Gardening by the “square metre” is a simple, easy-to-follow concept that allows you to squeeze more produce into small spaces. Basically, you sow crops closer together – a higher density in any give area. Vegetables, salads, herbs and other edibles – whether annual or perennial – are planted in beds no more than a metre (39 inches) wide. Beds can be square, but need not be; raised or at ground level. It’s not the length that is important, but the WIDTH. ‘Square-Metre Gardening’ is also a no-dig technique, once it’s set up, unless you neglect the beds! You can tend and reach produce from either side of any metre-wide bed; as plants are grown closer together, weeding is reduced and because you do not ever step on the growing area, soil is not compacted. Fertility is built up by the annual addition of compost. It’s a technique you can use in garden or allotment, and one I have followed for many years.
I was reading ‘Organic No-dig, No-Weed Gardening’ in the late 80s when coincidentally I adapted my plot to a raised-bed square-metre (square-foot) system. It was one of those ‘Eureka!’ moments when everything fell into place. In fact, I’m creating my latest potager (my fourth) using four Link-a-Bord square beds and principles I’ve been following now for nearly a quarter of a century.
Where to begin: Clear the ground of all weeds and dig or fork it over (no more digging after this!) – then peg out the beds, allowing space for paths. Paths can be laid slabs, positioned over weed control fabric; or if you prefer, cover the fabric with bark mulch or gravel, or leave it as is. Bare earth is a poossibility, kept weed-free by hoeing. Raised beds are ideal if your natural soil is heavy or very stony – but you’ll need to fill them with compost, which adds to the cost. I use bags of ‘multipurpose’ mixed with soil-based John Innes no.3, bulked up with spent compost from last year’s grow-bags and well rotted straw from the chicken shed – plus my own homemade mulch from the compost heap.
Now comes the fun: allocating all the seeds to their positions, in blocks or rows (pre-planned in the living room), sowing them, with protection from inquisitive wildlife; and waiting for them to grow! Even if you do not wish to adapt your entire vegetable plot to a ‘square-metre’ scenario, you could at least use the technique for seedbeds and a ‘nursery’ area for bringing on plug plants, or even trialing small quantities of a range of varieties, as I have just done with my square of alliums. Oh, and if you’re just starting on your first year of growing vegetables, do get hold of ‘No-nonsense Vegetable Gardening’ by Christine Walkden; only just published, I wish I’d had a copy when I began my gardening adventures.
With all the work outside, my Potager Diary is still in note form; I’ll post the most recent pages as soon as they are finished. How good to be in the garden, growing the things we love to eat; I’ll certainly cram all I can into the available space.