How to Practice Square Foot Gardening

How to Practice Square Foot Gardening

and carrots are being grown. Square foot gardening is an easy, minimal work, low weed and chemical-free way to grow plants in a small area. Originally formulated by Mel Bartholomew in 1981 in both a book and PBS TV series, square foot gardening has been popular ever since, for those with small and large gardens alike. Although small in area, this small garden can nourish intensively grown plants, resulting in a very productive little garden.

The square foot garden can also be an excellent way to save water; it doesn't need as much water due to its design and this can be helped by adding a drip system to it. And for ease of access, square foot gardens can be constructed and placed on tables allowing easy access for those who find it difficult to bend or squat lower. This beginner's tutorial sets out the basics of developing your own square foot garden.


  1. Choose a layout that is easily accessible.The joy of square foot gardening is the easy access to the raised garden beds. The usually recommended measurement is 4 feet (1.2 m) by 4 feet (1.2 m), 16 sq ft (120cm x 120cm, 1.5 m2) beds, providing for easy access and good growing space.
    • Face the bed in the direction able to get the most sunlight.
  2. Select three foot walkways for easy access.Pathways should be wide enough to enable comfortable access and ability to tend to the garden.
    • Note that some square foot gardeners don't like too many pathways because using them compacts the soil around the boxes. Consider strewing straw or other soft material over the paths to reduce the impact of your tread.
  3. Build or purchase materials to build your boxes.Do not use chemically treated wood to construct your raised garden boxes. The boxes should be 6 to 8-inches (15-20cm) high when built; too high and they risk toppling over with the weight of soil and plants.
    • An open bottom wooden box can be used, with dividers.
    • Alternatively, build the box shape from scratch. To do this, get some 2x6 or 2x8 boards and cut them to fit into the four square foot shape. Nail together and place on the chosen are of soil. Try to use clean, chemical-free recycled wood to save money and give old wood a new purpose.
    • If placing the garden on a table or other raised surface, be sure to add a plywood base to hold in the soil.
  4. Fill the boxes with amended soil.Unless you are absolutely familiar with the quality of your garden soil and know it's good, it's not recommended to use it on its own. Either enhance the garden soil you have with compost or make a mixture consisting of 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 vermiculite to make amended soil.
  5. Construct grids of sixteen 1 foot (30cm) segments using wooden or plastic overlays that are fastened to the top of the boards or bricks used to create the sides of the garden.The overlays are laid over your garden bed to mark the areas for planting. Fasten the overlays with screws or rivets to secure the overlays.
    • Other ways to divide the portions in the box include simply marking with strings or shoelaces nailed to the edges. Or, insert thin boards to make divisions that sit in the soil itself.
  6. Decide which plants you want to grow.Each different plant or crop will be inserted into a different square, tallest plants to the back and smaller plants toward the front.
  7. Make holes in the soil to plant your seeds.Use your fingers to make the holes. The depth of each hole depends on the individual seed's requirements, so be sure to check each packet for this before making the holes.
  8. Plant a different type of plant in each segment.Use the recommended seed spacings when planting your seeds––follow the seed packet for guidance. If needed, use extra segments (or squares) to plant large plants; they still need space to grow even though they're in closer proximity than usual. To keep weeds from growing, the approach is to have plants touching without competing with each other for nutrients.
    • For each hole, most plants only require 1-2 seeds per hole to guarantee germination. However, for small seeds such as carrot seeds, plant about 4-5 to ensure germination. You can think out the weaker seedlings later by cutting them off with scissors, so as not to disturb the soil of the plants left to grow.
    • Expect that many plants will require a square alone, while other plants may fit several per square foot. For example, one square foot can handle sixteen carrots or onions, four leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, chard, etc.).
  9. Water your newly planted seeds with sun warmed water.This garden can be watered by hand, by drip tape or a soaker hose. Be aware that raised garden beds tend to have excellent drainage, meaning that the soil will be drier faster. Keep the garden bed well watered, even during winter.
    • To know if adequate water is reaching the garden naturally, consider placing a rain gauge next to it and checking this regularly.
    • Consider adding mulch to help retain water. Mulch to a height of 2-3 inches (5-7.5cm) but do not touch the stems of the growing plants. Add more as it decomposes.
  10. Remember to add some amended soil each time you harvest then replant with a different crop.As with any organic gardening method, it is also vital to rotate crops around the square foot bed, to decrease the opportunity for disease to take hold or for nutritional deficiencies in the soil.
    • Draw up a crop rotation plan to help you remember which plant has been in which division at each particular date of planting and harvesting.
  11. Finished.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    My boyfriend made the square-foot garden in a vertical model. Should we drill holes in the bottom of the box for drainage, or use stones?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Drill holes for best drainage. Placing rocks in the bottom will only allow a minimum of drainage and can easily become water logged.
Unanswered Questions
  • How do I use a wick watering system in a veg garden?
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  • If planting a variety of crops, you may wish to check out a guide to companion planting, to ensure that you don't plant plants that don't like growing together too closely near each other.
  • A good book to read about Square Foot Gardening is the updated version of Mel Bartholomew's bookAll New Square Foot Gardening. See also Mel's blog at: .
  • Pest control is much easier with this contained garden––all you need to do is cover the small area involved with netting, covers or cages as needs be, rather than an enormous area of garden as is typical with a traditional vegetable patch. Organic vegetable production is extremely easy with square foot gardens!
  • Leaf lettuce is one of the easiest plants to grow.
  • You can plant one favorite crop instead of a selection of crops. This is important if you are using a couple of small boxes.


  • Always use sensible precautions when handling soil, compost, rotted manure, etc. to protect your respiratory system and to avoid the transfer of germs. Wear gloves, and if you are susceptible to infections for any reason, consider wearing a mask when handling soil.

Video: Succession Planting: The Most Valuable Practice Every Vegetable Gardener Should Master | THE GARDEN

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Date: 12.12.2018, 15:13 / Views: 41352