Before the Book – Before the PBS TV Show

This photo is of my very first experimental Square Foot Garden back in Old Field , Long Island, NY in 1974.


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If you look closely, the wood plank pathways divide the garden space into 4’x4′ garden spaces.

Original plank spacing for the first SFG

Original plank spacing for the first SFG

The interesting thing is the actual grid further subdivided those 4×4 spaces into two by two plant growing squares.  That was going to be the original spacing for my new Square Foot Gardening system.

The 4x4 ft space divided into 2x2 sections

The 4×4 ft space divided into 2×2 sections

Changing to 1’x1′ Spacing

Why did it later change into 1ft by 1ft plant spacing which gave you 16 squares to plant each with a different crop? The reason is that I found out that a 2 by 2 area all planted in one crop, produced too much harvest all at once. That’s going right back to the dilemma of a single row garden.

Original SFG 1x1 Spacing

Revised Original SFG 1×1 Spacing

They always gave much too much harvest all at once.  So why did America gardeners continue to plant single row gardens?  You know by now that famous answer I got from all the experts.  “Cause that’s the way we’ve always done it”.  Row gardening is of course just a hand me down from farming where you do want a large harvest all at once to go to market. Funny isn’t it how we keep doing the same thing even when we want different results.   So I realized then that a two by two was going to be too big, but it was just a natural step then for the solution to planting too much was to make each different crop planting area one foot by one foot.

As it turned out, that was perfect because 16 radishes which fit into one square foot and are all ready for harvest within a week of each other was just about all that most people want. When I’m telling an audience this, I always see a hand going up and some “wise guy” says “Yea but, what if you want more all at once?” My answer of course, is you plant two squares of radishes and then you’ll harvest 32 all at once and if you can eat all 32 in one week without getting heart burn, then that’s what you do. He sheepishly sits down and I have no more questions from him, but he becomes a believer and shows great interest in converting his traditional, old fashioned, inefficient, single row garden into an ALL NEW SQUARE FOOT GARDEN.

 The Options 1×1 Spacing Provides

This is usually the case when someone is planting something like cabbage where only one plant fits in each Square Foot. Now you have the option of deciding how many heads of cabbage you would like to harvest. Remember with Square Foot Gardening, you always think of the harvest, not the planting or the seeds. If your family would like perhaps 6 heads of cabbage over the month long harvesting period, your next decision is do you want all green, or two green, two purple and two red. And that’s how many you plant. Another advantage of SFG, you don’t plant them all in the same 4×4, because a pest or disease getting in one could quickly spread to the rest. So we plant one cabbage here, one over there and spread them all over the garden in different boxes.

 Changing the Planks

Original SFG Changing the Planks

Making the planks wider helps for easy access

The next thing I’d like to point out in this photo are the walkways. As you probably know, I’m a very frugal person and I was given several one by 12 inch boards, they were 16 feet long and they were FREE! I was only given four of them and I didn’t want to buy any more. After laying out the garden, I was wondering if a single 12 inch wide path would be wide enough. And with nothing planted yet, it seemed wide enough to walk and work in. As the garden grew, I realized it was nowhere near wide enough and especially when the plants overhang into the aisle, so we’ve changed that into a recommendation in the ALL NEW SFG book to make your path or aisles at least 3 feet wide.