This all new revision of a classic gardening book has been a gardening and horticulture best seller on Amazon for quite some time. It's got a 4.5 out of 5 stars rating and currently sells for just about $12 on Amazon, which isn't too terribly bad.
However, although the reviews of Mr. Bartholomew's square foot gardening plan are typically very positive, there are still a fair number of critical reviews, making the overall consensus a bit scattered. So, since many of my website visitors are very interested in gardening in the most efficient way possible, it seemed only reasonable to review the “All New Square Foot Gardening” book for those who might be considering purchasing it.
Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew
In his YouTube video promoting the book Mr. Bartholomew introduces his new book and intros some of the changes between the old version and this new edition. Quite frankly, although the “square foot gardening” method is a useful one, Mr. Bartholomew is not really the “inventor” of the method as he suggests in the video, since many people were using similar methods of gardening long before his first book came along.
So, What Do I Think of the Book?
Well, this book appears to be an attempt at “simplifying” the square foot gardening approach for less experienced gardeners. The previous book was more detailed and gave more background info. This newest book is less detailed and tries to simplify the explanation of the method for “newbies”.
Either way, both books are useful and will definitely help you grow a lot of produce from a very small space compared to more traditional methods. However, before buying, there are probably a few things you should keep in mind:
New Square Foot Gardening Soil Mix
Since the square foot gardening method relies on “raised beds”, you have to fill those beds will some sort of growing medium. In the previous book, the recommended square foot gardening soil mix was more complex than what Mr. Bartholomew currently recommends in the new book, but I'm not sure if I'm a firm believer that either soil mix was entirely what you should be looking for.
The current recommendation creates a soil that can easily become “too hot” for good plant growth, which is not a good thing. In addition, one of the three components that is recommended to blend this new growing medium can be pretty tough to find. Lastly, many readers have been frustrated by how costly it can be to create this “perfect soil” for their new square foot gardening beds.
In contrast, the previous soil mix recommendations were a somewhat better option but did not hold moisture very well. On the one hand, that “feature” helped to avoid over-watering of your plants. But, it also meant that you had to water very frequently to make sure plants did not become dehydrated. I'll let you decide how big of a plus or minus that is.
Large Plants May Not Work Well
If you're going to be growing smaller plants and/or plants that don't typically “spread out” a lot (like Watermelon), the square foot gardening layout is great. However, for larger plants, you'll really want to “spread things out” a bit more to allow a little breathing room between plants.
Moreover, for “spreading” plants, using the square foot gardening plan can be a bit tedious, since you have to grow UP rather than OUT. In other words, trellises and such would likely be necessary for the plants/vines to “climb” and plants that grow larger produce (like watermelons) may have trouble with such a scenario, unless you choose hybrids that grow smaller fruit/veggies.
Despite Drawbacks Sq. Ft. Gardening Gets 4/5
I think the method is great, and Mel Bartholomew has put a lot of time and effort into helping people implement the method in a way that is efficient and productive. That being said, I can't give either book 5 stars simply because I don't believe that the recommended soil mixes are going to be your best or your most economical bet.
Learn More About a Better Soil Medium
This square foot gardening review can also be found on my blog, along with a short but VERY useful section related to how you can create the absolute best soil possible to put in your square foot gardening raised bed layout. Using this “mystery growing medium” is the absolute best way to get the most out of ANY garden, raised, square foot or otherwise.