Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew

I picked up this e-book on sale on Amazon recently. I’ve read the original, scanned the changes to the updated version and although I like many aspects of it, I have one huge problem with it.

I like soil. In square foot gardening you no longer have to deal with the texture, drainage, CEC, fertility, OM level, and all that good stuff I learned in two soil classes in college. Instead you just have to know the magic formula for Mel’s mix. Mel’s mix is basically a homemade soil-less sterile potting mixture.

Soil is filled with complex biota. Symbiotic relationships between plants and fungi or bacteria. Earthworms churning and composting the soil. The more you learn about all the intricate relationships in soil the more awesome it is.

And square foot gardening says ignore all that awesomeness and use this sterile stuff instead.

There are situations where the soil might not be condusive for vegetable growth. In this case, go head and use the mix. But realize that now you will need more water, more fertilizer, and your plants will probably not grow as well as if they were in good soil.

But if your soil is decent, work on improving it, not ignoring it. Add compost, grow cover crops, avoid over tilling, give your soil love. And get better, tasteful veggies.

Many people want organic produce from their garden, and the best thing about organic gardening is it is all about developing a sustainable soil system. Because of this, I can’t really see how square foot gardening and organic gardening mix. Square foot gardening is filled with bringing in exterior inputs. Organic gardening is about improving and cycling what you have.

So I would go out and arrange my veggies in nice little squares. I do like the book overall. But I’m also not in a hurry to build raised beds and bring in Mel’s mix.