Square Foot Gardening Method Promises a Revolution in Produce Yield

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This week in North Ogden, Utah, local gardening enthusiasts were excited to receive an introductory class on square foot gardening. The class was taught by Jim Teahan, a certified instructor, and the North Branch of the Weber County Library, which hosted the event, was filled to capacity.

Teahan introduced the group to the logic behind the square foot gardening method, which was invented by Mel Bartholomew, a retired civil engineer. Bartholomew set up the Square Foot Gardening Foundation, which certifies instructors in the hopes that they can work with people to help end world hunger through smart gardening methods.

“It’s the best and easiest way to garden around,” Teahan said, explaining that the “secret” behind the methodology’s success is the use of boxes in which the gardens are built in. Gardening within boxes ensures that gardeners can harvest without stepping into the bed, and lining the bottom prevents weeds from growing in.

According to Teahan, square foot gardeners can work with less water, fewer seeds, and no fertilizer, all the while utilizing the land much more efficiently — he claims that 140 square feet will yield the same amount of produce that traditional gardeners would need 700 square feet to get the same results.

Soil is an important component of square foot gardening — most gardeners choose to create soil using the recipe of one-third blended compost, one-third vermiculite, and one-third peat moss for optimum growing results. Compost bins are ideally comprised of alternating layers of green and brown matter, and it typically takes about four months for organic matter to begin breaking down, at which point you can use it for gardening.

Finally, Teahan recommended using a grid for this gardening method. The grid style will typically look like a tic-tac-toe board in appearance, with 16 equally sized squares. This helps gardeners understand how many plants they should be placing in each square. Teahan has been gardening with the method since 1998, and his gardens have yielded so much produce that he’s been able to turn it into a side business.

Reception of the event was overall positive. Mike Kincannon, a North Ogden resident, expressed that the presentation had been fairly eye-opening for him, and he looked forward to following Teahan’s instructions on the use of compost. “[The presentation] changed my attitude about my garden,” he said. “My garden has been terrible the last couple years, so it could use the help.”

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