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Square-Foot Gardening

Square-Foot Gardening

Ever since Mel Bartholomew published his landmark book on the topic, square-foot gardening has become an ever-more-popular method for getting a lot of food out of a little space.

The general idea behind this method is to divide your garden beds into 1-foot-by-1-foot squares, and plant your crops intensively in this grid pattern instead of in traditional rows. Each square is dedicated to a particular crop. For example, if it’s a small crop, such as radishes, you plant 16 in one square. A medium crop, such as beets, gets 9 plants per square, and so on. You can, of course, plant as many “squares” of radishes or beets as you like.

Because the plants grow in this tightly spaced pattern, there’s no wasted space like you would have if planting in rows. That space simply becomes more food!

You can use string or thin pieces of wood to mark off your squares. Bartholomew as well as many other gardeners who have written about this method tend to recommend using square-foot gardening with raised beds—but if you have an in-ground garden, don’t let that stop you from trying this technique. Just create walking paths in your garden every few feet (around intensively-planted areas) so you can still easily reach your crops to harvest.

Not only does square-foot gardening increase yields, it generally means fewer weed problems. Because of the tight spacing of your food crops, weed seeds won’t have the sunlight and space to flourish. Pick the few weeds that do sprout early, and then you should have to spend little time weeding for the rest of the season.

To learn more about square-foot gardening, check out How to Plant a Square-Foot Garden, which is a key excerpt straight from Bartholomew’s book. You’ll get the breakdown of how many of each kind of crop you can plant per square, plus tips on getting started with this method.

If you’ve grown a square-foot garden, please share your own tips and experiences in the comments section. Happy growing!

Photo from Fotolia

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Shelley Stonebrook

Shelley Stonebrook is an Associate Editor at Mother Earth News—North America’s most popular magazine about sustainable, self-reliant living—where she works on exciting projects such as Organic Gardening content and the Vegetable Garden Planner. Shelley is particularly interested in organic gardening, small-scale, local food production, waste reduction, food preservation and cooking. In her spare time, she posts in her personal blog, The Rowdy Radish.


+ add your own
12:11AM PST on Jan 20, 2014

Thanks for sharing.

1:07AM PDT on Apr 12, 2013

I'll give it a try this year ;)

2:22AM PDT on Mar 20, 2013

This is far from a new idea. Four square gardening with raised beds goes back to the Middle Ages. There are certainly new ideas in his book for materials and the like, but the premise is the same.

1:39AM PDT on Mar 20, 2013

Interesting article. Thank you for sharing.

6:35PM PDT on Mar 18, 2013

good to know

8:23AM PST on Dec 30, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

9:02AM PDT on Aug 31, 2012

Thank you

5:43PM PST on Feb 8, 2012

using the squares it is also easy to keep the plants circling,so they always move to the next square next time. There is very good idea also use the Allelopatia,that meens finding out which plant grows well with each other.
That does matter,a lot! Like tomato and basil, like each other as well in the plate as in growing place. But cucumber and tomato do not grow well together!

5:27PM PST on Feb 5, 2012

Great information

9:28PM PST on Jan 29, 2012

That is an interesting idea. I will have to try this!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

people are talking

Good ideas to recycle a few things. Thanks

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Thanks for sharing :")

Love the ideas, thanks for sharing.


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