Square Foot Gardening

08.08.2018 |

Episode #6 of the course Advanced gardening by Alice Morgan


Hello, and welcome to Day Six of class. Today, we’ll be looking at square foot gardening. Square foot gardening is a method of neatly organizing your gardening by segmenting it into a grid of one square foot (30×30 cm), which you can plant and care for individually. This method is fairly well established; it was created by backyard gardener and engineer Mel Bartholomew in 1981. It’s ideal for people with limited growing space but can still be enjoyed by those who dream of big gardens.


Set Up

This method of gardening relies on raised beds to keep soil contained and organized, though you could also try it with an ground-based garden. As a refresher, raised beds are when a gardener constructs an artificial box or tall border that is then filled with dirt to create their garden. Once your beds are established, that’s most of the work done. Using string, wood, or PVC pipe, you’ll need to create a one-foot (30 cm) by one-foot grid across the top of your raised bed. This may require that you spend a little time working out the proper spacing of the plants you want to grow, but there are many guides like this one available that will take most of the guesswork out of garden planning.

Here are common garden plants with space requirements:

• boccoli: 18-inch (46 cm) spacing

• eggplant: 12-inch (30 cm) spacing

• corn: 8-inch (20 cm) spacing

• potatoes: 12-inch (30 cm) spacing

• tomatoes: 24-inch (60 cm) spacing

• peas: 3-inch (8 cm) spacing

• beans: 4-inch (10 cm) spacing



Square foot gardens are highly efficient. Every bit of gardening space can be used for plants because you don’t need to create walking paths like you would with a traditional earthen garden. You’re also able to pack plants in together with intensive planting, which means that you can expect a big harvest. Because you’re adding fresh soil to your beds, you won’t have as many weeds growing from preexisting seeds hanging around in the dirt. Finally, since the garden is small and contained, you should only need to spend a few minutes a day taking care of it. This is an ideal type of gardening method for people with limited time in their schedules for garden chores.



Like regular raised beds, square foot gardening beds may require a larger initial investment to get started than an earthen garden. You’ll need to purchase or build the beds themselves, as well as the soil to fill them up. A square foot will limit some of the vegetables you can grow. For instance, you won’t be able to fit many larger plants like squash, asparagus, or corn without the space becoming too cramped. Finally, while you may not need much time to care for a square foot garden, you will still need to be vigilant about checking on your plants every day. The soil in raised beds can dry out faster than earth gardens, and weeds can be difficult to pull once they get established.

I hope you enjoyed today’s class on square foot gardening. Tomorrow, we’ll be digging even deeper in the dirt when we discuss vermicomposting.


Recommended book

All New Square Foot Gardening II: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More in Less Space by Mel Bartholomew


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