The Benefits of Square-foot/Grid Gardening in a Raised Bed
- Growing period is extended by succession sowing
- No glut of any one crop
- Easier to manage – no digging
- Helps nature by using companion planting
- Sow green manure after crops, avoiding chemicals
- Crop-rotation prevents spread of disease
- Legumes fix nitrogen in the soil for the next crop to use
- Diseases will not affect the whole crop if it is spread out
- It will look pretty
How to Plant
Thankfully, someone else has already worked out the optimum number of plants/seeds for (almost) any vegetable and soft fruit. Information is readily available on the internet, but I also use the book Grow all you can eat in 3 square feet as my go-to source. I bought a cheap copy from Amazon.
It doesn’t matter if your bed is long and thin or short and wide, as long as you can reach all the squares without standing on the soil or over-reaching.
Each square foot (in reality one-foot-square) will hold this number of plants:
One only – potato, pepper, aubergine, celeriac, celery, Florence fennel, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, kale
Four – chard, kohlrabi – I’d add runner or climbing beans in here trained up a 4-cane wigwam, one bean per cane.
Eight – peas – plant more if you just want pea-shoots, and use pea-sticks for support (fine bushy twigs)
Nine – turnips, garlic, beetroot,
Twelve – onions
Sixteen – radish, carrots, parsnip,
So a bed of sixteen squares could be all potatoes and related plant types – first and second earlies, plus maincrop, 1 row of 4 squares for each( that’s 12), plus peppers and aubergines in the final row. Tomatoes are also related – one per square.
Crops that don’t fit into the usual crop-rotation plan, such as sweet-corn (which must be planted in a grid), and squashes (which like to spread themselves about), can be planted together – one each per square. Add a climbing or runner bean into the mix and the bean will be supported by the corn, the Three Sisters method (you don’t have to have a grid garden to try this).
Negatives (but not very)
- Careful planning is essential
- Start crops early in the greenhouse
- Labelling is essential – or you’re lost
- Can’t deviate from the plan
- Crop failures more noticeable
- There may not be enough of the crops you like
- You may be tempted to grow crops you don’t like
- Some crops will require more watering than others
- You will need to use something – such as a large plant pot with the bottom removed, or tomato grow-bag rings – around each potato plant to ‘earth it up’. Some gardeners use car tyres for this purpose.
If you grow vegetables using either raised beds, grid gardening – or a combination of both – what tips do you have to maximise your yield and reduce the work?