Square Foot Garden Spacing: What You Need To Know To Succeed
INSIDE: How many plants should I plant per square foot in square foot gardening? This is a complete guide to square foot garden spacing. Find out how to space all your vegetables.
f you’re new to vegetable gardening, have a limited amount of space, or want to spend less time this summer pulling weeds in the hot sun as the mosquitos dine on your neck, square foot gardening is for you!
It’s a simple method of creating small, highly productive vegetable gardens.
You can grow a lot of produce in a small area and spend less time on gardening chores like watering and weeding.
But one of the biggest concerns for gardeners new to square foot gardening is proper plant spacing.
If you’ve ever struggled to get your spacing right or don’t know how to space certain plants, keep reading to learn everything you need to know about plant spacing in your square foot garden.
But first, could you use a FREE square foot spacing guide that’s easy to use even if you’re new to square foot gardening? It’s the best way to eliminate spacing confusion.
Square foot garden spacing guide:
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The basic concept is that you divide your garden into wide rows that are sub-divided into square feet.
Within each square foot, you space your plants closely to maximize your yields, shade out weeds, and keep your soil from drying out.
When you grow this way, you’ll spend less time on maintenance chores like weeding, watering, and thinning seedlings.
This idea was popularized by Mel Bartholomew in the book, All New Square Foot Gardening.
Prices last updated on 2023-09-30 at 04:38
If you follow the instructions in the book to the letter, you’d create raised beds in your garden and then subdivide the raised beds into one-foot squares and place a permanent grid on top.
But do you really need to build raised beds?
No, you don’t have to build raised beds to have a successful square foot garden. I’ve grown a productive in-ground square foot garden for years.
But there are some circumstances where raised beds make sense.
If you have:
- Very poorly draining soil.
- Very rocky soil (more rocks than soil).
- A bad back or other mobility issues and you want to raise the height of your garden.
- Contaminated soil. (You’ll need to put a barrier under the bed to make sure your plant roots can’t get to the soil underneath).
Then it makes sense to garden in raised beds.
The good news is you can create wide beds in any garden without the expense and hassle of building raised beds.
Related: The Best Vegetable Gardening Books
To create your layout, all you need to do is decide where you’ll walk and where you won’t.
In my garden, I laid out 3′ wide walkways (wide enough for a wheelbarrow) and 4′ wide beds.
And I don’t use raised beds.
Quick Tip: For the best possible results, download my free printable Square Foot Gardening Chart so you can quickly find the right spacing for over 20 vegetables.
Why use 4′ wide beds in square foot gardens?
Four feet is the width that’s most comfortable for most of us to reach into without toppling over into the bed or stepping on the soil. – Try to avoid stepping on your soil and compacting it as much as possible. Plant roots need air to grow well, and compacting your soil destroys those air spaces.
If you have shorter arms, make your beds as wide as is comfortable for you to reach into the middle of.
So, all you have to do is:
- Lay out 4-foot (or less) wide beds.
- Make them whatever length you want.
- And then create designated walking paths around the beds.
- And voilà! You’re a square foot gardener.
Related: Free garden printables
Create square-foot beds that are no more than 4 feet wide so you can easily reach the middle. You can make them any length you like.
Here’s how I’ve laid out the beds in my garden:
I have one long 3’ wide, 33’ long bed that runs along the back.
And I have five 4’ wide beds:
- 4 x 10’
- 4 x 12‘
- 4 x 8’
- 4 x 8.5’
- 4 x 5’
If you pick up a copy of All New Square Foot Gardening, you’ll see advice for laying out a grid on top of your beds using string or lathe.
This is totally unnecessary and, in my opinion, makes working in the garden more difficult than it should be. No matter what you make the grid out of, it won’t last forever. So, you’ll need to replace it.
And a grid makes it harder to harvest, weed, and spread compost or other amendments.
All you need to lay out your beds is a ruler and a measuring tape.
So, make things easier on yourself and skip the grid.
Once you have your beds laid out and it’s time to plant, you’ll need to properly space your plants or seeds in each square foot.
I use a ruler and tape measure while I’m planting to help me space everything correctly.
How many plants you can fit in a square foot depends on the size of the plant. The smaller the plant is, the more you can fit in one square foot.
Wish you didn’t have to spend one more minute looking up square foot spacing? Download a helpful square foot gardening chart that’s easy to use even if you’re a new gardener.
Square foot gardening plant spacing chart
16 plants per square foot
8 plants per square foot (on a trellis)
- Pole Beans
9 plants per square foot
- Bush beans
- Lettuce, leaf
4 plants per square foot
- Kale, baby
- Lettuce, leaf
- Swiss chard
Find the right spacing for your vegetables in 2 minutes. Get your FREE Square Foot Garden Spacing Chart now.
1 plant per square foot
- Brussels Sprouts
- Cucumbers (on a trellis)
- Kale, full-size
- Lettuce, head (romaine, butterhead, etc.)
- Most herbs
- Sweet Potatoes
1 plant per 2 square feet
- Squash (small, vining)
1 plant per 4 square feet
- Squash (large vining)
1 plant per 9 square feet
- Squash, bush
Ready to spend less time thinning seedlings, weeding, and watering? Download your FREE Square Foot Garden Spacing Chart and start saving time in your garden.
- Skip the grid to mark out the squares. As discussed above, it’s unnecessary and more work than it’s worth. You can easily keep your square foot garden organized with a ruler and tape measure.
- Spend some time considering whether or not you need to invest in raised beds for your square foot garden. Most gardeners don’t need to go to the trouble and expense.
- Harvest and prune regularly. Pruning is especially important for tomatoes! Make sure you know how to properly prune your tomatoes so you’re prepared before your plants get out of control.
- Strategically plant crops so they put shade where you want it. With square foot gardening, you can have a lot of variety in a small space, so it’s important to understand how the plants will grow and potentially compete with each other for sun.
Unless you live in an area with very warm summers or have intense sunlight and need to shade certain plants, plant taller crops and those that require a trellis in such a way that they don’t shade out other plants.
- Use trellises or other supports like bean teepees. Using trellises in your square foot garden will maximize your garden even more. Add trellises for vining or climbing crops like melons, cucumbers, winter squashes, peas, and pole beans.
- Plant crops with like water needs together. For example, some crops, like cabbage and broccoli have heavy water needs, so you’ll want to plant them near each other. This is an important factor whether or not you grow in a square foot garden.
- Mulch your square foot garden. Mulching your garden is my biggest tip for any gardener, and it’s especially important in a square foot garden. Mulch retains moisture, breaks down to provide nutrients, and protects the health of your soil. In square foot gardening, maintaining soil health and nutrition is critical, since you’re growing a lot of plants in a small space.
How much space should be between square foot garden beds?
Make your paths as wide as possible so it’s comfortable to move around. If you plan to grow in framed, raised beds, the taller your beds, the wider your paths need to be. Think about what tools you need to bring into your garden and how many people will be working in the garden together. If you plan to use a wheelbarrow in between your beds, make your paths at least 3 feet wide.
How many plants should I plant per square foot in square foot gardening?
The square foot garden spacing formula is simple. In one square, you can plant one extra-large plant, four large plants, nine medium plants, or sixteen small plants. Not sure you can remember all that? Download a free, printable spacing chart that gives you all the spacing guidelines for more than 25 vegetables.
Do you need to rotate crops in square foot gardening?
Crop rotation is important for large-scale agriculture. But farming and gardening are very different, and crop rotation is unlikely to provide much of a benefit in most home gardens. And while you can implement it in your vegetable garden if you want to, most home gardeners can get by just fine without it. In fact, for a lot of us with smaller gardens, true crop rotation isn’t practical.
Download your free square foot garden chart
It’s easy to always use the right spacing for your vegetables. Just download the Square Foot Garden Chart and:
- Print it.
- Put it in a handy spot.
- Pull it out when you’re ready to plant seeds or transplants.
It really is that easy!
Here’s a sneak peek of your chart:
Your Turn: Have you tried square foot garden spacing?
Do you love square foot gardening, or are you ready to try it? Either way, share your experiences in a comment below!
Hi, I’m Cheryl Spencer, a Certified Gardener.
Born with a plant addiction that has no known cure, I became a Certified Gardener to help ease the symptoms. Now I write articles and create gardening products that help you save time and money in your garden. I believe you can grow your dream garden and still have time to enjoy it. The good news? Anyone can do it. Start here »