Mel Bartholomew; was the founder and inventor of the Square Foot Gardening method; and the author of; All New Square Foot Gardening, the best-selling gardening book in America for a generation. The guide has sold 2.5 million copies since Bartholomew wrote the book in 1981.
He hosted a PBS TV show for five years, and then was telecast for three more years on the Learning Channel and Discovery Network. Bartholomew presided over the nonprofit 160 Square Foot Gardening Foundation, which encourages every household around the world to have a small garden and eat fresh, healthy vegetables that are uncontaminated. He passed away in May, 2016.
Each of these 4 by 4 square foot beds was then divided into sixteen one-foot squares, the grid. Each square is planted with a different crop species based on a formulation of either one, four, nine or sixteen plants per square depending on the plant's overall size. Once a “square foot” is harvested, a different crop can be planted for a continual harvest. To encourage a variety of different crops in succession, and to discourage pests, each square is used for a different kind of plant (crop rotation) within the growing season. The number of plants per square depends on an individual plant's size. For example, a single tomato plant takes a full square, as might herbs such as oregano, basil or mint, while lettuce plants would be planted four per square, and up to sixteen per square of plants such as radish or carrots. Tall plants are trellised on the north side of the bed to avoid shading smaller plants and prevent sprawling on the ground.
One advantage of densely planted crops is that they can form a living mulch and can also prevent weeds from establishing or even germinating. Also, natural insect repellent methods such as companion planting (e.g. planting marigolds or other naturally pest-repelling plants) become more efficient in a close space, which may reduce the need to use pesticides. The large variety of crops in a small space also prevents plant diseases from spreading easily
Since the beds are typically small, making covers or cages to protect plants from pests, cold, wind or too much sun is more practical than with larger gardens. To extend the growing season of a square foot garden, a cold/hot frame may be built around it, and by facing the cold/hot frame south, the SFG captures more light and heat during the colder months of spring and winter.