When I was a kid, I had a terrific book called The Make-It Book, which detailed a bunch of creative projects, both rainy day and non-, for kids of all ages that kept me and my brother happily engaged for years. The Square Foot Gardening Answer Book reminded me a bit of that book. Simply (but not simplistically) written, encouraging, with clear drawings and straightforward instructions, it is a soup-to-nuts guide for anyone interested in creating a small, productive and easy-to-maintain garden in a host of spaces. Square foot gardening (SFG) is great for the new gardener who wants to start smart and keep going happily, but is also good for the time and space-crunched, who want to savor the pleasures and satisfactions of gardening without making the kind of commitment row upon row of veggies can require.
A square foot garden as the name suggests, is constructed in a grid, so it’s a space-miser. The planting takes a page out of Nature by mixing plants – for example, cabbage with nasturtiums (which help deter cabbage moths and add peppery spice and color to salads), lettuce with root crops like beets, carrots and turnips, tomatoes and peppers with basil, cilantro and parsley – an approach that is not only beautiful to look at and productive, but helps to cut down on problems with pests and disease.
(Bartholomew created the Square Foot Gardening Foundation, a nonprofit that spreads the message of SFG through humanitarian projects throughout the world in an effort to end world hunger.).
This book is for anyone who wants to start gardening, whether it’s food, annuals, perennials or a combination or all of the above. It’s also a perfect way to start gardening with kids, or to start kids gardening on their own if they prefer to do it completely themselves since the project is manageable in small bites, but is completely scalable if they want to ramp up, or maybe have their own square foot space beside that of a parent, friend or gardening mentor. SFG Answer Book addresses the problems of limited space, offers potential solutions for less than optimal sun exposure and is very much focused on health for both plants and people.
Square Foot Gardening Answer Book by Mel Bartholomew (Cool Springs Press, $16.99).