Gardening Styles: From Square Foot Gardening to No-Till
I grew up thinking that gardening was done in perfectly neat rows in the ground. I then came to see most gardens around me were actually planting in raised beds. Then, I learned about square foot gardening which I had thought was a hoaky trick (it’s really not). And now, I do a combination of many styles of gardening, and really prefer a no-till method mixed with some square foot philosophies, and some traditional planting too.
In order to get a better understanding of a few different gardening styles, here is a breakdown.
No-till gardening is most famous today thanks to Charles Dowding and is quite simple (HERE is a great article by The Times). You don’t till or disturb the soil. Similar to the Back to Eden method below, this approach simply has you naturally suppress weeds with compost and cardboard. Then at the end of each season, you cut back plants just below the soil, leaving roots systems intact.
Back to Eden Method
The Back to Eden gardening method requires no watering or weeding! It’s based on recreating nature and making a garden that mimics the natural occurrence of plant growth. The premise is that you start with zero tilling or disturbance to the ground, but cover your bed space with the newspaper by about three pieces of paper. You then add six inches of compost, and then about three to four inches of wood chips on top of that. You scrape the wood chips aside, and plant your plants in the compost, recovering the soil around them with the wood chips. And that’s literally it! I’d note that this may not work in climates with desert tendencies, as rainfall is the watering mechanism.
Square Foot Gardening
Square Foot Gardening is based on the principle that in a square foot of soil you can grow from one – 16 plants, depending on their mature size. The premise is based on a 4’x4′ bed with a lattice grid on it, to help you plan. This approach also has a special soil mixture that is recommended, comprised mostly of compost, vermiculite and peat moss.
Permaculture is not really a gardening method, but an approach to land management. However, you can use the basic principles to design your outdoor spaces, optimizing your garden for maintaining and optimizing your specific natural ecosystems. The principles of permaculture involve rewilding, regenerative agriculture, sustainability, self-maintaining habitats, community resilience, etc. – all ways of whole-systems thinking that manage an ecosystem in a symbiotic way, as opposed to being a dictator of the garden “controlling” pests and things like that.
Traditional Row Planting
The most traditional style of gardening that I have seen is the victory garden style from the 1940s. It’s veggies grown all in a row, with maximum spacing to allow for airflow and roots to establish well. In my opinion, this wastes a lot of space, though it looks nice.
This style of gardening uses the minimum spacing for plants and interplants so that plants with roots that are shallow are planted near plants with roots that are deep. It crowds plants in a way that is beneficial, maximizing your yield.
I personally really do a mix of things – sort of planting in clumps, but I urge you to do your research. And above all – start testing! I really want to dig in to high-intensity gardening and have found some cool YouTube videos about it. I practice no-till already, but also really have adopted a lot of the square foot gardening mentality, given that I have such a small space.
HERE is a post about my planning for Spring.
If you have a certain type of gardening that you do, tell me in the comments!