Square Foot Gardening

Square foot gardening is a simple technique used to produce vegetables and herbs.

Square foot gardening is a simple technique used to produce vegetables and herbs.
LayLa Burgess, ©2018 HGIC, Clemson Extension.

When planting a traditional garden with conventional rows, approximately 100 square feet per crop per individual are necessary to provide fresh food for a season. An additional 100 square feet per person is required if additional crops are to be preserved. As an alternative, combining a raised bed and square foot gardening allows a reduction in space to 16 square feet for fresh foods or 32 square feet if preserving for later use per individual. The idea of square foot gardening revolves around the practice of intensive gardening in a reduced space.

Square Foot Gardening consists of a few simple steps:

  1. Build a raised bed
  2. Fill with appropriate growing medium
  3. Plot the square foot grid
  4. Select, organize, and plant at the proper time
  5. Maintain (fertilize & irrigate)
  6. Harvest
  7. Enjoy fresh foods or preserve the harvest
  • Begin with the construction of a 4×4 raised bed. For more information on raised beds, see HGIC 1257, Raised Beds. For alternate sized beds, plan accordingly.
  • Line the bottom of the bed with cardboard for weed control and fill with growing medium. A common mixture contains 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss, plus 1/3 blended compost with ingredients mixed thoroughly, or use a commercial planting mix.
  • Mark the grid by measuring at 1, 2, and 3-foot intervals along the frame in one direction and then again in a perpendicular direction. If the bed is longer than a 4×4, plan accordingly. Pushpins or nails can be placed at each measurement to allow for stretching & fastening string in the appropriate lines. Make sure lines are tight. The use of lattice is also an option.
  • Diagram & organize plantings by type and proper planting time. For more information on planting dates for a particular area in South Carolina, see HGIC 1256, Planning a Garden. If planting a vegetable that climbs, place a trellis at the north side of the raised bed and orient those crops in that location.
  • Once properly organized, begin to plant.
  • Fertilize plants according to a soil test report. For more information on soil testing, see HGIC 1652, Soil Testing. Irrigate as needed, and use a rain gauge to monitor rainfall.
  • Approximate times to maturity and harvest can be found in Table 4 of HGIC 1256, Planning a Garden. As plantings ripen, it is time to pick, clean, prepare, and enjoy fresh foods or to preserve the harvest.
  • Experiment with the arrangement and number of plantings in future growing seasons.

Sample Planting Guide

Plant: # per square foot
Basil 4
Beans, bush 9
Beans, pole 8
Beets 9
Broccoli 1
Brussel Sprouts 1
Cabbage 1
Carrots 16
Cauliflower 1
Celery 1
Chives 9
Cilantro 9
Collard Greens 1
Cucumbers 2
Dill 1
Eggplant 1
Garlic 4
Kale 1
Leeks 4
Lettuce, head 1
Lettuce, leaf 4
Mustard Greens 16
Onion, bulb 4
Onion, green 16
Oregano 1
Parsley 1
Peas 8
Peppers 1
Radishes 16
Rosemary 1
Spinach 9
Summer Squash 1 with stake
Swiss Chard 4
Tomato 1 with cage
Turnips 8
Winter Squash 1 with stake

A 4×4 square foot raised bed can be easily organized to plant 16 different herbs, with each herb occupying a 1 square foot space.

cilantro lemon thyme spearmint fennel
flat leaf parsley chives cinnamon basil catnip
Russian tarragon thai basil sage dill
French tarragon peppermint hot & spicy oregano bee balm

String or cord can be used to indicate lines as square foot measurements are made for the raised bed. The use of lattice laid on top of the raised bed is also an option.

String or cord can be used to indicate lines as square foot measurements are made for the raised bed. The use of lattice laid on top of the raised bed is also an option.
LayLa Burgess, ©2018 HGIC, Clemson Extension.

Single plants are arranged in the center of the square spacing, while multiple plants can be arranged according to number within the square.

Single plants are arranged in the center of the square spacing, while multiple plants can be arranged according to number within the square.
LayLa Burgess, ©2018 HGIC, Clemson Extension.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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