History of Square Foot gardening
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History of Square Foot gardening

Picture this: it's a beautiful, sunny day outside, and you want to enjoy some quiet time in your garden, surrounded by colorful flowers and vegetables. You yearn for a personal oasis that doesn't require hours of back-breaking labor or extensive knowledge of various plants, soils, and gardening methods. If this sounds like a dream come true to you, then it's time to rewind and learn about the revolutionary gardening technique known as Square Foot Gardening!

The history of Square Foot Gardening is a story of innovation and passion, paving the way for gardeners worldwide to enjoy an accessible, productive, and efficient way to tend to their favorite plants. In this blog post, we will uncover the roots (pun intended!) of this remarkable method and learn about the visionary gardener who sparked a global phenomenon. 


1. Inventor of the Square Foot Gardening method

Mel Bartholomew, a civil engineer and efficiency expert, was the originator and inventor of the Square Foot Gardening method. After realizing the wastefulness and inefficiency of traditional row gardening, he sought to develop a better alternative. Mel pioneered this innovative technique in 1976, focusing on planting spacing, weed control, and soil. Initially dismissed for simplicity, Square Foot Gardening quickly gained popularity, especially among beginners. The publication of Mel's first book in 1981 further cemented this status, becoming the largest-selling gardening book of all time. Mel's revolutionary method continued to evolve with numerous books, a television series, and the establishment of the Square Foot Gardening Foundation in 1996. [1][2]

2. Origins of Square Foot Gardening

The origins of Square Foot Gardening can be traced back to Mel Bartholomew, a retired engineer who sought a more efficient and less labor-intensive method for gardening. In 1976, Bartholomew invented this innovative technique as an alternative to traditional row gardening. Due to its simplicity, it became highly popular among gardeners of all levels, especially beginners.

Bartholomew's groundbreaking method gained recognition with the publication of his book, Square Foot Gardening, in 1981. The book's success led to a PBS and Discovery Channel television series, making Square Foot Gardening a household name. Bartholomew continued to contribute to the field by developing educational programs and establishing the Square Foot Gardening Foundation in 1996 to help combat world hunger through efficient gardening techniques. 


3. Problems with traditional row gardening

Traditional row gardening has long been the standard for cultivators but has challenges. One of the main issues gardeners face is the difficulty in effectively controlling weeds, which compete with plants for space, nutrients, and water. Soil compaction is another problem in row gardens due to the continuous use of heavy machinery or foot traffic. Additionally, accidental trampling of plants can occur, leading to reduced productivity and plant diseases. These issues indicate that traditional row gardening can be fairly labor-intensive and time-consuming for novice and experienced growers.


4. The simplicity of Square Foot Gardening

Square Foot Gardening, as a method, is known for its simplicity, making it accessible to gardeners of every level, especially beginners. The idea revolves around planting different crops in designated square-foot sections, maximizing space, weed control, and soil quality. This method was designed as an efficient alternative to traditional row gardening, which is considered labor-intensive and wasteful.

Instead of adhering to conventional agriculture practices, Square Foot Gardening captured the attention of gardeners across the globe due to the practical and straightforward approach presented. This innovative method has since been popularized through books, television series, and gardening publications. Its unpretentious nature attracts new gardeners who succeed with increased yields and manageable maintenance. 


5. Mel Bartholomew's first book on Square Foot Gardening

Mel Bartholomew, a retired civil engineer, published his first book, "Square Foot Gardening" in 1981. This groundbreaking publication introduced a new method of gardening, which was efficient and space-saving. Highlighting the benefits of planting in 1-foot square sections, the book quickly gained immense popularity among gardeners of all levels. Due to its simplicity and effectiveness, the Square Foot Gardening method has stood the test of time and is a favorite approach for many enthusiasts today.


6. The popularity of Square Foot Gardening

The popularity of Square Foot Gardening can be attributed to its simplicity, efficiency, and adaptability. This revolutionary method, invented by Mel Bartholomew in 1976, quickly gained traction among gardeners of all skill levels, particularly beginners. Bartholomew's 1981 book, "Square Foot Gardening", became the best-selling gardening book of all time, further cementing its status as a household name. The method's appeal lies in its ability to maximize space, reduce labor, and produce bountiful harvests. Square Foot Gardening continues to thrive today, reaching new generations and expanding its global impact through the Square Foot Gardening Foundation. 


7. The Square Foot Gardening Foundation

The Square Foot Gardening Foundation was established in 1996 by Mel Bartholomew, the inventor of the Square Foot Gardening method. As a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, its mission focuses on solving world hunger by teaching people with limited resources how to grow nutritious produce efficiently and without overconsumption. Working alongside other humanitarian and aid organizations worldwide, the foundation continues to spread this innovative method, helping numerous individuals, schools, and communities enjoy the benefits of sustainable gardening. In doing so, the Square Foot Gardening Foundation continues preserving Bartholomew's legacy and significantly impacting global hunger. 


8. Benefits of Square Foot Gardening

Square Foot Gardening offers numerous advantages, making it an appealing option for gardeners of all experience levels. One significant benefit is the high-yielding and space-saving harvest. Planting a small, dense garden bed results in a highly productive garden, even in limited spaces. This makes it an optimal choice for those with restricted room for growing.

In addition to the efficient use of space, Square Foot Gardening is also relatively low maintenance. The densely packed plants act as natural mulch, preventing weed growth and reducing the need for constant weeding. Watering and harvesting are focused on a single, easy-to-access area, saving time and effort. Furthermore, incorporating companion plants in the grid contributes to natural pest control, feeding, and shading, reducing the gardener's workload. 


9. Mel Bartholomew's updated ideas on Square Foot Gardening

Mel Bartholomew, a civil engineer and efficiency expert, developed the innovative Square Foot Gardening method in 1976. This approach simplifies traditional, labor-intensive row gardening by focusing on planting spacing, weed control, and soil. Bartholomew's first book, "Square Foot Gardening," published in 1981, became the best-selling gardening book ever.

Following the success of his book, Bartholomew launched a popular PBS and Discovery Channel television series, authored additional books, and established the Square Yard in the School Yard program. In 1996, he founded the Square Foot Gardening Foundation, which aimed to solve world hunger by teaching people how to grow nutritious produce with limited resources. Today, the foundation continues to fulfill Bartholomew's legacy through various humanitarian projects worldwide. 


10. Advantages of using Mel's Mix in Square Foot Gardening.

One major advantage of using Mel's Mix in Square Foot Gardening is its nutrient-rich composition. This blend of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite ensures that plants have all the necessary nutrients to thrive without additional fertilizers. Plants grow healthy and strong with balanced nutrients, leading to improved yield and high-quality produce.

Another benefit of Mel's Mix is its capacity to retain water. Both peat moss and vermiculite contribute to the mix's excellent water retention, helping to maintain consistent moisture levels in the garden. This optimizes plant growth and reduces the need for frequent watering, saving time and effort for the gardener.

Lastly, Mel's Mix's lightweight and loose texture allows for improved air circulation and root growth. This makes it easier for plants to establish themselves and absorb nutrients from the soil. Moreover, the mix stays loose for 7 to 10 years, eliminating the need for annual soil amendments and reducing overall gardening expenses.

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