Compact gardening style an alternative to traditional gardening

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JEFFERSON CITY - An alternative method to gardening is changing the way some Mid-Missouri residents choose to do their gardening. 

The term square foot gardening was first coined in 1981 by Mel Bartholomew, considered by those who practice square foot gardening to be its founder.

While traditional gardening is done in rows, square foot gardening is done in smaller square sections in raised wooden boxes. An invisible grid is placed over the plot, and smaller sections are divided out of the original plot. A typical raised box is four feet wide and four feet long, with 16 smaller cross sections. 

Soil used in the raised wooden boxes is a mixture of vermiculite, peat moss, and compost. The mixture is placed inside the wooden box and is independent from the homeowners' own yard. 

Square foot gardener Frank Richards said this practice is good for the environment. 

"You have all the nutrients you need. So you're not detracting from what's in the ground all ready and you're not adding hazardous, or, well I call it hazardous material," Richards said.

The soil is also made to reduce the amount of weeds in the garden caused by using soil in the homeowners yard. Richards said the only weeds found in square foot gardens are carried in by wind. 

The goal of square foot gardening is to reduce the amount of seed, water, time, and money used. Square foot gardens have been used to help teach women and children about gardening in developing countries. 

Richards said the most difficult part of square foot gardening is remaining committed. 

"Probably the only challenge is sticking with it. Some people, it's hard for them to change over from what they've normally done." 

He also said it is ideal for those who don't have much space, but still want to enjoy all of the benefits of gardening.