Part of gardening in a city is the need to keep things compact. While we would all love to have a sprawling garden space, that’s just not realistic for urban living. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still garden! Practicing square foot gardening is one of the best ways to keep gardening compact, organized, and even safe from contaminated soil and pests. And the best news is that you can easily create your own raised bed for less than $50.
Did we mention that square foot gardening is probably also the best bet for beginning vegetable gardeners? Plants tend to thrive in raised beds and it’s much easier to keep track of plants and avoid pests when using one.
To create your own raised bed, you will need eight #8 x 3 in. wood screws, twelve #6 x 1 in. wood screws, twisted nylon line, four untreated 4ft long boards (4’x10”x2”), and one cubic foot each of compost, peat moss, and coarse vermiculite. This should cost you under $50 for a 4’x4’ square bed. Once you have the materials, you can get started:
- Using a drill, connect the four boards together to form a square. Use two #8 x 3 in. screws for each corner.
- Place your box where you want it to go. You should put it on top of cardboard or weed-blocking fabric to prevent weeds and pests from coming through. You can also place it on top of a table for easier access.
- Blend together the compost, peat moss, and coarse vermiculite to form a simple soil blend. Fill the box and smooth the top.
- Measure out a 4 x 4 square foot grid on top of the box. String the nylon line across to form 16 total squares. Attach the string using the #6 x 1 in. screws.
- Plant your seeds or seedlings! Each square can handle 1 large plant, 4 medium plants, 8 small plants or 16 very small plants. Spread plants out for variety to keep the box and soil balanced and healthy. Mark each square with a popsicle stick labeling which plant is growing there.
The Ready Store has a fantastic graphic that lays out this process, including pictures of each step of the process for those that prefer graphic representations. The graphic also lists off some example plants and their sizes: tomatoes, eggplant and sweet bell peppers are large; lettuce, strawberries and celery are medium; and spinach, kale and radishes are small.