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Square Foot Gardening Plans

Shashank Nakate Apr 23, 2019
Square foot gardening is a simple way to create a manageable and small garden at home without worrying much about soil, climate and water. It is a fun activity and greatly useful to grow ornamental plants and fulfill daily vegetables requirements.
In square foot gardening, plants are grown intensively within a compact space. The concept became popular in 1981, due to the efforts of Mel Bartholomew, who publicized it through a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) television series and books. Two important things forming the core of square foot plans are using less space and organic cultivation methods .
Thus, due to the use of organic compost, gardening method is said to be 'biointensive'. People who are new to gardening can start off with this method of raising plants. It can also act as one of the 'adaptive recreation' methodologies used in treating people with disabilities.

Square Foot Garden

The first garden of this type was prepared using an open-bottomed box for holding the soil in a limited space. Area of the garden is further divided into squares by means of a grid. These squares serve the purpose of incorporating a variety of different plants into the garden. Various plants have different space requirements.
Needs of crops that are commonly grown are presented here:

Tomato: A tomato plant just like basil, oregano and similar other herbs require a whole square for healthy growth.

Strawberry: Four strawberry plants can easily be grown in a square.

Radish: As many as sixteen radish plants can be accommodated in a single square.
After popularizing the concept of square foot gardening through first edition of his book, 'All new Square Foot Gardening', Mel Bartholomew discussed the topic of controlling weeds in the second edition. He introduced the technique of using 'weed barrier'. A weed barrier should be placed beneath the box in which cultivation is carried out.
The weed barrier is filled with a special mixture called 'Mel's mix' that contains equal proportions of sphagnum moss, vermiculite and compost.

Square Foot Garden Plan

The plan for such gardens includes preparing a 4 feet x 4 feet soil bed. The bed has to be divided into sections measuring one square foot each by means of a grid. A pathway that is wide enough for a person to walk around the garden should be prepared. Twines or sticks are used as grids in the garden.
As stated earlier, different plants have differing needs and so, the square is divided into appropriate number of squares. However, for plants like cucumber, frames are installed in squares which aid the plant to grow vertically. For tubers like potatoes, the square is provided with a side, one foot tall. Plantation is done on the surface of soil bed.

Maintenance and Care

Plants grown in a square garden absorb nutrients only from the raised bed and not the soil beneath. Hence, it advisable to add a little amount of compost to maintain the fertility of soil.


Square foot gardens offer more benefits than those designed conventionally; the latter require more space, effort and time for gardening. Here are the benefits of this gardening.

  • Soil used should be light in texture and nutrients rich. Using the soil reduces  fertilizers expenses. As chemical fertilizers are not at all used, the 'soil health' is maintained.
  • The 'culture' or soil used for growing plants in a square garden holds more water and watering should therefore, be done manually; it helps in retaining more water than in other irrigation methods. This way, the wastage water is minimized to a great extent.
  • Vegetables are planted closely in square foot gardens and hence, weeds don't get enough space to grow. It helps in carrying out weed control automatically.
  • The methodology of 'companion planting' is incorporated in this form of gardening; it means that plants are grown close to each other. This helps control pests and diseases organically.
Square foot gardening is a nice way to enjoy gardening. It is successful in a wide topographical range and varied climatic conditions; from arid deserts to cramped spaces in urban areas, the method has been a great success. This form of gardening is not only economical and easy to maintain, but has wider application, adding to the beauty of backyard.