Basics of Square Foot Gardening - FineGardening (2024)


It’s popular, but is it the best method for you?

Fine Gardening – Issue 163

Basics of Square Foot Gardening - FineGardening (1)

While in general, our experts do not recommend square foot gardening, there are some redeeming qualities to this method. Learn the basics of square foot gardening as well as some of the benefits of using this method, and judge for yourself whether it is the system for you.

It raises awareness. No one can deny that square foot gardening has gotten a lot of people to think about growing some of their own food. This might also lead to a better understanding of what farmers have to go through to raise the vegetables that folks buy at the store and why veggies might cost as much as they do.

It is approachable for beginners. The SFG steps are easy to follow: You build a small-scale version of a raised bed, purchase the recommended products and soil amendments, and place plants close together to reduce weeding.

It encourages building raised beds. Elevated boxes are generally good for drainage and aeration. Growing in the ground, in a more traditional sense, requires turning over the soil (in the lawn area or elsewhere) to make it ready for planting; that can be physically taxing, especially if the sod is thick, the soil is full of clay, or the ground is compacted. Additionally, raised beds can be attractive.

It advocates record-keeping. The SFG method asks folks to take gardening notes. This is crucial for correcting issues in subsequent seasons (perhaps you watered those lettuce seedlings too much and they rotted) or for remembering what things worked well (you put tomatoes at the back of a bed to enable easier trellising).


Principles of Square Foot Gardening

1. Arrange your garden in squares, not rows. Lay it out in basic sections that are 4 feet long and 4 feet wide.

2. Construct wooden raised beds approximately 6 inches deep to hold the soil mix.

3. Space the beds 3 feet apart to form walking paths.

4. Fill the boxes with a special soil mix: one-third compost, one-third peat moss, and one-third coarse vermiculite.

5. Build a square foot grid for the top of the frame.

6. Plant a different flower, vege­table, or herb crop in each square foot box using one, two, nine, or 16 plants per square foot (based on each plant’s mature size).

7. Tend your garden by reaching in from the sides. Never walk on your garden soil.

8. Conserve seeds by planting only two or three seeds per hole.

9. Water by hand from a bucket of sun-warmed water.

10. Harvest a square, then add compost and replant it with a different crop.

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Basics of Square Foot Gardening - FineGardening (2024)


Basics of Square Foot Gardening - FineGardening? ›

Multiply the length by the width to determine the square footage—or area—of a square or rectangle. Find the square footage by multiplying the length and width of the area in question.

How do you calculate square footage for gardening? ›

Multiply the length by the width to determine the square footage—or area—of a square or rectangle. Find the square footage by multiplying the length and width of the area in question.

What are the principles of square foot gardening? ›

Square-foot gardening typically starts with a 4x4-foot raised garden bed filled with amended soil, then subdivided into 1-foot squares with markers like lattice strips. You then plant the appropriate number of plants in each square. (You determine this by plant size.)

How many square feet of garden do I need to be self sufficient? ›

The general rule of thumb when it comes to growing a garden is to have 100 square feet of gardening space (traditional row gardens) per person for fresh eating only. To preserve food and put it up for the non-growing season, you're looking at 200 square feet of gardening space per person.

What are the downsides of square foot gardening? ›

Cons to Square Foot Gardening

While certain learning styles and aesthetics gravitate towards the tidy boxes of SFG, others may find the gridded raised beds creatively constraining or unsightly. Particularly for artistic gardeners who prefer to follow nature's forms, perfect squares may feel rigidly counterintuitive.

How to calculate how many plants per square foot? ›

For a square bed, multiply the length of the bed by its width to determine how many plants per square foot. For a circular planting bed, you can calculate how many plants per square foot is ideal by multiplying 3.14 by the distance from the center to the edge of the bed.

How many plants can you have per square foot gardening? ›

The number of plants you can plant in a square foot garden will depend on the type of plants you are growing and the spacing between them – you can typically place 1, 2, 4, 8, 9, or 16 plants per square foot.

What is the best layout for a vegetable garden? ›

As a general rule, put tall veggies toward the back of the bed, mid-sized ones in the middle, and smaller plants in the front or as a border. Consider adding pollinator plants to attract beneficial insects that can not only help you get a better harvest, but will also prey on garden pests.

How much land do you need to be self-sufficient? ›

However, it is possible to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle on a larger piece of land. Estimates for self-sufficiency typically range from about 1 to 10 acres per person, depending on the factors mentioned above and the desired level of self-sufficiency.

What is the most efficient garden layout? ›

Additionally, arrange the plants in such a way that the tallest ones are at the north end of the row, followed by medium-height veggies, and finally, the shortest ones at the south end. This arrangement maximizes sunlight exposure for all the plants.

Does square foot gardening actually work? ›

The Bottom Line. Square foot gardening is a solid gardening method for any home gardener, especially beginners and people who are short on space. The drawbacks (while real) all have fairly simple solutions. Of course, it's all about your individual needs and preferences, but if it interests you, we say give it a whirl!

Is square foot gardening effective? ›

The Square Foot Gardening Method is estimated to cost 50% less, uses 20% less space, 10% of the water, and only 2% of the work compared to single row gardening. Additional benefits are: virtually no weeds, no digging or rototilling, no fertilizers, and no heavy tools are necessary.

How big is a 200 square-foot garden? ›

4' x 50' = 200 sq. ft.

How big is a 100 square feet garden? ›

A 100-square-foot garden (10x10 feet) can easily yield a wide variety of veggies. Bisecting it with two narrow paths forms four beds that are easy to reach into and tend. (One square = one square foot.)

How many square feet of garden do I need for a family of 4? ›

Generally speaking, 200 square feet of garden space per person will allow for a harvest that feeds everyone year-round. For an average family of four, plan for an 800 square-foot garden—a plot that's 20 feet by 40 feet in size should do the trick. If your family is larger (or smaller), scale up or down as needed.

How many square feet do you need for a vegetable garden? ›

It is easy to bite off more than you can chew when you are a first-time vegetable gardener. As a rule of thumb, you should start small then add if needed. A good starting size for a garden would be between 75 and 100 square feet.


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