Square Foot Gardening

Square foot gardening was popular as a backyard garden type several decades ago, but it is just as viable a method today as it was then. Vegetables, flowers and herbs are grown in square foot squares made in raised beds using a rich soil mix. Once the crop in a square foot is spent, it is pulled and something else is put in its place.

This method is very good for those that can’t bend down to the ground any more as it is in a raised bed and just big enough to be able to reach across. Not too many weeds grow in the garden because you are using a soil mix of your own. It is a form of organic gardening because you do not have to use chemicals or pesticides and you make your own soil mix.

Planning Your Square Foot Garden!


Your garden needs to get 6 to 8 hours of sun per day and should be in a well-drained area. Avoid swamp areas or areas where water sits for more than 1 hour after a rain storm. One unit is 4 by 4 feet. This makes it easy to reach all sides of the unit without having to step into the garden and compact the soil down. You can just have one unit or as many as you wish as long as there are paths around on all sides to be able to access the squares easily.

Build It and They Will Grow!

raised beds

Always use non-treated lumber that is 6 inches wide. Use deck screws to connect the lumber into large squares. You can actually make the units any size you want as long as you can reach across. If you are building a square foot garden for an elderly person or a child, you might want to make it 3 foot square instead of 4 foot square. Lay your units on the ground over weed retaining fabric on the ground. Surround them with mulch or gravel where you will be able to walk. Bark mulch works nicely, but if you have many pine trees in your yard, use pine needle mulch. Hay or straw also works well.

Soil For Square Foot Gardening!

Do not use regular garden soil dug up from your yard to fill the units. You need to make a light garden soil full of nutrients because you will use the squares for more than just one crop and you want it to be filled with good things for your plants to eat. Make a mixture of 1/3 parts course grade vermiculite, 1/3 parts good quality compost and 1/3 part peat moss.


All of these things can be purchased at a garden center. You can also make your own compost and include it in the mix. The vermiculite and peat moss help to retain moisture in the unit and the compost provides nutrients.


The 4 by 4 squares are now divided into 4 one foot by one foot squares. Use string, rope, plastic strips or old Venetian blinds to make the separations. You can attach them to the frame with screws or staples. This grid should not be removed during the growing season. It tells you how to separate your crops.


The number of plants placed in the one square foot area of the grid depends upon the size of the plant. You grow 1, 4, 9 or 16 plants in each one square foot. If the seed package says to space 6 inches apart, you would plant 1 per one square foot square. This is true with tomatoes. In your unit that is divided into 4 one-inch squares you would plant 4 tomato plants. If the seed package says to space 4 inches apart, 9 plants would be planted in your unit and if it says to space 3 inches apart, plant 16 per unit.


You don’t need a shovel to plant. Wet down the planting medium before planting. The soil should just hold together when squished in your hand but not be soggy. Use your fingers to make a hole in the planting medium and put in the seeds. You might want to place two seeds in each hole just in case one does not germinate. Plant transplants if you prefer but you still have to use the same spacing methods.watering

Water plants and seeds regularly either by hand watering, which is recommended or by sprinkling. Once a crop has been spent and will produce no more, pull out the plants and plant something else in its place. Lettuce is a cool weather crop so you might plant lettuce in the spring. Once the weather starts to warm up and the lettuce no longer produces, you would remove it and plant peppers in that square.

At the end of the season when the weather cools down, remove the pepper plants once they stop producing and put more lettuce in the square. The nice thing about square foot gardening is that you can cover the garden easily if a frost is expected and still be able to garden.

Square foot gardening makes it easy to keep your plants healthy. If they do come down with a disease or be invaded by pests, it is easy to see and deal with right away. Picking pests off plants is easy with a square foot garden system because you can reach everything easily. Plants do not need a great deal of extra fertilizer because of the compost rich soil you made.

Weeds don’t really grow because they can’t get through the weed fabric under the units. You can easily see how you will get a good crop because you continually plant and tear out non-producing plants. It is easier for elderly to get to the garden because it is raised. Square foot gardening is a great organic alternative that is easy for anyone to do in their own backyard.