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Garden By The Foot With a Square Foot Garden

Updated on February 13, 2012

Foot By Foot Gardening

There is a great way to garden by the foot, make gardening easier, save water, and increase productivity. The solution is square foot gardening. In this foot by foot gardening method each garden bed is divided into single square feet and plants are spaced within those square feet instead of the traditional long rows that are typical in a standard garden.

There are some very important reasons to raise a garden the foot by foot way.

  1. It makes gardening easy!
  2. It is more fun!
  3. Square foot gardens look really neat!
  4. It is more efficient and saves water!
  5. You get more food per square foot!

Whatever your reason is for looking into a square foot garden, below you will find some useful tips to make your garden a success.

Garden Design

Before you worry about planting your square foot garden you need to consider your garden design. The best garden design for this type of garden bed is a raised bed that is small in size. For example, in a small yard, a 4x4 bed fits nearly anywhere. If you have room, a series of 4x8 raised garden beds will produce a lot of fresh veggies.

One thing that you want to insure is that you can reach the center of any raised bed that you create. This is accomplished if you make sure at least one width of the garden bed is no longer than 4 feet. That is because with a 4 foot bed you can reach into the bed 2 feet from each side, making planting and harvesting easy withing stepping on the garden soil.

If raised beds are not an option you can still use the methods of square foot gardening to increase your yields, but raised beds are the tops.

The other design idea for square foot gardens is to create a visible grid to separate each square foot. This is very helpful and quite attractive but is not absolutely necessary. Small boards work well, as well as twine to make the grid. If you make a wooden grid, consider letting the grid "float" on the soil by setting it up on a way that it ca be removed at the end of the season. This will allow you to cultivate and amend the soil easily.

Vertical Gardening

One thing you will quickly learn about foot by foot gardening is that every foot counts. Where you may have let a cucumber vine sprawl you will now want to use a trellis to grow them vertically. When growing plants in a square foot garden it is a great idea to go vertical wherever you can.

Some plants are a perfect fit for vertical gardening and can, therefore, be grown in a square foot garden with a minimum amount of ground space. Consider pole beans instead of bush beans, peas on long vines instead of bush types, and always select good vine varieties of cucumbers, squash, gourds, or any other plant type where you have the option of a bush-type or vine-type plant. Going vertical in the garden will save you space, make cultivation simple, and increase productivity per square foot.

Some of the best trellis ideas for a square foot garden are the classic obilisk or bamboo poles. They don't take much room, are sturdy, and are simple to remove at the end of the season. Traditional tomato cages work find but a sturdy 2x2 or single pole trellis works beautifully as well to grow tomato vines upright instead of letting them grow horizontally.

What to Grow Foot by Foot

You can grown almost any typical garden plant in a square foot garden. The key to making it work well is to know how many plants to include in each square foot so that you can maximize productivity. You don't want things too crowded or your garden will be a mess. Likewise, you don't want them spaced too far apart or you will not be getting the most from your garden space.

Here are some classic garden plants that can be grown in a single square foot:

  • tomato - if grown vertically on a pole trellis
  • pepper
  • eggplant
  • broccoli
  • cabbage
  • potato
  • cucumber

Here are some plants that will be productive grown 4 per square foot:

  • swiss chard
  • corn
  • lettuce

Most root crops can be planted at 9 per square foot, such as:

  • beets
  • garlic
  • leeks
  • onions
  • turnips

Other vegetables that will grow nicely at 9 per square foot include:

  • peas
  • beans
  • spinach

Finally, small root crops can really be packed in, at 16 per square foot:

  • radishes
  • carrots

Garden By The Foot This Year

With just a little bit of planning you can start enjoying a square foot garden this year. Design your garden bed and get it ready, pick the best varieties for small spaces or vertical gardening, and plant your garden using the recommended plants per square foot.

With square foot gardening, you will make gardening easier, save resources, and increase the productivity in your garden all at the same time. Every gardener can garden by the foot with a square foot garden. Enjoy!

What is your main reason for wanting a square foot garden?

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    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      My husband and I built a raised garden for my mother after my dad died and it was wonderful. She thanked us over and over again. She grew an amazing amount of food!

      Voted up and useful.

    • Melis Ann profile image

      Melis Ann 

      7 years ago from Mom On A Health Hunt

      Can't wait to do this year. Last year my tomatoes were so bushy they were hard to care for and didn't get the needed sun. This will be great.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I remember owning a book back in the 70s or 80s (I think it was) about square foot gardening. That was back when I had a big back yard and thought I would put in a garden like my mother did when I was growing up. Unfortunately, I never got around to building a square foot garden, but the idea definitely intrigued me.

      This is an excellent hub outlining the basics of square foot gardening. If I ever decide to do it, I know where to look to get started.

      Voted up and (very) useful!


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