Square Foot Gardening for Beginners

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If you’re new to gardening, or have a limited amount of space, square foot gardening is a good way to start. Since it is a small space, high yield, type of gardening, you can get a lot of produce out of a small area.

It’s also easy to start with if you do it in a raised bed. Minimal digging in the yard and the border is clearly defined. Though it is a fairly easy method of gardening, there are mistakes that can be made. Read about my biggest mistake here.

How do you square foot garden?

First, you start off by making your garden bed. I prefer using raised beds because it allows me to adjust the soil more easily. Where I live the soil is largely clay which makes it difficult to plant in. It is rich in nutrients but almost impossible to dig with a little hand shovel.

I purchased my raised beds at Walmart, they are 3 ½ by 3 ½ beds made out of cedar boards that can be combined into larger beds. At my first house Hubby built some nice beds out of 12-foot cedar boards. I believe those beds were 3 feet by 12 feet.

I loved those beds, but money was tight after we moved so we went the cheaper route of the pre-cut beds at Walmart. You can also make the bed out of pine wood to reduce costs, but cedar naturally takes longer to rot.

The main thing to remember is to not use pretreated wood as the chemicals used to treat the wood can leech out of the wood. This then gets into the dirt you are growing your food in.

The most common size of raised bed it 4 ft by 4 ft, but any size that works for you is fine. Just make sure you can reach all areas of the bed from the edges.

Once your bed is made you need to fill it with soil. Hubby likes to use a combination of peat moss, compost, and garden soil. I believe he goes 1 bag of peat moss for 2 bags of garden soil and 1 of compost. A lot depends on how big of an area you have to fill.

CJ really enjoyed helping her daddy fill the garden bed with dirt and then water it. And play in it…

Garden is prepared, how do I plant it?

Once the garden bed is made, it’s time to plant it. The first thing you need to do is decide what you want to plant. Think about what your family likes to eat and go from there. Or add in something new.

If you have kids, having them help at this stage and beyond may increase the chances that they will eat it. Some kids are more likely to eat a vegetable if they helped grow it.

My girls enjoy picking strawberries.

One thing to remember is that some plants can be grown closer together than others. This means you can plant more of one type of crop in a square foot than other crops. Keep that in mind while planning what to plant.

How Much to Plant Per Square Foot

This is my garden plan.

1 plant per 2 square feet

  • Melon
  • Pumpkin
  • Summer Squash
  • Winter Squash
  • Zucchini

1 plant per square foot

  • Asparagus (perennial)
  • Basil
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Oregano
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Tomato
  • Sunflower

2 plants per square foot

  • Celery
  • Kale

4 plants per square foot

  • Corn
  • Garlic
  • Head Lettuce
  • Marigold
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Strawberries (perennial)
  • Thyme

8 plants per square foot (on a trellis)

  • Peas
  • Pole Beans

9 plants per square foot

  • Beets
  • Bush Beans
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Leeks
  • Onions (not green)
  • Spinach

16 plants per square foot

  • Carrots
  • Chives (perennial)
  • Green Onions
  • Leaf Lettuce
  • Radish

Those marked with perennial above will come back every year. Asparagus needs a few years to grow before it can be cut for eating. Chives and strawberries can be used in the first year.

AJ enjoyed picking strawberries too.

How to Plant Your Square Foot Garden

Once you’ve decided what to plant and the weather is warm enough, it’s time to plant.

The easiest way to do this is to lay a grid out that marks each square foot. This can be done by laying a string across the bed at every foot going both directions. Each square is 1 square foot.

Once you have your grid you can plant your plants or seeds according to the list above. For those with 1 plant for 2 square feet, plant it in the middle of the 2 squares.

For those with multiple plants per square, I find it easiest to mark out the right number of spots before starting to plant. I just stick my finger in the dirt to make a little hole.

Many of the plants that can have 16 in a square foot are typically started by seed so don’t make the hole too deep.

Another thing to remember is that some plants will get significantly larger than others. Those that will get the biggest, or that need a trellis, should be planted on the North side of the garden bed to reduce the sun blocking effect large plants have.

Another thing to remember is that some plants can harm other plants. Those that can harm each other should be planted away from each other. This website has a good chart of what should and shouldn’t be planted together.

For those that shouldn’t be planted together, use your judgment. I’ve planted some close together that shouldn’t be because they share a disease and had no problems.

But I’ve also lost my entire squash crop because of squash borer. Though squash borer is a moth, so it might travel farther than a blight or worm.

Those plants that can stunt the growth of another plant should not be grown together. I currently have asparagus and garlic planted together and recently found out that garlic can stunt the growth of asparagus.

I guess I will see what comes up once the ground thaws and hope they grow alright. And I will plant my garlic elsewhere next time.

No matter what you decide to grow, having your own garden can be a good way to get fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s always exciting to see those first few vegetables growing on the plant.

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