Mel Bartholomew Square Foot Gardening Soil Mix

Introduction to Mel Bartholomew and His Square Foot Gardening System

Mel Bartholomew is best known for his revolutionary Square Foot Gardening (SFG) system. He developed SFG as a means of more efficient and productive gardening through the use of raised beds and a soil mix that maximizes garden productivity. As part of SFG, Mel created an easy-to-follow gardening guidebook and soil mixes specifically designed to support better yields while requiring far less water, space, time and effort than traditional gardening methods.

The special soil mix that Mel developed is composed of one third coarse vermiculite, one third peat moss and one third blended compost, all components that provide excellent drainage and absorbency for moisture retention. Mel also recommends the inclusion of organic fertilizer when planting the beds, which adds additional nutrients to the soil mix to promote healthy root development and crop growth. In the past two decades since its creation, Mel’s Square Foot Gardening system has been implemented by passionate gardeners across the world looking to increase their yield while reducing their time spent in the garden. The success of SFG as a system has made it even more popular with home gardeners everywhere, who rely on both its simplicity and effectiveness when it comes to growing fruits, vegetables and other edibles in their gardens.

Explanation of the Principles Behind Square Foot Gardening

Square Foot Gardening (SFG) is a method of gardening that has been around for over 40 years. It’s a modified version of traditional raised bed gardening and it was invented by Mel Bartholomew. The idea behind Square Foot Gardening is to optimize the space and resources available in your raised beds using specific measurements and soil ratios to give your plants the best growing environment and to maximize yields.

The first step in building an SFG is creating the perfect soil mix. You’ll want to combine one part peat moss, two parts compost, two parts vermiculite, and two parts well-aged manure with some good garden soil mixed in. This creates what Mel Bartholomew called “Mel’s Mix” – a living loamy mixture composed of natural materials that are ideal for helping with nutrient retention and drainage; allowing plants to get the oxygen they need from soils that don’t become too compacted or water logged. Once you have created your own Mel’s Mix you can start laying out your square foot rows within the garden area.

In Square Foot Gardening, each row is broken up into small planting squares (about one square foot). This ensures that each plant has just enough room for healthy growth, but not too much room where it will crowd out other nearby plants. The small spaces also help in maintaining adequate spacing between plants ensuring there is enough room for sunlight and air flow which greatly reduces chances of fungal disease spreading among plants as they grow. In addition, this method also simplifies fertilizing since only small amounts are needed per square foot which reduces overall input cost and effort required when caring for the garden throughout the season.

Components of the Square Foot Garden

The Mel Bartholomew Square Foot Gardening soil mix was developed to provide optimal conditions for growing plants in raised beds. In order to make the most of this particular method of gardening, there are a few components that should be used:

1. Compost: Compost provides essential nutrients and beneficial microorganisms required for healthy plant growth. It also helps soil retain moisture and increases its fertility over time. Compost can be easily made from kitchen scraps or purchased ready-made from garden centers or online retailers.

Gardening A Hobby

2. Soil Conditioners: Soil conditioners such as vermiculite or perlite are added to the soil mix in order to improve drainage, reduce compaction and boost aeration levels in the bed. This allows for an optimal environment for root growth and access to air and water needed for strong plant growth.

3. Nutrients: Nutrients such as fertilizer and biochar can be added to the soil mix to provide additional plant food during their growth cycle. Both chemical-based fertilizers and organic materials such as manure can be applied according to usage instructions. Biochar helps lock nutrients into the soil so they are available longer to plants during their developmental period and is created via a slow burning process of organic material such as wood chips or corn cobs – it acts as a natural carbon sink while improving water retention in the soil mix over time.

Understanding the Square Foot Gardening Soil Mix

Created by Mel Bartholomew, Square Foot Gardening is a unique way of gardening in small, manageable spaces. The soil mix used for this method of gardening is important to its success. This mix includes layers of sand, silt, clay and organics to ensure a balanced environment for easy watering and ideal conditions for root growth.

The starting point when building a soil mix is to identify the appropriate balance of sand, silt and clay per unit area or tray. This ratio differs depending upon the size of the container and the type of crops being grown. A basic rule of thumb is that 1/3 of your soil mix should be sand, 1/3 should be loam (silt), and 1/3 should be clay.

The most important factor in achieving this balance is the type of material each component contains. Sand has coarse particles which will help increase drainage around roots; silt offers medium-sized particles that absorb water more quickly than sand; and clay particles are smaller in size which aids with aeration as well as water retention.

When combined together, these components create an ideal structure for root exploration known as macro-pore space or macropinae. It also provides beneficial organic matter such as rotten wood chips, leaf compost, peat moss and coir which enrich the soil while helping retain moisture during dry spells and release it during wet times.

By following the ratio suggested by Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening method along with providing adequate organic matter in your soil mix, you can ensure healthier plants with a higher yield potential – all while taking up less space!

Benefits of the Square Foot Gardening Soil Mix

The Square Foot Gardening Soil Mix is designed and developed by Mel Bartholomew, writer of the best-selling book “All New Square Foot Gardening”. This soil mix is a combination of peat moss, perlite/vermiculite, compost and a soil amendment such as sandy loam or manure. The peat moss helps provide aeration and structure to the mix while the compost adds vital nutrients and essential microorganisms that help plants grow. The perlite/ vermiculite combination keeps soil light and airy so roots don’t get bound up, making it easier for plants to grow in tight spaces like square foot gardens. The addition of a soil amendment further provides essential minerals for maximum plant growth. The Square Foot Gardening Soil Mix helps to ensure gardening success with minimal troubleshooting from season to season. Not only does it make life easier for both seasoned gardeners or newbies looking to dip their green thumbs into gardening projects, but it also ensures that gardeners are utilizing an all-natural, pesticide free product in their vegetable garden!

Step-By-Step Guide to Applying the Soil Mix

1. Gather necessary supplies: Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening Soil Mix, compost, weedcloth, and plastic (if you are worried about weeds).

Buzzfeed Gardening Gifts

2. Prepare to rake the soil mix into your square foot garden beds. You will need at least a four-inch depth for vegetable producers or flowers and an eight-inch depth for root crops such as potatoes, carrots, and onions.

3. Spread a two-to-three inch layer of weedcloth over the area to be raked if desired—this will help prevent weeds from growing through your raised beds.

4. Evenly spread the Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Garden Soil Mix over the entire gardening bed(s). After spreading, break up any clumps that remain with your hands and rake them in.

5. Add a thin layer of compost on top of the soil mix to introduce helpful microorganisms, hold in moisture and provide any additional plant nutrients if needed.

6. If needed after step 5 is complete, lightly cover the compost with a thin layer of black plastic sheeting or weed cloth to further protect against weeds and help retain moisture within the bed soil mix itself (not required).

7. Apply water generously to get your beds damp throughout and allow for a day or two for it to settle before planting or seeding!

Maintenance Tips for Creating a Healthy Soil Mix

One of the most important things to ensure a healthy soil mix when utilizing Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening system is to replenish lost nutrients over time. This can be accomplished by mixing in compost, kelp meal, or other organic amendments as needed each year. In addition, gardeners should avoid overworking their soil mix by tilling or turning it too often, as this can cause the clay particles to clump together and the soil structure to break down. Additionally, if possible avoid digging too deeply into existing beds as this can also disrupt the existing structure in the soil. Lastly, for best results a gardener should add additional minerals like lime or rock sulfur at least once every two years to help balance out pH levels and provide essential micronutrients.


The Mel Bartholomew Square Foot Gardening Soil Mix has many advantages for gardeners. It has a balanced mix of peat moss and compost to deliver natural benefits to soil, such as aeration, improved drainage, and disease prevention. Additionally, its lightweight design is easy to work with and transport, so it can be used in larger scale gardens or smaller containers on decks or patios. The planting formula includes fertilizer for better absorption of nutrients that are essential for strong growth.

Mel Bartholomew Soil Mix also offers weed control due to the texture and relativity of this material. Nutrients from the organic content such as fish meal, oyster shell flour, greensand, perlite and a variety of beneficial microbes are present throughout the mix enhancing microbial activities important to plant health by providing a range of micro-nutrients. Lastly, the formula ensures an adequate supply of macronutrients through time which increases fertility naturally when recharged with fresh nutrient-rich materials over months or even years. In short, this soil mix offers users with numerous advantages for successful gardening including ease in use, robust development possibilities and natural sources of nutrients over time keeping gardeners engaged in their outdoor activities without complications.

Send this to a friend