Square Foot Gardening Kit

Square foot gardening has been around for several decades, but it is still a new concept to many people.

If you are curious about this method of increasing your garden’s efficiency, keep reading to learn more about the benefits, what you need to put together a square-foot gardening kit, and how to build and plant your garden.

Also Read: Square Foot Gardening Bell Peppers [How & When to Plant]

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What Is Square Foot Gardening?

Square foot gardening is an alternative to planting your garden in traditional rows. In place of the rows, you place plants in square spaces that are usually one square foot each.

With square-foot gardening, a gardener plants seeds or seedlings in grids rather than rows. The number of plants per square foot depends on the size of the plant.

For example, you will plant vegetables such as carrots at 16 per square foot and peppers at one per square foot.

Mel Bartholomew developed this gardening method and published a book in 1981 titled “Square Foot Gardening.”

His goal was to create a way to grow a garden that could support a person’s needs without a large amount of space.

International humanitarian groups and schools throughout the United States use this gardening method to help battle hunger and poverty.

There is even a Square Foot Gardening Foundation. Its goal is to help end world hunger by connecting communities with this method of producing sustainable and nutritious food.

Why Use Square Foot Gardening

The benefits of square-foot gardening are numerous. It generally requires less of every resource a traditional garden needs. These reductions include cutting the cost by 50 percent, space by 20 percent, water by 90 percent, and labor by 98 percent.

A square-foot garden will require less fertilizer, weeding, and watering.

Furthermore, it can eliminate tilling altogether, especially when combined with a raised bed, as is often done with square-foot gardening.

Square foot gardens, and raised gardens, do not experience the soil compaction that traditional gardens do.

This looser soil results because people are not walking on the soil as they do in row gardens.

These gardens also often have fewer pests.

This effect is due to the proximity of plants to each other. Certain plants deter specific pests and having those plants planted near other plants can keep them all safe.

A garden that is less attractive to pests requires less or no use of pesticides, which can leave residue on your harvest and have a harmful effect on human health and the environment.

Additionally, some plants attract pollinators, such as bees and butterflies.

These insects are necessary to pollinate plants so that they produce their crop. By attracting pollinators to your garden, all of your plants will benefit.

Check out: Square Foot Gardening Arugula [How to Grow]

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Who Can Plant a Square Foot Garden

A square-foot garden is a good option for just about anyone.

Since they pack a lot of growing capacity into a small space, they are a solution for gardeners with a limited area for their garden.

Even a two-foot square container on an upper-story apartment deck could provide a gardener with some homegrown produce.

Incorporating vertical growth with trellises expands the garden’s capacity even more.

Though they work exceptionally well in small spaces, the principle can also be scaled up to cover larger gardens and even multiple acres.

The only difference is you would include walkways between sections of square-foot gardens to provide access to each area.

For example, a garden space that is 20 feet by 20 feet could have three “rows” of 4-foot wide square foot garden plots separated by walkways in between.

As the size scales up, you add more long 4-foot wide beds with areas to walk between them.

Though these spaces are certainly large enough for row gardening, the gardeners may prefer to take advantage of the other benefits of square-foot gardening.

Square foot gardening is not zone restrictive since it requires no specific plants.

Whether you live in the southern or northern United States, on a coast, or in the Midwest, you can use the method with whatever plants are hardy in your area.

Have a look: Square Foot Gardening Watering [5 Best Methods to Water]

Building a Square Foot Gardening Kit

If you are convinced that square-foot gardening is a good option for you and you are ready to put together the kit of everything you need, use this checklist to ensure you don’t miss anything:

  • Materials for raised garden bed: Wooden boards, bricks, or concrete blocks, and whatever fasteners and tools are required for assembling the bed.
  • Base materials: Cardboard, weed-blocking fabric, or wire mesh to keep weeds and rodents from coming up through the base of your garden bed.
  • Grid materials: Twine or lath-like boards, along with tacks or staples, to secure them at the edges.
  • Trellis: If you will be including any plants in your garden that climb, such as peas, pole beans, or even cucumbers, make sure you provide them with a trellis to climb.
  • Soil: A good, fertile soil blend can be the difference between having a bountiful harvest from your garden or a mediocre one.
  • Labels: It is sometimes difficult to remember what is planted where in your garden, but placing markers in each square can help, whether they are commercially made reusable markers or just words written on popsicle sticks.

How to Start a Square Foot Garden

Starting your own raised bed square foot garden requires just a few steps and minimal supplies.

Once you have your square-foot gardening kit put together, follow these steps to get on your way to gardening.

Choose a Location

Location is very important for a garden. You can build the most beautiful raised bed square foot garden ever, but if it is in the shade all day, you won’t reap much of a harvest.

The best location will get six to eight hours of sunlight each day. Afternoon sunlight is the most important, so avoid locations that are shaded in the afternoons.

The shelter is a less vital but still worthwhile factor.

If you have ample sunny locations to choose from on your property, it could be beneficial to pick a spot with more protection from strong winds.

Finally, consider convenience. You will ideally want to have your garden in a spot that is easy to access. Easy accessibility is not always possible.

Some people even use community gardens located away from their homes for square-foot gardening.

But if you can walk out your door and have your garden just steps away, that is amazingly convenient.

It is also important to have space to work around your garden. Placing a four-foot wide garden bed up against a fence or a building makes it difficult to reach the opposite side.

If you cannot access the garden bed from both sides, it is best to make it no more than two feet wide.

Read: Square Foot Gardening for Swiss Chard

Build Your Raised Garden Bed

While choosing your location, also decide what size raised garden bed to build. A commonly used size for raised beds and square-foot gardening is four feet by four feet.

However, you can make it any size you like. Keep in mind that you need to be able to reach the center of a raised bed, so making it more than 4 feet wide at its narrowest dimension is not advisable.

You can build your raised bed from wooden boards or other materials, such as bricks or concrete blocks.

You can make your garden bed at any depth you like. Some people prefer to have it at a height that requires less bending over and is, therefore, easier on the back.

Other people prefer shallower beds because they require less soil to fill, reducing the costs involved.

However, a raised bed should be at least 10 inches deep to give the roots plenty of room. And if you intend to plant deep-growing plants, such as potatoes, you will want to give them even more underground space.

You can gain more depth by either increasing the depth of the garden bed or tilling into the soil beneath the bed.

It is a good idea to place cardboard or weed-blocking fabric at the bottom of your raised bed to keep grass and weeds from growing up into your garden.

Additionally, if burrowing rodents, like gophers, are a concern, you can place a wire mesh material at the bottom of the bed.

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Fill Your Raised Bed with Soil

Once you have built your garden bed, you need to fill it with soil.

Mel Bartholomew’s preferred mix for square foot gardening is ⅓ coarse grade vermiculite, ⅓ sphagnum peat moss, and ⅓ blended organic compost.

However, you can use whatever potting soil you prefer.

To calculate how much soil you need to fill your garden bed, measure the width, length, and depth. Make sure all these numbers are in feet and not inches.

For example, you will use a measurement of 1.5 feet instead of 18 inches.

Multiply these three numbers together, and you will have the number of cubic feet required to fill your garden.

Since soil is generally sold by cubic yard, divide your number of cubic feet by 27. This number is your cubic yard measurement.

Check: Square Foot Gardening Rosemary [Growing Tips]

Create the Grid

Once you have soil in your garden bed, you need to create a grid of square feet so that you know where to plant.

The easiest method is to measure the edges of your garden beds and mark every foot. You will then create the grid by connecting the marks on opposite sides of the garden bed.

There are many materials you can use to create the lines of the grid.

If you built your bed from wood, you can place nails, tacks, or staples on every foot and create the grid by running twine from one to the next.

You could also use long thin boards such as wood lath, yardsticks, or even Venetian blinds.

Plant Your Garden

Once your grid is in place, it’s time to plant. Make sure to know how many seeds or seedlings to plant in each square.

It will differ depending on the size of the plant and can be anywhere from one to 16 plants per square foot.

For an efficient square-foot garden, it is important to have the correct planting density.

Plant spacing recommendations are easy to find, but most of them are based on traditional row planting.

You can look for a square-foot planting spacing recommendation chart or just convert the traditional recommendations.

For example, if a specific vegetable should be spaced three inches apart, you can put 16 of them in one square foot.

Plants that require six inches of space can be planted four to a square.

Below are guidelines for some of the most commonly planted vegetables.

Keep in mind that different people often recommend different spacing, so these are only general recommendations.

Plants that you can plant 16 to a square include:

Plants to plant nine to a square include:

Plants that do well planted four to a square include:

And plants that require a whole square foot of space include:

Remember to plan for trellises near the climbing plants, such as peas and pole beans.

You may want to plant them along only one edge of several square feet and plant other similarly spaced plants to fill the rest of those spaces.

You should also place the trellis on the north side of the garden so that it doesn’t cast shade on other areas of the garden.

Square Foot Gardening Kit
Square Foot Gardening Kit

Furthermore, you may like some more gardening articles:

Ready, Set, Plant

Now that you know the many benefits of the square-foot gardening method, you may be itching to try it yourself.

Put together your square-foot gardening kit, build your raised bed, separate it into grids, and start planting.

With a little effort upfront, you will soon have a raised bed suitable for square-foot gardening. You can use it year after year and enjoy an abundance of fresh produce.