Plow & Hearth

Square Foot Gardening Planting Guide

 Today, in this square foot gardening planting guide we are going to teach you the basics of how to start your own garden! Exciting yes?!?

Consuming whole food today has become a high priority today thanks to the many benefits that can be derived from it. Vegetables and fruit are vital as they are rich in vitamins, protein and minerals which not only promote growth and development but also help in improving one’s immunity.

Having a square foot garden in your back yard will ensure a constant supply of fresh fruit and vegetables which will increase the health and wellness of you and your family.

What is Square Foot Gardening?

Commonly referred to as SFG, square foot gardening is a farming concept that was developed by Mel Bartholomew, an American author and TV presenter back in the 1970s. The planting method was developed to provide a simpler way of creating easy to manage gardens that required fewer resources to maintain.

In the 1980’s, the concept gained popularity especially after the founder wrote the first book and developed a TV series about it. Today, the planting method has gone mainstream and many companies today have developed ready-to assemble SFG gardens and square foot gardening planners

The concept of Square Foot Gardening has become popular today because it uses less space, produces more harvest that is healthy and free from pesticides, and uses less soil and water.

What can you grow in a Square Foot Garden?

Most types of fruit, vegetables and herbs can be grown in your Square Foot Garden. You can even grow flowers to enhance the appearance if you want. Think about it from the perspective of size. Extra-large vegetables such as cabbage or cauliflower will take up the entire square foot. Large plants like the leaf lettuces or sweet peppers are planted four to a square.

Square Foot Garden Planting Guide Garden Planner

There are several square foot gardening planting guides out there to help you strategically plan out your garden.

  1. Gardener’s Supply Square Foot Garden Planner (This planner is very interactive and fun to use!)
  2. SFG Planner

Depending on your state or home town, you may be able to grow and reap more produce than is listed on these websites. Do your research so you know which plants will work best with the type of soil and weather pattern where you live.

The tastiest vegetables will come directly from your home vegetable garden and you can achieve this by planning and building your own. The majority of SFG gardeners can attest to square foot gardening offering maximum yield for minimal effort.

If you have been planning to develop your own square foot garden but you have hesitated due to concerns about the cost, know that SFG is a worry free and low cost vegetable gardening method. However, in order to gain the benefits of a SFG, you need to know how to plan and create it.

Or, you can opt to purchase either this ready to assemble kit or this fabric raised garden bed from Amazon which will save you time and energy!

Square Foot Garden Planting Guide


  • Garden area
  • Soil – this will depend on the type of soil in your home area. The folks at suggest Mel’s mix of 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 compost. Talk with your home area expert for the best solution.
  • Gardening tools
  • Gloves
  • Passion!

How to build your own SFG – Step by Step guide

Step 1. Draw the layout for your square foot garden spacing

You don’t have to be an experienced artist to do this. All you need is a pencil and paper (or one of the online guides recommended above). The recommended size for your garden bed is 4 feet by 4 feet or 4 feet by 8 feet.

These measurements allow you to sub-divide your raised garden into squares that have equal measurements of one foot. This allows for enough space for the plants to grow well. Each square can be planted with seeds of your choosing.

Once you have drawn your layout, you can name the sides; North, South, East, West. If you are unable to create a suitable plan of your own, we highly recommend the previously listed online square foot gardening planner tools which can help you get the job done.

Step 2. Plan what to plant
Square Foot Gardening Planting Guides

Before you start constructing your square foot garden, you need to know what to plant. The easiest vegetables to grow include lettuce, basil, green beans, green onions, snow peas, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers and beets.

Consider the importance of companion planting in your planning. Let’s face it; every location has different weather patterns and environment.

To ensure a good harvest, use your favorite search engine- Google, Bing, Yahoo or DuckDuckGo to find out which plants are most suitable to grow in your area. This will give you peace of mind and lots of produce in the end.

Step 3. Purchase the materials

The materials needed to build your own square foot garden include:

You will also need time! If you love the DIY method, you can make the necessary measurements, cuts, and joinery which will give you the final product. There are several square foot garden box plans online including these for an elevated Square Foot Garden from the University of Florida. If you don’t have the time or expertise, you can hire a professional.

Step 4. Location! Location! Location!

Every successful entrepreneur will always tell you in order to successfully attract more customers, you need to select the perfect location. In this case, as a farmer, you need to select the right spot in your garden. In order to come up with the right spot, there are a few things to consider. They include:

    1. Sunlight – plants need it in order to grow. When choosing a spot, pick one where no obstacles will create shade over your SFG.
    2. Support – if you are looking forward to planting peas, cucumbers or tomatoes on your square foot garden, you need to consider support. This means that where you choose to place the support for the plants should leave room for you to access other plants.

Square Foot Gardening Box Design

Now that you have chosen the perfect location, you can finally build your box. If you have the materials, this should be easy and if you have an easy-to-assemble kit, it will be even easier. To avoid transporting the box from one location to another, assemble it close to your chosen location for the SFG.

One important thing you need to do is ensure that your box is lined with cardboard at the bottom. This helps to prevent weeds and chemicals from coming into contact with your raised garden which can reduce your yield as your plants will be competing with the weeds for resources.

Fill the bed with soil

Depending on the type of square foot soil you have, whether it’s Mel’s mix or your own preferred mixture, fill the box with it. When filling, ensure that you have left ½ an inch from the top of the wooden box. Some people may ask why do this?

This helps to prevent soil from falling off the box when you are uprooting plants in order to harvest or plant new ones.

Create a grid

square foot gardening box design

Using an all-weather string, some nails and a hammer, it’s time to create a grid over your box. This will help you to know where to plant your produce. Depending on the type of box you choose, a 4’ by 4’ or 4’ by 8’, you can create between 16 and 32 squares each having an area of one square foot. If it helps and you have thin pieces of wood, you can form small squares and fit them in the box with the soil.

Planting the seeds

Finally, it is time to plant the seeds! If you followed the previous steps in order you have researched which plants are most suitable for your area, and you know what you would like to grow.

Each square you have now will be planted with the right number of seeds. When deciding what you want to plant apart from the weather pattern and type of soil, you need to consider the rate of harvesting and consumption. The reason for planting in the squares is to ensure that you plant seeds according to the final thinning spacing.

How many seeds per square? The number of seeds per square will be determined by how big your plants are as well as how much space they need in order to mature. For example carrots, radishes and onions require 3 inches around them to mature. This will allow you to plant 16 plants in one square that has an area of one square foot.

For plants like beans and spinach, you will need 4 inches around them which translates to 9 plants in a square foot. If you were to plant an average of 8 plants in one square foot for a box measuring 4 foot by 4 foot with 16 squares, you will have 104 plants in total.

Below are sample plants you can grow in your SFG:

Square Foot Garden Planting Guide
  1. Types of small plants and the number that can be grown in a 4’x4’ SFG
    - 4 beans, 16 carrots, 9 onions, 9 beets, 16 peas, 32 leaf lettuces, 16 radishes, 9 turnips, 18 spinach, 9 parsnips, 16 Mesclun mix lettuce, 2 parsley and 2 thyme.
  2. Types of large plants and the number that can be grown in a 4’x4’ SFG
    - 1 cabbage, 1 broccoli, 1 cauliflower, 1 green pepper, 1 red pepper, 1 eggplant, 5 heads of lettuce, 2 hot peppers, 1 brussel sprout, 2 kale, 3 Bok Choi, 2 summer squash, 1 cherry tomato, 2 celery, 2 potatoes and 2 stalks of corn.
  3. With support, vertical plants such as cucumbers, tomatoes and pole beans can also be grown in your garden.

The above group is just an example. You can conduct more research online in order to find out which other plants – small, large or vertical – can be grown in your SFG.

Water the plants

After you have planted the seeds, you need to water them regularly. If you want to go hi-tech, you can use drip technology where you lay drip lines along your plants. The plants will be watered with periodic drops of water. Although this method will cost additional money, it can save you time and your plants lives-especially if you live in a hot and semi-arid climate.

When using a water can, you need to have water that is at room temperature or slightly warmer, as this helps to warm the soil and promote growth.

Harvest your mature plants

After waiting for a few weeks, you should have mature plants which can be harvested. The great thing about a SFG is that you can harvest the plants continually with ease. For plants like potatoes, you can remove the plants, dig out any roots or debris, add new compost and then plant new seed.

Maintain your garden

To ensure that your plants grow healthy, water them regularly and also weed periodically. Presence of weeds means that your plants will compete for resources therefore leading to a decline in their health.

To keep pests away, you can leave some space to grow flowers like Dwarf sunflowers and French Marigolds. The soil that you have used can be recycled over and over by adding mulch and compost to ensure the right nutrients are present.

Five tips to ensure the success of your garden.

  • Locate the garden near a convenient source of water

    When I suggest a convenient source of water, I don’t mean a river! You have several choices you can use to water your plants such as a water can or via the drip technology. Locating your garden near a source of water reduces the distance you have to travel in order to water them.

  • Provide fertile soil

    Depending on where you live, you will need to use a certain type of soil in your SFG to allow your plants to grow. If you are not sure if the soil is fertile and can support your plants, have the soil tested by a professional or buy a kit. You can also add a layer of mulch or compost to provide the necessary nutrients for the plants.

  • Keep the garden weeded

    Even though you have a raised garden, it does not mean that weeds will not grow around your plants. You need to have periodic weeding sessions in order to ensure that your plants get to grow healthy.

  • Select a sunny location

    The rays of the sun allow plants to make their own food. This process is referred to as photosynthesis. You need to locate your garden where the rays of the sun shine on your plants. Obstacles like tall trees should not be present.

  • Follow the instructions on the seed packet

    Every seed packet you purchase comes with a set of instructions. Even if you have been a farmer for quite some time, we recommend you follow the instructions listed on the seed packet.

Now that you have finally completed your square foot garden, you can plant, harvest and enjoy your hard work!