Episode-170- Square Foot Gardening Revisited – Question Time

No more flat square foot gardening
No more flat square foot gardening – before


Teolis' Hiding in a Hugel bed.
Teolis’ Hiding in a Hugel bed – after


I have a question about raised bed.
I think square foot gardening is a great idea and I would like to try it this year.

Though, I am concerned about using treated lumber for vegetable bed.
I know using cedar or hard wood is an excellent choice to make raised bed but they are very expensive and hard to find.
What kind of material do you use ? I am sorry if you mentioned this in your website and I didn’t see it. But I needed a quick answer.

thanks a lot
Happy gardening!


Thanks for the question. The easy answer is just plain cheap fir wood and paint the outside with primer and two coats of white or some color you like. If you don’t paint it the wood will darken and still last about 5-7 years. But my answer is free wood and not wood that is treated. You can get free wood at the dump near Costco. but you don’t know where it came from.

However, if you are going to build square foot gardens don’t build them flat without a center full of life producing stuff. I thought square foot gardening made perfect sense when I first heard about too but it is over rated. I like Mel and the concept of planting the square foot way is great because you do get a lot of plants in a small space. That is the way I plant but I got rid of all my square foot gardens. They work great for a season or two but the soil gets very compacted. and useless, especially if you are on clay like me. It is also not natural and tends to not blend naturally as building swales and planting in them can be.

My best advice is to build small gardens on contour so they capture free rain water. I do this by digging out a line or however big a bed I want so that it captures water and then i place tree branches, logs, twig whatever and cover them with leaves and compost and then pile on hummus/manure ($2 from home depot and top soil again $2). That way you have a whole lot of big (worms) and little critters (bacteria) and fungus creating sustainable life systems under the gardens and they do the tilling for you as well as provide a network of nutrients not found in plain old dirt. Within 2 years you don’t need to irrigate. Life doesn’t grow so well on flat surfaces like plain old square foot beds. Rather the more exciting things happen at the edges. Swales and beds with buried wood create lots of edges.

That said I have also taken the soil out of some of my square for beds, put in a couple of logs and then covered them up with leaves and compost and such and plant into them. First year usually legumes, tomatoes, squash cucumbers, peppers all do well along with many flowers.

Sorry for the long answer but before going through the trouble of building and growing in raised beds the square foot way add a lot of life to the center of them first. Some pics are attached. This has inspired my next episode. Thank you.


Let me know what you think. Tony Teolis

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