Square Foot Gardening: Caring For Your Larger Plants

Square foot gardening is ideal for homeowners with little space, allowing maximum production with an innovative arrangement. But all gardens require maintenance, and caring for larger plants is no exception. Here are some tips to make the job easier in a square foot garden.

Tying Large Plants Together

Square foot gardening starts off with all the plants and seeds in their own square foot, and before long, the larger plants start to take over and encroach on the space of neighboring plants. To prevent this, simply wrap some cord or string around the plant two times, securing the ends together. According to square foot gardening experts—like originator of the method Mel Bartholomew—this will not hurt the plant or negatively affect the yield or harvest.

Alternatively, if several large plants are in a line, they can be tied together using a longer length of cord or string.

Larger Plants Require Support

Some heavy plants, like corn, require additional support. One method for supporting larger plants is to drive 2-foot long stakes into the ground outside the corners of the box. Stretch nylon netting over the plants when they reach the half-grown state. The taller ones will grow right up through the netting.

This square foot gardening method also works for corn, but the stakes need to be taller, about 4 to 5 feet tall.

Zucchini and Other Large Crops Planted Vertically

Zucchini requires one plant per 2 spaces in the square foot garden. That’s because it is a big plant that will spread if not controlled. To grow it vertically, train it to grow up a trellis or tie it to a stake placed in the ground close to the stem. All the zucchini plants' big leaves grow out from the stem, so by training it to grow upward, you will save space in the garden and adequately support the plant.

Large vertical frames can support other crops that are trained to grow vertically, including cucumbers, melons and pumpkins. The latter two require extra sturdy frames.

Trimming Larger Leaves

When the leaves of larger plants, such as squash and cabbage, start flopping all over the edges of their squares, simply remove the larger bottom leaves by cutting them off. Keep it simple and trim off the leaves right up to the edge of the square foot planting space. Bottom leaves, once removed, will make the plant easier to maintain since they won’t be dragging on the soil.

Leave Enough Space To Tend To Plants

Square foot gardening is an evolutionary process. Start with a few simple crops and keep adding and experimenting. Be sure to leave enough space between plants so you will be able to spot and remove weeds. For example, don’t have all large-leaf plants bunched together preventing access to other, smaller plants.

See what works this year and make a list for next year’s square foot gardening master planting design.