Square-Foot Gardening at NHS


Photo Credit: Good Housekeeping

Elias Giuliano, Contributor

NHS is looking to bring environmentalism and eco-friendliness to the classroom with its newly-constructed greenhouse- a facility that could open for business as early as this Spring. Recently, Laura Bartholomew, Co-chair of the Square Foot Gardening Foundation, sat down with some of Northport’s own science department members to discuss potential ways to incorporate the greenhouse as an extension of traditional science class. Mrs. Bartholomew is the daughter-in-law of Mel Bartholomew, the founder of the Square Foot Gardening Foundation and the originator of the plant-growing method of the same name. Mel created the SFG method in an attempt to make gardening easier and more accessible for even the most inexperienced gardener, encouraging people to grow their own food and promoting self-sufficiency. SFG involves dividing up a space into 1×1 foot squares (hence the term “Square foot” gardening), and dedicating a single type of crop in each section, with the quantity of each plant being determined by the size of the allocated crop (smaller plants, like oregano or basil, can be planted in high amounts per square, while larger plants, like tomatoes, can only be planted with one to a square). By organizing a garden in this fashion, watering and feeding plants becomes more efficient, and each square can be cared for differently based on the corresponding plants. Once a plant is harvested completely, a new crop can be planted for the next growing season, increasing variety, reducing pests, and keeping the soil rich with nutrients. After Mel’s passing in early 2016, Mrs. Bartholomew and her husband Steve Bartholomew, have continued the SFG legacy. Mr. and Mrs. Bartholomew have traveled far and wide with their organization, introducing eager gardeners across the country to the SFG method. In fact, another group named PlantPure communities recently partnered with SFG to help vegans grow their own food.

Photo Credit: Matthew Gorman


SFG also does humanitarian work in impoverished areas outside of the country that are struggling to sustain their own agricultural needs.

Many schools in the US have begun to utilize this method to teach students about the benefits of growing one’s own food, and Mrs. Bartholomew hopes to see Northport follow a similar path. “High school kids are very aware of their environment,” she stated. “However, many students have no idea what goes into growing one’s own plants.” The SFG foundation is eager to see a new generation of enthusiastic plant-lovers emerge, and they see no better way to accomplish this than through the SFG method.

The foundation has a number of lesson plans and science activities based around gardening and plants that are used in schools across the country. The intuitive nature of the SFG method would make it easier to begin a garden of our own in NHS, and lessons could easily be built around whatever crops would be growing in the garden at the time. If enough of Northport’s own students are willing to dedicate time and effort into getting the project underway, growing could begin as soon as this coming Spring, starting with cold-weather crops like lettuce and root vegetables. The greenhouse, which is of course where the garden would be located, would need 6-8 hours of sunlight every day- which would be totally feasible given its current location. Mrs. Bartholomew believes that the two biggest mistakes anyone can make when starting a garden are “too big, too much.” Attempting to occupy too much space with too many crops from the get-go can lead to a garden becoming hard to maintain very quickly, and so she advises Northport to start on the smaller side. Likely the hardest challenge would be having enough hands-on-deck come this summer, but provided enough people are strongly dedicated toward the project it’s unlikely that the garden will get neglected during that time. Of course, none of this is to say that everything will happen within the first year, as a big undertaking like this needs to start off slow to get the attention it deserves. Reese Michaels, a part of the SFG foundation’s certified instructor program, is interested in coming to Northport to discuss further plans for the garden.   

If you would like to learn more about the SFG gardening method and foundation, check out their website here. You can also check out Mel Bartholomew’s own blog here (although since his passing this site has not gotten much attention). Mel’s book, All-New Square Foot Gardening, can be purchased at most book stores or on online retailers (the 3rd edition is the most recent).