Gardening one foot at a time
by Kendra Hartmann
Published - 04/04/13 - 11:58 AM | 3874 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print

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When Mel Bartholomew retired from his career as a consulting civil engineer in 1975, he decided to take up gardening in his free time. As he worked to till and fertilize the soil in long rows, only to plant seeds in a relatively small area of the plot, he wondered what the logic behind the system was.

“I’m not a trained horticulturalist,” Bartholomew said. “But I wondered if there was a way we could do this better.”

Bartholomew started devising a new system for space-efficient planting a growing, and came up with the phenomenon known as Square Foot Gardening. Essentially a garden in a box, the practice calls for a 4-foot-by-4-foot box, divided into 16 square-foot plots. Each plot can contain a different crop, with seeds planted in groups of 1, 4, 9 or 16, depending on mature plant size.

The technique was particularly useful in Utah, where Bartholomew lived when he started Square Foot Gardening. The local soil made growing difficult, and Square Foot Gardening allowed for the use of perfect soil while not limiting gardeners to small pots. It also brought gardening back to those who had to give it up due to limited mobility: gardeners who had trouble working the soil on their knees could now easily reach a gardening box raised to hip level.

Bartholomew, who now lives in La Jolla, has been bringing his gardening phenomenon — for which he has published his best-selling book, “All New Square Foot Gardening” — to the rest of the world, hoping to help end world hunger by giving disenfranchised communities the means to grow their own food with his Square Foot Gardening Foundation.

For those looking to grow their own Square Foot Garden, check out Bartholomew’s website, for tips and tricks on getting started.
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