We often say that if your garden box doesn’t have a grid, its not a Square Foot Garden. Of course, we get some people who object to that, don’t want to conform, and we even have some mavericks that say, “I don’t use a grid. I don’t need it. I can still estimate where things go.” But they miss all the fine points of why you need a grid. If nothing else, it makes the job of gardening so much easier. If you had to clean all the windows in your house, that would be a huge chore and you may keep putting it off, thinking that you’ll never get it done. But if you adopt the attitude of, “All I’m going to do is one window,” get out the supplies and in 5 to 10 minutes it’s done. Once that window is done, you think, “Well that didn’t take long,” it looks so nice and you do just one more. Pretty soon you’ve done the whole room, but it’s time to quit. And you think back, ” That wasn’t very hard, that didn’t take so long.” And look how nice it all looks. Thereafter, you can do the whole house in no time at all if you just take it a little at a time. Theres a lot of things in life that are just that way. This is just one of the reasons I insist if you’re going to call your garden a Square Foot Garden you got to have a grid. And not a string grid, with rusty nails holding it tight. We’ve been into that story many times. What I want to concentrate on here, is what fun comparisons can we make to answer the question, “A box garden without a grid is like–” Here are some great answers we’ve gotten from people and a few more I’ve thought of:

  • A parking lot without lines
  • A birthday cake without candles
  • A spreadsheet without a grid (James Vinson)
  • A book without pages
  • A christmas tree without lights
  • A highway without lanes
  • A TV station without channel numbers
  • A tic-tac-toe puzzle without lines
  • A drill without bits (Gunny from AZ)
  • Hot chocolate without marshmallows (Robby from Iowa)
  • A Brit without braces (Survival Gardener)
  • A wall full of paintings without frames (John Wheeler)
  • A house without interior walls (Dan Lakey)
  • A football field without field marks
  • A tennis court without a net
  • A basketball court without boundaries
  • A chess game without spaces

Some of these illustrate that everything has to be in order. Other comparisons might be the total picture with all its parts, like a checkerboard. Someone once told me that there is madness in your method, but it splits the whole job of gardening up in small parts. And I like to think in my mind that each square foot is really a separate garden all by itself. It has a border around it, so it has limits. I know immediately how much I can plant in just that one square, for any one plant. That limits my plantings at one time so I don’t have to harvest more than 16 radishes all at once. It also allows me to decide where the taller plants should be and where I want flowers planted that will cascade over the side. It also makes the job of final harvest of one square foot so simple and common sense–you just harvest, mix in one trowelfull of additional compost and you are ready to replant. But because of the season, you are going to replant with a different type of crop from cool weather to warm weather. Without even thinking or studying or having a degree in horticulture, I’ve just done crop rotation. The soil and plants will say thank you. One of the best examples I could give you is a story a lady told me who had some young mormon guests for dinner and they looked out her dining room window and said, “Oh you have a Square Foot Garden’ She asked how they knew that and they immediately said, “Because of the grids. And it’s something we learned at BYU before we went on our mission overseas.” That led me to make up the joke that when you have company and they look out your window and see a regular row garden, the most they are going to say is “That’s nice, but what’s for dinner?” If they looked out and saw a grided square foot garden, they would probably remark, “That’s very interesting. What is that and what do you have planted there?” I’m sure all of you that follow the system to a “T” know many more advantages. And these are the things I want you to pass onto others. Because a Square Foot Garden without a grid is like….taking a trip without a map. So keep those comparisons coming!