Are you looking to start a vegetable garden but aren’t sure how much space you need? Maybe you have heard people mention square foot gardening and want more information? Or are you looking for a new way to garden?
Whatever your reason might be, we have the answers for you!
Square foot gardening is an excellent way to make the most of your space. These compact gardens allow you to grow vegetables productively, without needing to dedicate lots of space to them.
That means, you can enjoy more time growing your vegetables, and less time pulling out weeds or watering large sections of vegetables.
But how do you know how much space you need? And what plants are best and which ones should you avoid?
It can be tricky to find this information and many of us find ourselves stressed and overwhelmed, unsure where to turn or who to trust.
Well, no more! Today, we are here with the answers that you need. Stick with us as we walk you through everything you need to know to have a successful square foot garden!
What Is Square Foot Gardening?
Before we dive into the article, let’s have a quick recap for those that need it. Square foot gardening is when you divide your garden into wide rows. These wide rows are then divided again into square feet.
In each square foot, you plant your plants closely together to maximize yields, prevent weeds from growing, and keep your soil moist.
By planting a garden this way, you can reduce the time spent maintaining it, and just enjoy your garden!
Everything is close together so you end up spending less time pulling weeds, thinning seedlings, and watering your plants.
This method of gardening became popular thanks to Mel Bartholomew’s book, All New Square Foot Gardening.
The book gives you step-by-step instructions that will help you build raised beds for your plants and crops.
These raised beds are then sub-divided into one-foot squares, with a grid placed on top for you to follow. We recommend checking out the book if you want a physical copy to follow.
Do I Need Raised Beds?
As we mentioned earlier, the method in Mel Bartholomew’s book uses raised beds to create a square foot garden. But are raised beds essential?
No, you don’t need raised beds to have a successful square foot garden if you don’t want to. Instead, you can make the garden at ground level. The choice here is yours!
However, there are some occasions when raised beds would be a better choice. If you have any of the following, then it is worth having raised beds for your square foot garden:
- Poorly draining soil
- Rocky soil, where there are more rocks than soil
- Mobility issues that make it difficult for you to bend down to ground level to tend to your garden
- Contaminated soil. In this case, you will want a barrier under the bed to ensure the roots of your plant don’t enter the contaminated soil.
Thankfully, if you need to use raised beds, they aren’t too difficult to make! There are plenty of tutorials online that you can follow with ease, or be sure to check out the book mentioned earlier for a step-by-step guide.
If you don’t need to build raised beds, then creating a square foot garden can be done easily. You don’t need to spend much money or worry about the extra time it takes to create raised beds!
How To Create A Square Foot Garden – Layout
Now that we have covered what a square foot garden is, let’s look at how you can create one!
To start, you will need to consider your layout, focusing on where you will walk and the areas you won’t walk on.
For example, our garden features 3-foot wide walkways, big enough for a wheelbarrow, and 4-foot wide beds. These beds are in-ground rather than raised too.
Why did we use 4-foot wide beds? Well, this is a comfortable width for most people to reach, without stepping on the soil or falling over.
After all, you don’t want to build a garden that you cannot access or use properly!
It’s best to avoid stepping on the soil generally and compacting your soil. Your plant roots need plenty of air to help them grow, and if you compact your soil too much, you lose that valuable air space.
You must create a square foot garden that works for you. So if you have shorter arms, then you will want to make your beds wide enough for you to comfortably reach the middle of them to tend to your vegetables or plants.
To create a square foot garden layout, you will need to do the following:
- Layout beds 4-foot wide or less if needed.
- Choose the best length for your beds depending on your needs and the size of your garden.
- Create walking paths around the beds that allow you to reach the beds with ease.
- You now have the layout for a square foot garden!
Square Foot Garden Layout Template
For those that need some inspiration or guidance on laying out a square foot garden, we have a template for you to follow. This is how we have our square foot garden laid out:
- 1 3 foot wide and 33-foot long bed at the back of the garden
- Five 4 foot wide beds with the following measurements:
- 4 x 10 foot
- 4 x 12 foot
- 4 x 8 foot
- 4 x 8.5 foot
- 4 x 5 foot
As you can see from the lengths, each bed is slightly different in length to suit our needs. You can tailor the length to suit your garden and the plants you choose to include.
You can use this as a rough guide to help you divide up your garden and create a square foot garden that suits you.
Do I Need A Grid For My Square Foot Garden?
All New Square Foot Gardening suggests that you place a grid on top of your garden, often made from lathe or string.
While this is a fine way to divide up your garden and provides you with a clear vision, you might be wondering, is it necessary?
Well, we don’t think so! In some cases, having the grid on top of your garden can make it more difficult to work with!
The grid also will not last forever no matter the material you use, so you will need to consider the added cost of replacing it.
The grid can make it tricky to weed, spread compost, and harvest your garden, not ideal at all!
Instead of using a grid, we recommend using a ruler and measuring tape to layout your garden. This is far easier and less hassle for most people than placing a grid on top.
However, if you think the visual grid will be helpful, then by all means place one on top of your garden. When it comes to your square garden, you should do what feels right to you!
Square Foot Garden Spacing
Once the beds are laid out it is time to plant your crops. You will want to space out your plants and seeds in each square foot, ensuring they all have space to grow.
As we mentioned earlier, you can use a ruler and tape measure when doing this to ensure that the plants all have plenty of space to grow.
Now, how many plants you can fit in a square foot will depend on the plant itself. The smaller the plant, the more you can fit into a square foot.
It can be tricky to know how many plants can fit into a square foot, especially if you are new to square gardening.
But don’t panic! We are here to help. We have some general guides below that you can follow when planting your garden.
Keep reading to see how many plants you can fit in a square foot, and what the best plants are to include in your square garden!
16 Plants Per Square Foot
If you want to plant 16 plants per square foot, you will want 3” spacing to allow this.
The best plants to plant in this space are carrots and radishes. They can grow fairly close together without causing any issues.
8 Plants Per Square Foot On A Trellis
If you want to use a trellis, you can typically fit 8 plants per square foot, allowing 3” for space in between.
What plants work well on a trellis? Well, you can plant pole beans and peas on these trellises and get 8 in a square foot of your garden!
9 Plants Per Square Foot
When you allow for 4” of spacing, you can get 9 plants on a square foot of your garden.
These plants typically tend to be larger or require more space to grow, compared to the 16 per square foot that we looked at earlier.
You can plant the following plants in this square foot of garden:
- Bush beans
4 Plants Per Square Foot
For those wanting to plant four plants in a square foot, you will want a larger spacing of 6”. Within these patches, you can choose from a variety of plants to plant. Use the following list to find your plants today:
- Swiss chard
- Lettuce leaf
- Baby kale
1 Plant Per Square Foot
If you only want to plant one plant in a square foot, you can allow for 12” of spacing. Typically, we do this for larger plants or for people that don’t want to look after too many plants.
You have a wide range of options here! Choose any of the plants from the list below to plant in your garden.
- Sweet potato
- Most herbs
- Romaine or butterhead lettuce heads
- Full-size kale
- Cucumbers on a trellis
- Brussel sprouts
1 Plant Per 2 Square Feet
Another option is to plant one plant in 2 square feet of space. This provides you with a large spacing of 18 to 24” for every 2 square feet of space.
When it comes to plants being this spread out, we recommend planting either small vining squash or asparagus.
1 Plant Per 4 Square Feet
If you want to plant one plant in 4 square feet of space, we suggest planting either large vining squash, tomatoes, or melons.
1 Plant Per 9 Square Feet
Finally, for those wanting to plant just one plant in every 9 square feet, we suggest that you plant either zucchini or bush squash.
Tips For Square Foot Garden Success!
Before you leave us today, check out our top 7 tips for a successful square foot garden.
- Don’t create a grid for the top of your garden. Instead, use a tape measure and ruler to divide your garden up and keep your plants correctly spaced out.
- Carefully consider whether you need raised beds or not. Often, you won’t need to spend time or money on a raised bed, instead, you can make a ground-level square garden.
- Make sure you prune and harvest regularly, especially if you have tomatoes. Spend some time learning how to prune tomatoes to prevent your vegetables from growing out of control!
- Plant your crops strategically to help add shade to your garden. Understanding how plants grow and their need for the sun will help you plant your garden in the best way possible.
- Take advantage of trellises or bean teepees to maximize your garden and provide support for your plants. You can use trellises for cucumbers, melons, pole beans, peas, and other climbing crops.
- Plant crops together based on their watering needs. This helps you plan your garden better and reduce the amount of maintenance required.
- Mulch your garden to help retain moisture, provide nutrients, and protect the health of your soil. As you are growing lots of plants in a small space, mulching, and healthy soil is vital.
And there you have it, your complete guide to square foot garden spacing!
We know that it can seem daunting or a little tricky, to begin with, but once you have measured out your land and decided what plants you are going to plant, it becomes a lot simpler!
The first time you divide up your garden and plant, you are bound to make some mistakes, but with our guide on hand, you can prevent most of those mistakes and grow healthy plants and crops for you to enjoy!
No matter how you divide up your garden, remember to care for your plants correctly and ensure that the soil is healthy and has the correct moisture.
By regularly maintaining your garden, you can avoid any mishaps and care for your plants as best as possible. Good luck with your garden!
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