How to Plant a Square-Foot Garden

Take up a square-foot garden by creating an organized garden plan that ensures proper spaces and you’ll have a thriving veggie garden in no time.

  • All New Square Foot Gardening Book Cover
    In “The All New Square-Foot Gardening,” gardening author Mel  Bartholomew outlines a plan for every gardener to grow more food in less space. The key is understanding plant spacing and planting in grids to maximize the amount of crops that can be grown in a single square foot. An added bonus? With the informed garden planning and intensive planting techniques used in this method, your garden will save you time, money and labor.
  • Plant Spacing Chart
    Use this plant spacing chart to help you with your garden planning.
  • Square Foot Gardening
    Each of these raised, framed garden beds is planted using the square-foot gardening technique. Each square foot is marked with a line of string as a visual aid to ensure accurate plant spacing.

  • All New Square Foot Gardening Book Cover
  • Plant Spacing Chart
  • Square Foot Gardening

Square-foot gardening has become a method embraced by small-space gardeners. Even if you have a large garden, utilizing this planting technique will help increase your garden’s yield per square foot. Learn about how to plant your square-food garden in this excerpt from All-New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew (Cool Springs Press, 2005). The following is adapted from Chapter 6, “How to Plant Your All New Square-Foot Garden.”  

In square-foot gardening, begin by visualizing what you want to harvest. This simple step prevents you from planting too much. Picture a large plant like a head of cabbage. That single cabbage will take up a whole square foot so you can only plant one per square foot. It’s the same with broccoli and cauliflower. Let’s go to the opposite end of the spectrum and think of the small plants like radishes. Sixteen can fit into a single square foot. It’s the same for onions and carrots — 16 per square foot. (Yet that’s a 3-inch spacing between plants, which is exactly the same spacing the seed packet recommends as it says “thin to 3 inches apart.”)

Consider Plant Size

Think of your plants as if they were shirt sizes. Shirts come in all four sizes: small, medium, large and extra large, and so do our plants. It’s that simple. 

The extra large, of course, are those that take up the entire square foot — plants like cabbages, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and geraniums. Next are the large plants — those that can be planted four to a square foot, which equals 6 inches apart. Large plants include leaf lettuce, dwarf marigolds, Swiss chard and parsley. 

Several crops could be one per square foot if you let them grow to their full sizes, or they can be planted four per square foot if you harvest the outer leaves throughout the season. This category includes parsley, basil, and even the larger heads of leaf lettuce and Swiss chard. Using the square-foot gardening method, you snip and constantly harvest the outer leaves of edible greens, so they don’t take up as much space as in a conventional garden. 

Medium plants come next. They fit nine to every square foot, which equals 4 inches apart. Medium plants include bush beans, beets and large turnips.

sandy davis
6/3/2018 2:27:15 PM

My tomato and green pepper plants look leggy and the leaves are leggy and not very full. help!

sandy davis
6/3/2018 2:23:19 PM

I have planted tomatoea and peppers in my square foot garden but they are looking spindly and not real full. they have blooms but the leaves are aren't full and healthy looking. what is wrong

sandy davis
6/3/2018 2:23:17 PM

My tomato and green pepper plants look leggy and the leaves are leggy and not very full. help!



Fall 2021!

Put your DIY skills to the test throughout November. We’re mixing full meal recipes in jars, crafting with flowers, backyard composting, cultivating mushrooms, and more!


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