A Square Foot Gardening Layout with Great Tips for Garden Designs (2023)

A Square Foot Gardening Layout with Great Tips for Garden Designs (1)

Square foot gardeningneeds planning inlayout and design, but a square foot garden using raised bed gardening methods willhave more vegetables, in less space, with half the effort.

Mel Bartholomew is a man who has beenattributed to creating a different method of growingvegetables and flowers, and that is not in rows,but in squares. Thus, the term Square-Foot Gardening, or for some,squarefoot gardening. However there is far more to this way of plantingother than how you plant your plants.

To quote Mel about his square footmethod of gardeninghe says, "Square Foot Gardening is a new way to garden, in less space,with less work."

What is Square Foot Gardening?

  • Plants are planted in squares rather than rows.
  • The layout of a square foot garden means that the squaresare in multiples of 12 inches x 12 inches - thetotal measurement being 1 square foot.
  • The squares are designed so that you never have to stretchmore than 2 square feet to reach your plants.
  • As a result, you never have to walk on your garden, whichprevents the soil from becoming compacted.
  • Once your beds have been created, there is no need for anyfurther cultivation.
  • The number of plants per square foot will vary due to sizeand spread.
  • Crop rotation and companionplanting are to be encouraged.
  • All climbing plants are trellised, further optimizing theuse of space.
  • It is a popular concept for raisedbed gardens, especially for those who don't want tobend all the time.
  • The sets of squares are separated by pathways.

Square Foot Gardening Versus Conventional Gardening

Often we start off withgood intentionsof having a vegetable garden. But soon we find we don't have the timeto dedicate to these plants that are soon overrun with weeds and pests.Square Foot Gardening for vegetables is the answer. According to Mel,by using this system you will save 80% of your space, time and moneynormally needed to garden, and in addition your results will produce abetter harvest that is continuous with less work.

Square Foot Gardening: Getting Started - The Soil

Many people findthemselves with soilthat is not the perfect growing medium for growing great flowers andvegetables. Furthermore, to try and improve this existing soil will notonly take a lot of time, effort and money, but it could be severalseasons before one gets good results. If you have poor soil then growingvegetables in containers, as squarefoot gardeningis, is the only way to go.

The soil composition proposed is 1/3vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 compost. Vermiculite ispreferredover perlite which may be cheaper but it does not absorb as muchmoisture, keeping your soil moist for longer, and it also floats up tothe top of the soil when you water your garden, making it lookunsightly.

(Video) 5 SQUARE FOOT GARDENING Layout Ideas With COMPANION PLANTS (Beginners - Get Inspired)

The composition of the compost isimportant too. Most commercial bags of compost are only made up of oneor two ingredients. To grow great fruit and vegetables you need atleast five different composting materials. Therefore, it is advisableto buy five different types of commercial compost and mix them, or thebest solution would be to make your own in your own backyard fromvegetable scraps, grass clippings, leaves and farmyard manure. You canmake compost very quickly. See our article on compostmaking using worms and making compostbins for storage.

The depth of your boxes and soil wouldbe fine at 6 inches. The richness of the soil mix provides all thenecessary nutrients for your plants and therefore there is no need forfurther depth to your soil.

Square Foot Gardening: Placing a Permanent Grid

Once you have built yourboxes andfilled them with soil you will be tempted to start planting straightaway. Don't! You need to build an additional grid that will be apermanent feature of your boxes. On a 4x4 foot frame you will have agrid with 16 squares. This is your guide as to where you will need toput your plants.

This grid can be made out of strips ofwood, doweling etc. and can be left on your frame throughout the year.With the grid you will be planting according to the squarefootgardening method, without it, you will be tempted to go back toplanting in rows.

Square Foot Gardening: Planting the Seeds

With the square footmethod of gardening, nolonger are we leftwith a surplus of crops we don't know what to do with, nor do we end upthinning out crops which results in further wastage. Instead eachsquare is planted with exactly the right number of seeds that you willbe harvesting. For example 4 seeds of lettuce in one square foot ofgarden is all you need to harvest 4 lettuces at the end of it. If youwant to harvest more lettuces you will plant accordingly. But at theend of the day, you only plant the number of seeds that you wantplants.

However, no one family would ever endup eating more than 4 lettuces a week. So what one needs to do is tovalidate what you plant, and make sure that you plant successively toextend your harvesting season. This is done by planting another 4 seedsa week or two later. That way you can eat what you plant, withoutending up with a glut.

The essence of the square foot method is that whenyou plant your seeds you space them according to the final thinningspacings on the seed packet. So if the seeds should be thinned out at 5cm each, this is where you plant each seed, and only one seed, and theyare placed in the square foot and planted the same distance apart inall directions.

Square Foot Gardening: How Many Seeds Per Square?

How many seeds will bedetermined byhow big your plants will grow, and how much space they need to mature.Onion, carrotand radish seeds need only 3 inches around them to mature, allowing youto plant 16 plants in such an area. Whereas, spinach and bush beansneed 4 inches. Therefore, only 9 plants can be planted per square foot.

(Video) THE BEST Square Foot Garden PLAN - NEW & IMPROVED LAYOUT FOR 2020

16 squares agrouped together forming a 4 foot by 4 foot block, thus allowingaccessibility from all sides, and preventing the need to tramplethrough your veggies to weed and maintain them. With an average of 8plants per square foot, this means that with a 4 foot x 4 foot frameyou would be planting 130 plants.

Square-Foot Gardening: So What can you Plant in Each Square?


16 radishes
16 carrots16 onions9 bush beans

9 spinach
9 beets9 garlic8 peas

4 Swiss chard
4 lettuce4 parsley4 thyme


1 cabbage
1 broccoli1 cauliflower1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 eggplant1 potato1 corn


1 tomato
2 cucumbers
1 musk melon
8 pole beans

Square Foot Gardening: Planting to Extend the Harvest

With nearly 2000 seedsinthe average lettuce seed packet one really doesn't need to plant thewhole packet if you are growing lettuces for the average family, as youwould never get through that many lettuces in a season. Therefore itstands to reason that the best method is to plant successively toextend the harvest period. This is easily done in square footgardeningby leaving some of your squares vacant for a week ortwo and then planting them with more seeds of what you have alreadyplanted.

A Square Foot Gardening Layout with Great Tips for Garden Designs (2)

Square FootGardening: Companion Planting

I am a great advocate ofcompanionplanting and in a square foot garden system you can easily plant thoseplants near your crops that will protect them. Marigolds, garlic,chives, onions and nasturtiums are just some of the plants that you canplant to deter bugs and beasties in your garden. We also advocate thatyou use naturalpesticides that are less harmful to theenvironment.

Buy your own Square FootRaised Bed Garden Kits

Click on each of the pictures for prices and details.

(Video) Square Foot Gardening - Layout Plans & When To Start Planting

A Square Foot Gardening Layout with Great Tips for Garden Designs (3)A Square Foot Gardening Layout with Great Tips for Garden Designs (4)

Books on Squarefoot Gardening

We hope that this has given you someinsight into Mel's concept of creating a square foot garden, andsomething for you to try next time you get into that veggie patch ofyours. For more information you can buy his book through our BestSelling Books

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(Video) 6 STARTING TIPS | Square Foot Gardening In Raised Beds (Do You Know Them ALL?)


How do you layout a square foot garden? ›

With the square-foot gardening method, you plant in 4x4-foot blocks instead of traditional rows. Different crops are planted in different blocks according to their size; for example, 16 radishes in one square foot, or just one cabbage per square foot.

How do you layout a perfect garden? ›

A north to south direction will ensure that the garden gets the best sun exposure and air circulation. A garden that runs east to west tends to get too shaded from the crops growing in the preceding row. Grow tall items such as corn or beans, on the north side of the garden to keep them from shading smaller crops.

What are the 3 materials used in square foot gardening? ›

The classic soil mix for square foot gardening is equal parts peat moss, vermiculite, and compost.


1. WATCH THIS Before You Plan Your Square Foot Garden ǀ Complete Guide!
(Small Garden Quest)
2. SQUARE FOOT Gardening, How to Grow MORE FOOD in LESS SPACE!
(The Gardening Channel With James Prigioni)
3. How to Plan a Vegetable Garden: Design Your Best Garden Layout
4. Square Foot Gardening (SFG): Growing More in Less Space
(Growing In The Garden)
6. Square Foot Gardening with Steve Bartholomew
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