Square foot gardening is the name given to an intensive gardening method that employs specifically-sized raised growing plots.
The plots are a maximum of 4 feet wide by any chosen length, although 4ft x 4ft and 4ft x 6ft tend to be the most popular choices.
The growing area is sub-divided into a grid of one-foot squares either with string or bamboo guide markers. It is generally based on raised bed gardening principals.
No Soil Compression
The reason behind the plots being 4 feet wide is so that you can comfortably reach into the center of the plot from both sides (2 feet from either side), meaning that you never have to tread on the growing area and cause any compacting of the soil.
Measured Distribution of Plants
In each square foot, seeds of the same type are planted in a precisely measured way to prevent over-planting or crowding, and the need to thin out the plants afterward is greatly reduced. This keeps the number of seeds used to a minimum, and also minimizes cost. Be sure to check out options to buy garden plants to get the right help in your purchase.
The basic principle is that for each square foot, the number of seeds planted is dictated by the size of the plant:
Large plants (Basil, Broccoli, Florence fennel, tomato, etc) = 1 per square
Medium-large plants (lettuce, beets, parsley, celery etc) = 4 per square
Medium – small plants (spinach, spring cabbage, etc) = 9 per square foot
Small plants (carrots, turnip, onions, etc) = 16 plants per square foot
Climbing plants can also be used and can be trained to grow vertically on supports, such as bamboo canes above the growing area. As a general rule – look at the instructions on your seed packet.
If it says to sow 12 inches apart then plant one plant in each square foot. If it says 6 inches apart – then plant four per square foot. Instructions to seed 4 inches apart, means you can plant nine plants per square foot, and 3 inches apart means you can plant sixteen plants in a square foot plot.
Some types of Herb tend to do particularly well when grown using this method.
In most cases with square foot gardening, when planting the seeds, only 1 or 2 seeds are needed to ensure germination, but in the case of carrots and parsnips, 3-4 seeds per hole may be required to ensure at least one will germinate. If more than one seedling appears, they need to be thinned by snipping off all but one. Pulling them out is not an option as it may disturb the delicate roots of the chosen survivor.
Some more benefits of square foot gardening
- It provides maximum yields for the smallest amount of growing space.
- It provides high-quality growing conditions.
- There is a distinct lack of weeds, and any weeding is a quick & painless process.
- Low disease risk – having a large variety of plants in a confined space helps prevents a disease from spreading.
Also, see the article on Constructing Raised Bed Gardens