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Square Foot Gardening

Updated on February 25, 2014

How To Make a Square Foot Garden

Square foot gardening is a popular method of gardening which allows closer planting of vegetables, herbs and flowers, producing a bigger crop in a smaller space with less work.

After I left home, I had always wanted to grow my own vegetables, but my first attempts at starting and maintaining a vegetable patch were quite dismal even though I had a friend help me with digging over the garden bed to prepare it.

My first real success came when I started using the square foot gardening method. The vegetables grew better and I was able to stay on top of the weeding.

This page will give you an introduction to square foot gardening.

Above picture above © Copyright KoryeLogan

and licensed for reuse under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license .

Sample veggie patch plan made using this garden planning software.

Mel Bartholomew - Introduction to Square Foot Gardening

Have you ever used the square foot garden method?

Vote by clicking next to your answer

See results

Setting Up

1) The Boxes

With square foot gardening, you need to think squares and not rows. Your boxes should be at least 6 inches deep and no wider than 4 feet. If the box is wider than 4 feet, you would probably need to step onto the vegetable patch when planting, weeding, harvesting etc and this would compact the soil. They can be longer than 4 feet but the longer they are, the further you have to walk around to get from one side of the garden bed to the other. Each box needs to be able to be divided into foot squares, so the width and length need to be in whole feet, not fractions of a foot. (For example 4' x 5' is good, but 4' x 4½' is not.)

You can build your own boxes - I made my first ones from old recycled house bricks. The problem with bricks was that the holes in the bricks provided a great haven for snails. (Possible solution - fill the holes with soil / rocks / cement)

Alternatively you could buy a kit. See some possibilities below.

Suitable Raised Bed Kits - available from Amazon.com

GardenInMinutes.com Cedar Raised Garden Kit with Irrigation 4ft x 4ft x 8in Tall
GardenInMinutes.com Cedar Raised Garden Kit with Irrigation 4ft x 4ft x 8in Tall

4'x4'x8"

Easy to build kit which comes with the special irrigation system which also doubles as the grid.

 

The square foot garden designs on this page were all produced using this great online garden planning tool.

2) Square Foot Garden Layout - Where to place your boxes

Square Foot Gardening Layout
Square Foot Gardening Layout

If you're going to have more than one bed, it is best to lay them out with a path or aisle between the boxes of at least 2 feet, preferably 3 feet. A path of 2 feet is more space-efficient than a path of 3 feet but you may find 3 feet is more practical. A 3 foot wide path will allow easy access to each bed for working and harvesting. There will be more room for a wheelbarrow or cart or just for kneeling down next to you beds.

When you build your garden beds, it would be wise to first remove all the weeds or place down a thick layer of newspapers or flattened cardboard boxes under them to stop any weeds from growing through.

More information on the best place to put your beds

Vegetable garden design Information to help you decide the best position to place your new vegetable garden.

3) Square Foot Garden Soil Mix

Mel has a really simple recipe for his perfect soil:

1 part peat moss

1 part vermiculite (coarse grade)

1 part compost

Unfortunately. Peat moss is a limited resource which could be depleted in the USA in as little as 20 years. Possible substitutes for peat moss include more compost (you could make your own) and coir dust.

You need to bear in mind that the level of the soil will go down, so it will need to be continually added to - another good reason to create your own compost.

4) Square Foot Garden Grids

Click on the thumbnails below for a bigger photo

Once you have put your soil mix into the boxes, you will need to mark the bed into a square foot grid. In my first attempt, I used string but this disintegrated too quickly. I have also used garden stakes laid in a grid on the soil. But there are other materials you can use, including Mel's recommendation of old venetian blinds.

  

  

  

  

  

wood

wood

string or coated wire

twigs

recycled fencing

string?

square foot gardening plant spacing
square foot gardening plant spacing

5) Square Foot Garden Spacing

Now for the fun part! Plant a different vegetable, herb or flower crop in each square on your grid. You will plant 1, 4, 9, 16 (or sometimes a different number) of each plant (seeds or seedlings) in one square foot depending on its space requirements.

The garden planning software I use clearly shows how many of each veggie or herb to plant per square foot - see the picture on the right - e.g. 1 cabbage, 4 swiss chards, 9 beetroots, 16 carrots. In this particular software in SFG mode, when you click on a plant to place it on your plan, the number used in each square foot will appear in the top left corner.

My Suggestion: Take into account the final height of the vegetables. My silverbeet (swiss chard) took off and totally swamped my little lettuces which then had to stretch for the light.

Sample Plans - Click on each thumbnail to see a bigger picture

Click thumbnail to view full-size
2x23x23x34x24x34x45x25x35x46x4
2x2
2x2
3x2
3x2
3x3
3x3
4x2
4x2
4x3
4x3
4x4
4x4
5x2
5x2
5x3
5x3
5x4
5x4
6x4
6x4

Maintenance

1) Watering

The frequency and amount of water used will depend on the type of crop. Root and leafy crops prefer frequent watering, whereas fruit and seed crops prefer deeper, less frequent watering. If you use a bucket of water, you can use a cup to spoon it out and apply only to the root area of the plant. This means that you use less water and also are not watering surrounding weeds.

I must confess that I didn't use the "spooning" method. I just used a watering can.

2) Weeding

Unfortunately weeds still manage to get into your beds, but if you commit to weed "just one square" each time you walk by the garden, the task does not become an insurmountable one and only takes a minute or so. And weeds are so much easier to pull out when they are small.

3) Harvesting

When it is time to harvest, often you don't need to pull out the whole plant. You can just rip the outside leaves off swiss chard, leaf lettuces, mustard etc and just cut the top off chives, leeks, green onions. They will all continue to grow. If you do need to harvest the whole plant (eg a carrot), just add some compost to the square and plant a different type of vegetable, remembering to use the correct spacing.

Pictures to Inspire You

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

More veggie patch tips...

Vegetable Gardening Tips A list of various vegetable gardening tips arranged by topic - from planning your vegetables garden to how to grow different vegetables and herbs to garden tools and safety in the garden and much more.

Have you tried square foot gardening? Please feel free to share your successes, suggestions and improvements here.

Do you have any tips?

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    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      I use flower pots, square box takes up a lot of space but if i live in a bangalow i will consider your ideas

    • mistyriver profile image

      mistyriver 3 years ago

      Thank you for the information! I'm trying to convince my husband to build these for me.

    • Trudidyer profile image

      Trudidyer 3 years ago

      I'm attempting a pallet garden this season, so the info in your lens is helpful!

    • marley101 lm profile image

      marley101 lm 3 years ago

      Thanks to share this info :D

      Great Lens!

    • profile image

      cayennemist 3 years ago

      Thanks for the info!

    • MVKilgore profile image

      M. Victor Kilgore 3 years ago

      I have 4X16' raised beds, but haven't ever done this type of gardening. Great lens and congrats on the purple star.

    • profile image

      ChocolateLily 3 years ago

      We've done this (with some soil variations) for the past 2 years and prefer it to "regular gardening." We've had very little problem with weeds. We have found that not all vegetables grow well (or at all) in our box, so we've focused more on the ones that did do well. All hot and bell peppers seem to do very well as do herbs. We prefer to plant squash and cucumbers in a ground plot as they take up too much room in the box. Also, our carrots never grew, so we went a different direction with those. Thanks for your tips!

    • microfarmproject profile image

      microfarmproject 3 years ago

      Fantastic! I agree about limited the use of peat moss, and usually replace it with vermiculite or coconut coir (which is more expensive.) Peat has a lot of benefits, but if it dries out it is very difficult to get it to absorb water again, which is definitely a downside for my AZ garden.

    • profile image

      RussT07 3 years ago

      Gardeninminutes.com makes a square foot gardening grid with an irrigation system in one. It's pretty awesome, I love mine.

    • greenmind profile image

      FCM 4 years ago from USA

      Great lens -- I tried square foot gardening -- you make it look easy!

    • BowWowBear profile image

      BowWowBear 4 years ago

      I helped a friend arrange a vegetable garden on very similar principles without knowing about this method. I hope to try it on the raised bed garden I want to build this year during next year's growing season. Thanks for sharing!

    • redtailvision profile image

      redtailvision 4 years ago

      Thanks for a great lens! Going to give square foot gardening a try this year and you helped a lot with the info here and on your other gardening lenses!

    • profile image

      williamwiley11 4 years ago

      are so informative! I always love reading your lens

    • bikerministry profile image

      bikerministry 4 years ago

      We are trying one this year. So excited. It's been years since we've had a garden and we're going with raised beds in our back yard. Great info here. Thanks for all the hard work.

    • shahedashaikh profile image

      shahedashaikh 4 years ago

      Great info on gardening.Thanks for sharing.lol

    • Fox Music profile image

      Fox Music 4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this great information "Square Foot Gardening"

    • profile image

      laurenrich 4 years ago

      This is an awesome idea of square foot gardening. Great information. Thanks

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I am getting ready to start a garden and this is the perfect kind for my yard. Thank you

    • skhdesigns lm profile image

      skhdesigns lm 4 years ago

      I have been trying to figure out how I want to do the garden this year! Think I found it!

    • teresa-shatto profile image

      teresa-shatto 4 years ago

      Love this lens...this is something I'm thinking of incorporating into our own growing areas for 2013. You've been a great help, thank you!

    • outdoorprojects profile image

      outdoorprojects 4 years ago

      Great lens... Square foot gardening is a great way to manage your garden. I use this method and it has worked out great for me.

    • GardenIdeasHub LM profile image

      GardenIdeasHub LM 4 years ago

      I found this method of gardening very interesting. I have not tried it yet but the information on the site really gives me a good game plan!

    • RyanBlock profile image

      RyanBlock 4 years ago

      Square foot gardening was one of the first types of gardening I did when I was a kid, with the strings and everything. I found it satisfying and useful when planning gardens in the future for understanding spacing. I actually might incorporate it as a method on one of my plant specific lens, and would love if you would take a look to recommend anything https://hubpages.com/living/how-to-grow-tomatoes3

    • HomeDecorKnight profile image

      HomeDecorKnight 4 years ago

      Square foot gardening is the best method to success in gardening and there are many good lesson to start gardening. I like your lens.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 5 years ago from UK

      Interesting concept. because of the hoards of cats around where I live I gave up vegetable gardening some years ago. Weeding and removing cat faeces was never a great task. Now I use Large pots, a similar idea to the SFG idea but I still think in rows! I will have to try this plan and see if I can increase my cropping. Thanks for the heads-up. Blessed

    • Oikouros profile image

      Oikouros 5 years ago

      I love the layout toool! Thank you so much! What an awesome lens!!!

    • ziggyzane profile image

      ziggyzane 5 years ago

      Would love to have a square foot garden.

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 5 years ago from Alabama USA

      Hi blessed by Squid Angel flinnie, and added to my lens Squid Angel flinnie.

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 5 years ago from Alabama USA

      Hi I have two square foot garden and they are easy to work.

    • lbrummer profile image

      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      My idea of gardening---small. Now everyone can have a garden, albeit in a tiny space. I'm featuring this on my gardening lens, a tongue in cheek article about my lifetime gardening experiences, How to Start a Garden: My Point of View.

    • orangegirl6020 profile image

      orangegirl6020 5 years ago

      This is such a cute idea! I only have a patio, but I'm thinking about dedicating a few feet of it to a potted garden.goop Thanks for the info!

    • PaigSr profile image

      PaigSr 5 years ago from State of Confussion

      Sorry no tips just helping my son do some research.

    • krobison lm profile image

      krobison lm 5 years ago

      always wanted to garden but didn't feel i ha the space....great tips

    • casquid profile image

      casquid 5 years ago

      My guy used some leftover siding to anchor into a square foot plot for me. Then I staked dowels and used jute for the layout. But, I really like this lens, with so many good tips.

    • intermarks profile image

      intermarks 5 years ago

      This is great way for gardening. It is new to me, but I think this can save me a lot of space and I can get multiple of vegetables in a small place.

    • GonnaFly profile image
      Author

      Jeanette 5 years ago from Australia

      @anonymous: Oops. Sorry for the delay in answering. Check out my page https://hubpages.com/living/Raised-bed-vegetable-g for more materials for making your garden beds from. The wood only needs to be thick enough to hold the weight from all the soil which would depend on the size of the bed.

    • concept247 profile image

      concept247 5 years ago

      I have never heard or square foot gardening before i came across this lens but it given me some good ideas of what you can do with even the smallest of garden space. Thanks.

    • profile image

      RuralFloridaLiving 5 years ago

      No, but it's interesting to read about!

    • suzy-t profile image

      suzy-t 5 years ago

      I've always kinda "winged it" when it came to laying out my garden and it sometimes ends up pretty crowded and tangled. I'm devoting a section to square-foot-gardening this year and I'm planting this weekend...so your tips are very timely. Thank you !

    • profile image

      Serj 5 years ago

      Wow this is a cool idea, especially with limited room gardens, like mine. Will need to show this to my mom.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Hey. Thanks for this, it really helped. I am looking at the business side of a square foot garden. Specifically, I am trying to see how much money I can make in one year by selling the plants I grow at a retail price. One thing that wasn't clear; how exactly would you construct the raised bed? I know you make a box and lay down newspaper (thanks for the tip) but should the wood be treated? I would think not, (chemicals) but how about how thick the wood should be?

    • RusticWeddingGu1 profile image

      RusticWeddingGu1 5 years ago

      Very neat lens. I am going to give this a try, perhaps I will have more luck using this method.

    • squid-pinkchic18 profile image

      squid-pinkchic18 5 years ago

      This was so helpful! Thank you for teaching us about this :)

    • Whitwillow LM profile image

      Whitwillow LM 5 years ago

      Good lens and a good way to get the garden back under control.

    • IMKZRNU2 profile image

      IMKZRNU2 5 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Great information. Thanks for sharing...now I am off to decide where to put mine!

    • ramonabeckbritman profile image

      ramonabeckbritman 5 years ago

      Very nice! I have the perfect place for a small garden. Will try this. Thank you.

    • danielmccarthy lm profile image

      danielmccarthy lm 5 years ago

      Great idea, Less weeds, more veg! Isn't it a bit like caged chickens though? :P

    • Gayle Dowell profile image

      Gayle Dowell 5 years ago from Kansas

      It's a Squidoo "High Five" quest. I "High Five" your great square foot garden grids. I'm a visual learner and the grids really help to see what needs to be planted where. Thanks for all the great info!

    • profile image

      BradKamer 5 years ago

      Nice alternative to row gardening. Cool lens!

    • NYtoSCimjustme profile image

      NYtoSCimjustme 5 years ago

      I used this method many years ago when I lived in NY - worked Fabulously! I don't know why I haven't kept up with it over the years. Fantastic article!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I've read about this, and frankly after trying rows in a too big space, this sounds ideal.

    • Bestbuyguide profile image

      Bestbuyguide 5 years ago

      Your lens is so great. I love gardening and I love the way you show how many of each type of vegetable can be grown per square foot. Squid like for this lens from me.x

    • Millertime LM profile image

      Millertime LM 5 years ago

      I have tried square foot gardening. I learned it from the TV show and it works great. It's the best way to get the most out of a small garden space. Nice lens.

    • bjslapidary profile image

      bjslapidary 5 years ago

      Great lens. Like all the info on square foot gardening.

    • TheMotherSquid profile image

      TheMotherSquid 5 years ago

      Love this idea. I am always afraid of planting stuff too close together or wasting the little, valuable space I have!

    • MJsConsignments profile image

      Michelle 5 years ago from Central Ohio, USA

      Can't wait to try this. I was a total failure at a full sized garden!

    • Ram Ramakrishnan profile image

      Ram Ramakrishnan 5 years ago

      I must try this ...

    • MelonyVaughan profile image

      MelonyVaughan 5 years ago

      Thank you for invaluable tips.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Maybe I will try this. The info looks simple enough for me to try.

    • WhiteOak50 profile image

      WhiteOak50 5 years ago

      Just wanted to let you know that I have featured this page on my new lens: A Garden Journal

    • JoanieMRuppel54 profile image

      Joanie Ruppel 5 years ago from Keller, Texas

      I voted yes in your poll because just this week we tried square foot gardening! Can't wait to see the results!

    • homesteadinglif profile image

      homesteadinglif 5 years ago

      This is pretty cool..love the idea

    • profile image

      sellhousefastusa 5 years ago

      Giving me some great ideas..thanks for this nice lens

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Haven't tried it, yet, but my grandmother has. Nice lens!

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 5 years ago from USA

      I have have great success in a raised garden, especailly with herbs. Great lens.

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 5 years ago from Topeka, KS

      Great article packed with wonderful information! I want to do the square foot garden. Think it's either that or container gardening. Not sure which I'll go with. :)

    • profile image

      CatJGB 5 years ago

      Great idea for a small space, I might try this next summer, my (messy) garden is already establishing itself this year, but I'm sure I could make it more productive by following the square foot method.

    • profile image

      joel7223 5 years ago

      I read this book. It's really good.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Indoor LED grow lights are also more beneficial for plants. Unlike conventional bulbs,this particular type of light produce almost no heat. This means that they are less likely to dry out plants, requiring less watering and creating a minimal risk that a garden will be subjected to drought. Because of the way they are designed, they also produce light that is specifically designed to be beneficial to plants with less wasted light that plants are unable to use. Because of their compact design, they are also especially well suited for tight areas where space is at a premium. With so many benefits, it is hard to understand why anybody would choose indoor LED grow lights.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 6 years ago from United States

      I am laughing a bit because I have been square foot gardening and didn't even realize it! For me, it was about limited space gardening. One trick I learned here that I am really jazzed about, I have never used cardboard as a foundation for my beds. Now that makes sense and why I haven't thought of it before, I have no idea. I could kick myself for the amount of money I have spent on ground cover material when I could have been using cardboard. Blessed :)

    • profile image

      RitaDern 6 years ago

      No suggestions - just a thank you for great ideas! My first garden - planted this summer, didn't produce much at all. I'm grateful to learn from you.

    • profile image

      Angelic599 6 years ago

      This is the perfect idea for my garden. Thanks a lot :)

    • sponias lm profile image

      sponias lm 6 years ago

      Thank you for your guidance!

    • zdaddyo profile image

      zdaddyo 6 years ago

      I've had modest success with the square foot gardening style. In one of my boxes nothing basically grew and in the other I've got a good batch of lettuce and carrots. The beets took a beating from the birds and I'm doubting the cukes will have any fruit. I'm wondering if I need to increase the height of the beds and if the peat was just too acidic. Maybe I didn't fertilize enough.

    • Hooks and Needles profile image

      Hooks and Needles 6 years ago

      Don't forget to water more. I was gone on vacation and what a dried up mess. I've used this method for parts of my garden for years and get so much more produce.

    • profile image

      dellgirl 6 years ago

      Wonderful lens, lots of interesting and helpful information! Nice work. Thanks for sharing.

    • blessedmomto7 profile image

      blessedmomto7 6 years ago

      Stopping back by to let you know that this lens is newly featured on my square foot gardening adventure lens.

    • profile image

      bolillie 6 years ago

      Thanks for the information. Square foot gardening is the only kind I've ever been successful at and I was surprised at how successful it was. I had no idea software was available to help with planning. Cool!

    • TheresaMarkham profile image

      TheresaMarkham 6 years ago

      I planted my 8' x 10' community garden patch using the sq ft approach, but not Mel's Mix. BTW, I thought the original book had more & better planting/growing details in it. The garden had great results (& lots of compliments from fellow gardeners :). I dug down 9 - 12", added lots of compost, dried blood, bone meal, cornmeal, vermiculite, topped w/coffee grounds & shredded leaves & mulch. The soil got very happy & things grew & grew. Am doing same this year, but not "turning soil" so much - just adding more compost & organic matter.

    • the12frets profile image

      the12frets 6 years ago

      Im gonna try this meathod this year and I'll let you know what happens. This is a great lens and really informative for people with a small backyard like mine.

    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

      Lensrolled to my Joy of organic Gardening lens.

    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

      Fascinating idea - we use raised beds that we do not compress by treading - very successful. I'll consider this technique in future.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Nice idea and lens, learning something new-yeh!

    • profile image

      newholistic 6 years ago

      Wow, I really love your lens! It is so informative with great pictures and descriptions - very helpful! I did not know that about the peat moss...thanks for the suggestions for the substitutes.

    • profile image

      sugunalinus 6 years ago

      Really nice ideas. I have a garden but it is not very much organised as you have given. Thanks for the idea.

    • HealthfulMD profile image

      Kirsti A. Dyer 6 years ago from Northern California

      Definitely will be back to learn more. We got some repurposed barrels so will be trying those this year too.

    • profile image

      greener4you 6 years ago

      I love the layout of your lens - you brought your garden onto the page. Clean and fresh looking.

    • blessedmomto7 profile image

      blessedmomto7 6 years ago

      Last year I got the boxes built, but I was just too pregnant to get the plants done. This year I am actually going to get dirt and plants! Very well presented lens!

    • profile image

      Miss_Organic 6 years ago

      Great lens! I love the garden plans. I currently have 8 - 4x8 foot boxes divided into squares. I am hoping to get my husband to build a couple more for me this spring.

    • Bellezza-Decor profile image

      Bellezza-Decor 6 years ago from Canada

      Oh, lots of great plans for gardening here. Thanks!

    • BubblesRFun profile image

      BubblesRFun 6 years ago

      I really don't have any suggestions. I usually grow my garden on the deck. So far the deer haven't realized they can walk up the stairs...Thanks for the lens:)

    • profile image

      mrtomato 6 years ago

      I've used square foot gardening for the past 4 years, and I get double the production of my previous methods. I can start plants earlier because the soil warms faster and I do a lot less weeding. Good lense; I recommend your method and your product; I've read it!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Interesting informaiton. Great lens.

    • fashionality lm profile image

      fashionality lm 6 years ago

      great tips!

    • BuckHawkcenter profile image

      BuckHawkcenter 6 years ago

      Good information here, even for an experienced gardener. LIke the way you put it together, too.

    • Barb McCoy profile image

      Barb McCoy 6 years ago

      We have been using Square Foot gardening techniques for a number of years and each of the kids has their own box. Thanks for the very well done lens.

      I am adding to my favorites, lensrolling to my nature lenses, and blessing.

      ***Blessed by an Angel***

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Awesome lens! Can't wait till the weather gets warm! Blessed by a Squidoo Angel on 12/28/2010. Have a great day!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      What a great idea for people who don't have a lot of space for gardening. (like me)

    • sheilamarie78 profile image

      sheilamarie78 6 years ago

      Thanks for putting together this information. I'll be studying it before the next season!

    • capriliz lm profile image

      capriliz lm 6 years ago

      My son and DIL used something similar to your method this past summer and had great success with it. Thanks for explaining this so well.