stuff seems to grow well in Mel's Mix, if you plant it in the right part of the season. Last year we planted quite la
Feb 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Want to grow a veggie or flower garden but don't think you can? Think again. No excuses of not enough space, no yard or no ability. This is the book for any person with any skill level with just a patio or a yard, for the professional or for the handicap in a wheel chair. School children and 3rd world countries have used this technique with great success. I read this book in 1 afternoon and then my 13 year old son and husband built my boxes in 1 more afternoon. I'm taking pictures along the way ...more
Debra Cleaver
Aug 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: gardeners!
Shelves: reference-books
this is my favorite gardening book. what can i say? there's a man with a neck beard on the cover. his name is mel. mel is more or less my favorite person on the planet. he retired from his job as an engineer at 42 and then turned to gardening. when you set an engineer loose in a backyard gardening, you get precision gardening. basically, he figured out how closely you can plant things so that you get the maximum yield per square foot. each individual plant produces less, but the overall yield is ...more
Apr 10, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: not-reading, kindle, 2012
Honestly, if you can get past the bragging and boasting about how great Mel thinks he is, and how the SFG method TAKES! UP! LESS! SPACE! and how it's revolutionary and how everyone else is doing it wrong, it might be an okay book. But gosh, I think on every page of the forty I read, he mentioned something about how this garden takes up less space. WE GET IT, MEL, it's why we picked up the book! I couldn't take it anymore. I just wanted to read about gardening. You can learn all you need to know ...more
My garden roughly follows Mel's plans, so this was clearly an influential book as I built my first garden. However! According to Mel, I don't have a square foot garden because I don't use a physical grid. And I plant a little haphazardly. I mean, it's a great system in a lot of ways, but you don't have to follow the rules. This kind of garden drill sergeant business is not for me, so I just focus on the information in the book that is useful to me and carry on.

There is a lack of detail on some
Jun 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Square foot gardening allows you to enjoy freshly harvested produce without the exhaustive work. Gardening should be fun, simple, and easy to understand and create. This method has moved from the fringe into the mainstream.

The basic concept: Create a small garden bed (4 feet by 4 feet or 4 feet by 8 feet are common sizes) and divide it into a grid of 1-foot squares, which you manage individually. Seeds or seedlings of each kind of vegetable are planted in one or more squares, at a density based
Sep 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such an anal approach to gardening that you can't help but succeed at it. I love an anal approach (that's what she said) so I was all over this. ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
I'm going to have to buy this I suppose...I have the library copy. I grew up on a farm and now that I'm, not so young, I have a bit of time to grow things.

Time, but my body is shot, my knees won't bend and my shoulders are week. Neither do i have a lot of money. Still I enjoy a little bit of gardening. Right now there is what had been a flower bed in front of our's now my basic vegetable bed. Some tomatoes, some bush beans, some onions. A few.

So, I finally got this book (I had to wait
May 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm starting a new square foot garden this year. I am thrilled at the prospect of no weeds, less watering, and lots of produce! I already have little radishes, romaine, spinach, and some wild flowers popping up!

I'm sure I'll refer to this book all summer. For the first time I am really ready to have a fall garden too. I always say I'll plant a second crop, but by the end of summer and all the weeds I'm tired of gardening. I think this may be the easiest and most enjoyable way to garden!
Randal White
It's been years since I first read "Square Foot Gardening". I've put it's lessons into practice for the past 30 years. When I saw that the author had written a new, updated edition, I jumped at the chance to read it. And I'm not sorry that I did! Very easily understood, the new edition is an excellent book for beginning gardeners to learn the "secret" of square foot gardening. Chock full of pictures and instructions. And it has much to offer to older, more experienced gardeners, too! ...more
Robert Butson
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
could have been shorter if homeboy didn't spend so much time bragging and making fun of old school gardeners ...more
Nov 10, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: gardening
The idea that I like is that it reminded me that I want to grow more things vertically this year to get the most out of my kitchen garden. I also love that it encourages you to get away from the mindset of planting in rows and following the seed packets word for word in terms of spacing. From experience, raised beds are excellent for starting a garden from scratch. I created and tended two 8'x4' raised beds when I lived in our former house that didn't have a backyard garden (we were in a townhou ...more
Jan 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not a beginner gardener... I've had 3 summer veggie gardens. I'm also not anywhere near experienced-gardener level and have become frustrated with the methods taught by my botanist husband who combines a rather unique mix of environmental long-term planning, old-timey row gardening, and plant pathology, not to mention a limited amount of time to assist me. The result was always extremely weedy, hard-to-navigate gardens that produce extremely unpredictable yields. I decided that neither of us ...more
Linda (not getting friends updates at this time)
I purchased my 1981 edition of SQUARE FOOT GARDENING in the early 1980's when I was fairly new to gardening. At the time I had limited space and my husband had built me some raised beds. I was able to invest both time and money and grew some fairly decent vegetables. What I learned is that smaller plants such as lettuce, spinach, carrots, radishes and onions did well provided that you use good soil to avoid disease problems. It is also important for you to rotate crops.

Another plus was that it w
Neil Snyder
Sep 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I grew with a traditional row garden and enjoyed eating the fruit and vegetables that came out of it. I also observed that we had to wait to get our first couple tomatoes when essentially all of the tomato plants began giving ripe fruit. Then it was time to begin canning. About a week later, we all of the canned tomatoes we wanted. We ate the three or four tomatoes a week on salads or in chilli, but after the canning was done, quite a few tomatoes went to waste simply because there were too many ...more
Mar 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a farm boy who never really wanted to farm, I do spend a great deal of time being nostalgic about my bucolic days in the country. At any rate, even though I refuse to have anything to do with cows (with the exception of eating them), I do at times return to the soil and grow a mess of vegetables.

Unfortunately, living in a gentrified urban area means that our small garden plot suffers from the usual ills of a former-ghetto environment -- do shards of glass count as clay, sand, or loam? Which i
May 04, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is a very good book for anyone who wants to grow a market garden, even if there is little open ground to do so. By creating squares divided into specific grids, the author provides an easy guideline for would-be gardeners, who want results without too much work. For me, I found his chapters nicely laid out with tidbits on pests, water, soil, and structures.

While I don't use too much square footing as I have plenty garden space, I've seen it in action at a neighborhood open garden, where ea
Mark Hartzer
Dec 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For some reason, I had never heard of square foot gardening. An excellent idea which I plan to implement this coming Spring. Docked 1 star for a seriously incorrect way of determining if corn is ripe. Puncturing the kernel leads to disease. Midwesterners know that all you need to do is pinch the end of the ear. If it's still pointy, the ear is not yet finished developing. However, if it is blunt and fat, the ear is fully filled out and ready to harvest. ...more
Jan 24, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: small yard owners
In my small yard a good principle. I apply to the Ronco school of gardening--you know set it and forget it. That's right, I plant my seeds, let the sprinklers and sun do their thing and pray that I'll get more that 4 tomatoes. ...more
Leo Walsh
Wow. Talk about your let-downs.

When I purchased my first house in the 90s, I wanted to grow vegetables, especially tomatoes. But being a college kid from suburban Ohio, I was clueless about this "gardening stuff." So I purchased Mel Bartholomew's SQUARE FOOT GARDENING (SFG). It was a great method for a beginner, as it focused on small garden plots, as small as 4 feet by 4 feet. I cut my teeth on that book.

Years have gone by, and I've continued gardening. In fact, I can state that I now have som
Jun 02, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I know this is the book that originated square foot gardening, and for that it gets 5 stars. The three stars reflect the tone/structure, which is less compelling than some other gardening books I've read, and the rigidity. I appreciate what subsequent writers have done with this method -- taken the principles, but adapted them to be more flexible for different situations -- for instance, The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden uses the basic principles of square foot gardening, but has specific infor ...more
Apr 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: educational
Very thorough, simple explanation of how to garden with no weeds, wasted space and water, or expensive equipment, from building the boxes, to using the right dirt, to when to plant things and how much space to give them. There are​ even explanations for how to adapt the boxes for various needs, whether it's adding vertical trellises for vine plants, making covers for shade or snow, being able to garden while in a wheelchair or on your balcony railing, etc. The only cons were the repetition of ce ...more
Not impressed. There's a lot of self promotion in this book, which lacked the detail of the original. I understand that he believes you don't need to fertilize, etc., if you use his soil mix. But this book didn't even discuss succession planting by putting early lettuce in the corners of the broccoli square, for instance. I'm pretty sure the original covered that. There's enough info here to get someone started gardening for the first time, but nothing for the experienced gardener except his spa ...more
Matthew B.
Jun 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall had lots of good information. The author is a bit eccentric and could have shortened the book a bit by not adding so much fluff. It was nice to know how one can pack lots of crops in a small space and this book does that.
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  If you listen to NPR regularly, you’ve likely heard the voice of Shankar Vedantam, the longtime science correspondent and host of the radio...
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“So, let’s review how to figure volume. Volume is merely: area × depth = cubic feet. In other words, square feet (the area) times the depth equals cubic feet. Our 4 × 4-foot box is 16 square feet in area (that’s 4 feet times 4 feet). If it were 1 foot deep, the volume would be: 16 (the area) times 1 (the depth) equals 16 cubic feet. But it’s not 1 foot deep, it’s only 6 inches deep so we need only one-half or just 8 cubic feet for our 4 × 4 box. The math looks like this: 4 times 4 divided by one-half foot equals 8. Or to show it mathematically, (4 × 4)/2 = 8. (Now don’t laugh, kids, some of the parents will be thankful for this kind of help).” 0 likes
“Keep in mind that we harvest many of the crops continuously, if possible. For example, a leaf lettuce is not allowed to wait until it forms a large, mature head, but with a pair of scissors and a salad bowl you can continuously trim the leaves from such things as lettuce, chives, beets, Swiss chard, spinach, parsley, and even onion tops. As long as you don’t take too much at one time, the plant will easily survive and thrive. Filling your salad bowl each day should not diminish the garden in any way. In fact, right after you harvest you’ll find it hard to notice where you got everything and if anything is missing.” 0 likes
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