Square Foot Gardening: Space-Friendly Outdoor Gardening

Square foot gardening refers to a space-friendly method of planning and growing plants in a grid-like fashion. Each individual cell in the grid houses a different plant, making it easy for beginners to start and maintain their own gardens. And being that plants are given their own separate cell, there’s less risk of crowding and nutrient leaching.

The Origins of Square Foot Gardening

The term “square foot gardening” was first coined in the early 1980s by Mel Bartholomew in a magazine publication Rodale Press. Bartholomew’s original design consisted of nothing more than a four-sided box – without a top or bottom – with string dividing it into sections.

Bartholomew went on to say that while certain plants require a full cell in the square foot gardening grid, others require just a fraction of a cell. Strawberries, for instance, could be planted four plants per square, whereas radishes could be planted in groups of sixteen per square.

Benefits of Square Foot Gardening:
•Inexpensive (requires just a few basic materials)
•Easy to set up and maintain
•Reduces the risk of plant overcrowding
•Organized way to grow vegetables, fruits and herbs
•Visually appealing
•Simplifies the process of trying to space out plants

How To Start Your Own Square Foot Garden

The first step in creating your own square foot garden is to build the container (see image below). This can be something as simple as four 2x4s nailed together in a square shape, or it can be more complete, such as a plywood-based boxed with a bottom. The key thing to remember is that you want to keep it relatively close to the ground; otherwise, you’ll have a hard time maintaining it.

You can now proceed to fill the container with top soil. Most square foot gardeners prefer to use a light, airy soil that’s fertilized with organic compost. This seems to work well for most square foot gardens because of the lack of tension and pressure placed on it. When adding soil, refrain from going beyond the height of the container. A good rule of thumb is to stop about 2" from the top of the container.

Once the container is complete, create a grid system using string and a staple gun. Run the string vertically and horizontally so each cell is approximately 1 foot, at which point you can staple the string ends to the container. Pull the strings back beforehand to ensure there’s no ‘wiggle’ room.