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Square Foot Gardening

April 7, 2014

Planning to garden in raised beds this year? If so, consider planning a Square Foot Garden! There are different methods for spacing plants in a garden, but especially for raised beds this is a great option. Making a garden plan before starting to plant is a good idea no matter what method you use. Planning helps you make the most of your garden- to use space effectively, buy or grow only what you need, and properly place and space vegetables for maximum growth.

Photo Credit: Charity Bauman

Photo Credit: Charity Bauman

Square Foot Gardening was developed in the late 1970’s by Mel Bartholomew, to produce a greater harvest in less space. It’s a straight forward method, and easy to understand. Instead of planting in the traditional rows, the garden is divided into blocks, each one square foot in size. Then, one type of vegetable is planted in each square; the number of seeds or plants that go in a square depend on how large each plant gets, and how much space it needs to properly develop. Using this method, no space is wasted!

You can find lots of guides on the web; The Food Project has a great visual guide to use (see pages 9-15 for spacing guides). To make sure your spacing is correct when planting, you’ll need to mark off a grid on your raised beds. This can be done a variety of ways, and can be either permanent or just temporary for planting. Try marking off a grid with nails and string, laying stakes on top of the bed, or just by drawing a grid in the soil.

To plan your square foot garden, draw an outline of your garden beds to scale with a grid, then follow these steps:

  1. Make a list of all the things you want to grow and eat.
  2. Determine how many plants of each type to plant per square foot, and the plants’ height (short, medium, or tall).
  3. Mark off the North side of your raised bed.
  4. If you’re going to use a trellis, mark where it will go. A trellis should go on the North or West side of the bed.
  5. Fill in the squares on your grid with the vegetables you want to grow, according to plant height. Write plants that are marked as “short” into the squares on the south side of your garden, plants that are of medium height into the center squares, and tall plants into the squares on the north side. (This planning keeps the taller plants from shading shorter plants).
  6. Write how many individual plants can be planted in each square on the map, next to the name of the plant (example: 4 plants for lettuce, 16 for beets).
  7. Once your grid is filled in, use this as a map to plant your garden!

For more on raised beds, see Raised Beds, Make a Raised Bed, and Build Your Own Raised Bed

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