Gardening 101: Square-foot gardening

Frank Genovese at his Brandon Township garden. Photo by Susan Bromley.

By Susan Bromley

Staff Writer

Brandon Twp.

-Frank Genovese’s enthusiasm for gardening has no bounds, even as he promotes the benefits of growing plants in a square-foot area.

He walks between rows of broccoli and cauliflower and bends to snap off a nearby asparagus shoot at Candy Cane Christmas Tree Farm on Tuesday.

“Taste this,” instructs Genovese, who speaks passionately about the merits of growing one’s own food. “It’s amazing.”

The farm owner has sold Christmas trees in the township for 40 years and has taught gardening classes nearly as long. From 7-8 p.m., June 6 at the library, 304 South St., Ortonville, he will share his knowledge about “Square-Foot Gardening,” an organized, efficient system of growing vegetables in a framed area, typically in a raised bed.

Genovese uses a similar method, but known as “wide-row” gardening, on his farm.

Both use the same principle, in which the area is kept to a size in which the gardener can reach in to weed and harvest vegetables without having to step among the plants. In square-foot gardening, the emphasis is on raising the planting area about 10 inches above existing ground with top soil, which besides bypassing challenge conditions of clay, rocky or undeveloped soil will also allow water to drain off and the ground to warm quicker.

“Anywhere between six and 10 inches of soil is usually deep enough for 90 percent of vegetables,” said Genovese. “It’s easier to control your weeds, and is easier to tend because it’s higher up and it’s nicely organized.”

He demonstrates a frame used for square-foot gardening that has nine sections to it, and which he easily flips end over end, showing how it can be used several times, expanding the garden, but still spacing plants properly. A variety of plants works well in square foot gardening.

“You can potentially have hundreds of square-foot gardens,” said Genovese. “It depends on how passionate you are and how driven… I always look at gardening as very philosophical, like the pleasure of a sunset or having dinner with your family or just doing something spiritually wonderful. It’s as much for the spirit, even more than for the body… I want to introduce them to the miracle of the garden and of the plants and hopefully they will take that and run with it. I want them to feel that thrill that has no bounds.”

To register for the free “Gardening 101: Square foot gardening” program at the library, visit or call 248-627-1461.