Square Foot Gardening

What is Square Foot Gardening?

Square Foot Gardening is the practice of dividing your growing area into small sections (typically each are 1 sq. ft.)  This method is a proven and efficient way to maximize your space and grow vegetables in a small space.

Usually done in raised beds.

The SFG method saves gardeners time, effort, tools, space and water:

  • Uses 20% less space
  • 10% of the water traditional row gardens use
  • Only 2% of the work compared to row gardens
  • Virtually weedless
  • No digging, rototilling, or heavy tools required


Traditional row gardens require 8” spacing between plants and 1’ spacing between each row.   All this space just allows room for weeds to grow!

SFG utilizes all the space in a garden bed to grow efficiently and maximize your yields!

By doing this we don’t allow room for weeds to grow and they are virtually weedless.


Step 1: Build your boxes

  • You can use many materials to build your box such as UNTREATED cedar, pine or fir.
  • You can even use brick, cement blocks, vinyl or recycled plastic.
  • Be sure to put down cardboard, then a weed mat or landscape fabric to prevent weeds from sprouting up through your soil.


You can make your boxes any size to meet your available spaces 4×4’,  4×6’,  4×8’,  4×10’  etc.

Growing requires a minimum 8” depth;   so I always use 10” or 12” width boards.

I personally do not recommend going any wider than 4’ because you can comfortably work in 2’ on either side of your boxes, and any wider than that makes it harder to work towards the center of the boxes.


Step 2: Fill with Soil

Mel’s Mix:

This tested and proven formula is easy to make at home.

Please note: these ingredients will be in equal volumes, not by weight.

  • 1/3 Vermiculite (Medium grade)
  • 1/3 Sphagnum Peat Moss
  • 1/3 Blended Organic Compost (cow/sheep manure, shrimp, mushroom, seafood composts)

 You can use a variety of garden soils or Pro-Mix.

Mel’s Mix is a long lasting, light and fluffy soil with great drainage. 

Soil Requirements:

Soil Calculators available online   www.squarefootgardening.org/method/

(1 cubic foot equals 28L soil)

4’x4’ that is 10” deep requires 14 cu ft. of soil or 392L

Approx. 5 cu ft. or 130L each of:

  • Vermiculite
  • Peat Moss
  • Compost

4’x6’ that is 10” deep requires 20 cu ft. of soil or 560L

Approx. 7 cu ft. or 187L each of:

  • Vermiculite
  • Peat Moss
  • Compost

 Mixing Soil:

Easiest way to evenly mix multiple bags of soil is on a tarp with 2 people.

Grab a corner and fold inwards, repeat this process with each side multiple times.

Step 3: Grid your Bed

Grids can be made inexpensively with wood lath sold in home improvement stores, string or even wooden yardsticks.

The grid is one of the most important features of a Square Foot Garden.

The grid lets you clearly see how to space your seeds/plants and keeps your garden looking neat and organized. Mark your garden off in 1 sq ft grids.


Some vegetables need one full square per plant, other vegetables you can plant 16 per square. 

Companion Planting:

Companion planting is the practice of growing different plants together for mutual benefit.

It is best defined as the practice of planting different plant species in close proximity so that they can offer identifiable benefits to one another. There are numerous benefits to companion planting.

Sometimes the benefit is one-sided, with one plant selflessly offering most of the partnership advantages to the other. In other cases, the benefit is mutual, with each plant enhancing the other’s health or vigor.

Plants can attract beneficial insects and pollinators, deter pests, and act as insect repellants. They can fend off predators and undesirable wildlife. Raccoons, for instance, dislike the smell of cucumbers.


Three Sisters Garden:

Corn, pole beans, and squash:

Corn, with its sturdy stems, provides upright support for climbing beans. For their part, the pole beans fix nitrogen in the soil, providing essential nutrients for all three sisters.

And the large leaves of the ground-dwelling squash shade the soil, retain moisture, and block out weeds.

Cucumbers, sunflowers, and pole beans:

The principle here is the same as for the three sisters: the sunflower provides support for climbing pole beans, while cucumber vines shield the ground.


Garden Friends:

  • Basil and tomatoes: These can be considered “best friends” in the garden. Basil repels thrips and disrupts the habits of the moths that cause tomato hornworms.
  • Sage, with carrots or cabbage. Sage is a proven repellant for carrot flies and cabbage moths.
  • Parsley and tomatoes:Parsley attracts beneficial insects that help keep control of damaging insects that prey on tomato plants.
  • Nasturtiums: This plant lures hungry caterpillars away from brassicas, including cabbage, broccoli, and kale.
  • Mint: This plant has an odor that strongly repels aphids, ants, and flea beetles.
  • Garlic:This onion relative has a strong scent that is repugnant to aphids and all repels a variety of mites, moths, and beetles.
  • Dill: This plant is known to attract ladybugs, which are voracious eaters of damaging aphids and spider mites.


Garden Enemies:

Just as there are plants that make good neighbors, there are plenty of opportunities to plant bad neighbors.

Generally, plants that compete because of similar nutrient needs, water, space—aboveground growth and belowground root systems—as well as sunlight should not be planted next to each other.

Crops that are susceptible to the same plant disease, such as blight, should be kept as far as possible from each other to prevent it from spreading. The same applies to pests.

Some crops can inhibit the growth of other plants.

Fennel is often offered as an example of a poor companion plant that

should be given its own spot in the garden far away from all other crops.

  • Onions, garlic, leeks, and shallots can stunt the growth of plants like pole beans and peas.
  • Corn and tomatoes are both susceptible to fungal infections and if one gets it, the other one will too.
  • Broccoli and Cauliflower won’t do well near peppers, tomatoes, squashes, or strawberries. Technically if you really enrich your soil they can be friends, but in general, brassicas soak up all the nutrients in the soil which makes it hard for other nutrient-needing plants to thrive.
  • All types of pole beans can cause problems for plants like peppers (all varieties) and even beets. These combinations don’t work well because they compete for resources. These are vegetables that should not be planted together.
  • Asparagus does not want to hang out with onions, garlic, or potatoes.
  • Cucumbers, melons, squash, turnips, all fall victim to the potato and its competition for nutrients and moisture. Even members of the potato family, like the tomato, shouldn’t be near the potato because they slow the growth of each other and can be more susceptible to potato blight (Phytophthora).
  • Don’t plant carrots next to dill because they’re from the same family of plants which causes them to cross-pollinate. This ends up stunting the growth of the carrots. Similarly, carrots should not be planted next to turnips.

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