Easy Steps To Square Foot Garden Success

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Square foot gardening is most often used for growing veggies, herbs and greens in a small space. It’s a simple concept that cuts down on gardening chores, saves money, water and seed, and grows healthier plants that are easily harvested when you want. Basically, square foot gardening is the theory that instead of planting in rows, you build a grid of one foot squares, fill with lightweight soil, and manage crop rotation by simply replanting an empty square whenever you harvest.  We love this take on square foot gardening (above & below) from ‘Art and Appetite‘.

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Benefits of gardening this way?

  • You can grow a lot more in a much smaller space.
  • Instead of sowing seeds thickly though out a row, you only need 2-3 seeds per square to grow one plant that doesn’t need the thinning that rows require.
  • Watering is more direct, therefore you waste less.
  • Weeds are easy to control, as they are in a controlled space, lightweight soil and easily accessible.
  • Fertilizing becomes easier, and less is used, again because of the controlled space.
  • It looks more attractive, and less chaotic than the typical veggie garden.
  • The plants are healthier due to crop rotation that happens though the natural progression of the squares, and better air circulation.
  • Having the plants close together allows you to spot and treat pest infestations easily.
  • You can build and grow a square foot garden right on top of even hard clay soil.

Convinced? Here are the easy steps to share square foot garden success!

Build a bottomless box, 4×4 feet square.

Place the box onto any surface. Since this will be a raised garden technique and the plants grow quickly in a short season, you won’t need more than one foot square of soil per plant. Basically, that means it does not matter what kind of soil is below the box.

Fill the box with a lightweight planting mix. Hardcore square foot gardeners will suggest that a blend of 1/3 compost, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 peat is the best mix. However, I have had luck with any good quality planting mix. Do NOT use soil from your yard. It will compact, and not provide a healthy base for your plants

Mark out a one foot square grid system. You can do this with stakes and string, wood slats, or simply decorative stones to mark the “lines”. It is simply a guide for you to know where to plant.

Easy Steps To Square Foot Garden Success

 

Here is a view of how ‘Our Daily Legacy‘ marked out their grid. Great tips there as well!

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Plant 2-3 seeds or one transplant into each grid space for larger plants, up to 6 plants or more each grid space for smaller plants, like leaf lettuce.. Remember to plant the taller plants on the north or east side of the box so they won’t shade all the shorter plants. Here is a chart from ‘Atlantis Hydroponics‘ that shows an idea of how many can fit into each grid space, based on what you are planting.

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Water gently, and fertilize as you would any vegetables or herbs, according to their needs.

When plants are ready for harvest, replant into that grid space. However, always replant a different type of plant than what was there before. This creates a natural “Crop rotation” and helps prevent disease. ‘It’s on the Tip of My Tongue‘ created this 4′ x 10’ box with a planting diagram of what they planted where.

Easy Steps To Square Foot Garden Success

 

Enjoy fresh vegetables and herbs! A couple of things to note…

  • You can make a larger box than 4×4 feet, but make sure it is in one foot increments, and no deeper than 4 feet to make care of the plants easier. 4×8 and 4×12 are common.
  • Use a material to build the box that is safe to grow edibles in.
  • Do not walk in your square foot garden, as this will compact the soil, preventing air and water from freely getting to the roots. This is one of the keys of square foot gardening success!
  • You can plant pretty things in here too! Especially blooming companion plants, like marigolds. But really, sky is the limit, even cutting flowers can be grown in a square foot garden!

 

This garden is from ‘Jungle Taming‘, and shows decorative plants mixed with herbs and veggies in a 4×4 box.

Easy Steps To Square Foot Garden Success

That’s all there is to it! Have you grown a square foot garden? Share your experience in comments!

Image Credits: Art and Appetite, orbitonline.com, Our Daily Legacy, Atlantis Hydroponics, It's on the Tip of My Tongue, Jungle Taming

 

 

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Comments

  1. LOL yes, we “hardcore” SFGers recommend the Mel’s Mix growing medium formula since it never has to be replaced like bagged soils and doesn’t need additional fertilizer – just add a trowel of compost EVERY TIME you harvest a square.

    Just wanted to let you know that the spacing chart is WAY off in my of its suggestions. Just a few mistakes – leaf lettuce 4, head lettuce 1, pole beans 8. Even grown vertically, pumpkins need more than 1 sq ft.

    Kim ~ Certified SFG Instructor

    Thanks for the great article and for encouraging everyone to grow their own food!

  2. Dont u think that the wood will rot, have u waterproofed it?

  3. Your points about the benefits of a square foot garden are very helpful and make me want to start one of my own! My neighbors have square foot gardens and another thing they said it helps with is to keep critters out. Their wooden slats are a little taller than the ones in the pictures, so that might be what helps them so much with this problem.

  4. Our garden is being downsized from 40’x15′ to raised beds. My question is how can you plant a summer squash (and similar plants) in a square when the tend to grow to 3 wide? Won’t it shade/kill out near by plants?

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      We would suggest picking varieties that are compact, one good choice would be http://www.burpee.com/vegetables/squash/squash-summer-cosmos-hybrid-prod003166.html… if it would work for containers (most online catalogs will tell you) it should have no problem in a square foot garden. The other option is to make sure to plant taller plants on the north side of the bed so they don’t shade the smaller plants…

    • Just an idea – I have been growing in a raised bed (in lines, which I plan to change this year), but I grow my squash outside of the raised bed in tires. Luckily my husband is a mechanic so we have access to however many free tires we want, but this way the squash is still in a “raised bed” but can be placed away from the rest of the plants to allow room to grow. I had great success with this method last year. Personally, I probably would not attempt growing squash in the same bed as my other veggies because my other veggies would get bullied out or overshadowed.

  5. Not to be Debbie downer but the corn needs a bigger block to pollinate the most u can plant is 2 per square foot so that’s only 4 plants

  6. I’ve used this method for about 7 years now. Squash take at least 2 boxes and that’s if you train them o grow into upside down tomatoe cages. Tomatoes I grow in big pots not in my sfg because they get just huge. But the rest usually works

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