Q: How to get more people involved in community gardening?
A: Square foot Gardening!
We love working in the garden and we especially enjoy helping others get involved, too. We’re constantly reaching out to people. But we often hear things like: “I don’t know anything about gardening”, “I wouldn’t know where to start”, “It’s not for me.”
While it is true that gardening isn’t for everyone, we also know it can be confusing and overwhelming for people who haven’t really been exposed to it. Watching Monty Don explain the finer points of specialist plant care, or watching Countryfile as experts struggle with nuance can make the garden seem like a scary place best left to professionals.
We’re trying to make gardens a safe, welcoming space for everyone, especially those who are perhaps feeling down about their situation. Life can be difficult enough with the addition of a new challenging project of figuring out how plan and care for garden plants. We know that gardening has beneficial effects far beyond free tasty food or donating veg to a food bank. Watching plants grow, taking pride in making things happen and sharing the experience with others improves mental health, provides meaningful activity, and promotes physical activity and so much more. We want everyone to get their hands into the soil.
At two of our sites, we’re embracing the Square Foot Gardening method. The Square 30cm Gardening method doesn’t have the same ring, so we’re sticking with Feet for now. Square Foot Gardening is a method developed 50 years ago to make growing vegetables as simple, accessible and efficient as possible. You don’t need to be Monty Don or have a huge garden to get started. You just need four square feet of ground: a patio, a parking space, an unused back garden…anywhere!
We’re using old wood to construct a series of four-foot square raised beds. We divide the beds into one-foot square grids. Into these raised beds we introduce a highly efficient soil mix that can be reused for years. The grid system provides and easy to understand method of where to place our vegetables for maximum yield with minimal effort while saving water and reducing weeding.
We also show how different apps and online resources can be used to plan a square foot garden. Technology not only helps planning, it provides all the information required to get going and stick with it. It’s also a gateway to build confidence so people can feel good about making things happen.
The Square Foot Gardening method was initially designed to help people around the world grow their own food as efficiently as possible. But we also think it can help everyone discover the additional benefits of getting their hands dirty in good company while enjoying the fresh air.