AN UNEXPECTED REVIEW
To my surprise, after reading this book I believe it may end up being the most impactful gardening book in my library. And I LOVE books. I love real books – the kind I can hold in my hands, write notes in, and refer back to whenever I want. On that note, I will likely be purchasing a second book in the spiral-bound format because of how practical it is, and I foresee the convenience of having it lay flat and stay open being very valuable as I refer to it time and again. You may want to keep this in mind if you decide to purchase this book.
WHY I READ ALL NEW SQUARE FOOT GARDENING
Square Foot Gardening (SFG) as a method was something I had seen mentioned a time or two in articles or videos, but never really knew what was being referred to. That is, until we were visiting some friends near where we used to live in Tennessee. They are a wonderful couple, the husband recently retired with a great interest in gardening. He is a much more “measured” human being than I am, as I tend to just “run with it” or “go with the flow,” starting and abandoning things quite readily. He is very bright and well-educated. In fact, everything this couple does, they seem to do with great excellence. So, when he told me that he was using the Square Foot Gardening method, it got my attention. I knew that he had not come to the decision to pour his investment of time, effort, and money into something chosen arbitrarily. With that, I happily began flipping through the book he offered for my perusing while there.
Being a person hungry for knowledge and happy to learn, I began reading the book from the beginning. Several pages in, I put the book down and picked up my phone to order my own book, which came shortly after we returned home from Tennessee. From there, I didn’t want to put it down and read at every chance I could grab a few minutes.
All New Square Foot Gardening, Third Edition covers a vast amount of information pertaining to gardening. I was truly impressed. Some topics covered include: ease of gardening, being smart when choosing growing medium, planting seeds, spacing of plants, growing a garden with limited space, gardening with handicaps, creatively building on a budget, wintering your garden, growing “up,” using less water, composting, and a myriad of other specific things. But the greatest value I found in this book were the things specific to Mel’s SFG method – that is, what makes it different from other gardening methods. This is what surprised me the most, as I wasn’t expecting to become a “believer” in this “out of the box” method so quickly.
The book begins with a foreword and introduction that did a great job of introducing me to a method I knew nothing about before cracking this book. I was immediately drawn in (hence ordering my own book right away). With every turn of the page, I wanted to learn more and looked forward to each new section.
Mel Bartholomew, the original author, was a retired engineer, which reminded me of the friend I mentioned above. Mel had a wonderful mind, desiring to take what he saw as “problems” with conventional gardening and improve on them. I admit, I was immediately intrigued by the way he thought, as I am definitely an “out of the box” thinker myself. Solving problems practically, even when it means bucking an established system, comes completely naturally to me. So, Mel had my attention from the start.
In this book, Mel shares his concern about the needless waste of water, space, seeds, time, and effort in conventional gardening, as he saw it. I found myself thinking, “he’s not wrong about that…” so many times. In fact, some specific questions he brought up were questions I myself had thought, not knowing others had as well. (It is a welcomed thing to realize you aren’t completely alone in your way of thinking, even when your thoughts are somewhat obscure). SFG as a method is nicely broken down into easy-to-follow “Basics” and “Steps.” It clearly walks readers through laying out a garden specific to their space, desired plants, needs, and goals. There are sections that beautifully lay out instructions and pictures of each step in the building process of garden boxes, as well as many “extras,” such as trellises, irrigation systems, and covers of various kinds. In my opinion, this book works as an “instruction manual” as well as any of the best how-to picture books out there. Everything was very user-friendly, just as the system seems to be. Anytime I had questions come to my mind, they seemed to be answered in short order.
The piece of SFG I was most surprised to learn was that true, authentic SFG requires a very specific growing medium as well as a grid, both of which are MUSTS according to Mel. After all, without the grid it isn’t a “Square Foot” garden at all, but merely any other garden. It didn’t take me long to understand his thinking on this as I kept reading. Again, my questions seemed to be answered as I read along.
BUILDING A GARDEN OR A PUZZLE?
In reading this book, I found many valuable pieces of information. Honestly, I felt I was building a mental picture puzzle as I read, with new pieces being placed with each passing section. I loved learning new ideas about old concepts, as well as new ideas about new concepts! Have I mentioned that I thoroughly enjoyed this book?
The All New Square Foot Gardening book is filled with beautiful and detailed pictures of everything covered. Just picking it up and flipping through the pictures is enjoyable.
Square Foot Gardening claims to save the gardener time, effort, tools, space, and water. Their organization is committed to working against poverty and hunger, which is pretty cool. Mel believed in educating people on how to grow their own food and he traveled around doing just that.
If you are looking to grow your knowledge of gardening, consider other methods, enjoy thinking “outside the box,” or just are looking for a way to garden that is easier, produces more yield, and takes up less space and water than conventional gardening, this book may be just what you need.
Reading this book made me not only rethink my gardening plans for this year, but actually change those plans in order to try this intriguing method. Stay tuned, as I will report back in the near future.
EDITED TO ADD: Check out my review on these Elevated Cedar beds, as they are a great fit if you are considering SFG!
Please comment below with what you think about All New Square Foot Gardening!