Square Foot Gardening: Part III

square-foot-garden-layout-Anne-of-Green-GardensAccording to Mel, a square foot garden is NOT a square foot garden without a “grid.” Don’t forget to add this important part, which is really easy to make out of yardsticks, venetian blind slats, string, twine or wood slat material from a hardware store. You’ll need a total of 6, 4′ pieces of the material of your choice. It’s just like making a life-size tic-tac-toe! If you use wood or plastic blinds, nail or screw the pieces together. For twine, hammer nails one foot apart along the outside of the box, (leave about a ¼” of the nail sticking out) and then run the twine around them.

The main point of the grid is to create 16 square foot compartments. The number of plants you put in each square depends upon the crops you choose and how they grow. A chart on pages 192-193 gives quick, at-a-glance answers to spacing for common vegetables, herbs and flowers. Mel categorizes plants by size and compares them to t-shirts. In other words, they come in small, medium, large and extra large. Here’s an example:
Small Plants: 16 per square-beets, carrots, radishes, chives
Medium Plants: 8 per square-bush beans, sugar snap peas, spinach
Large Plants: 4 per square-chard, corn, parsley, strawberry
Extra Large Plants:1 per square-broccoli, cabbage, eggplant, okra, pepper, cilantro, mint, oregano, etc.  Now comes the hard part-deciding what to grow! The back of Mel’s book has some grids you can use to create a garden plan. It helps to visualize what you will grow. Here’s an example:

1 tomato4 basil4 corn4 corn
2 cucumbers1 pepper1 eggplant9 spinach
1 zucchini4 tomatillos9 bush beans4 zinnia
zuc space1 oregano2 dahila4 marigold

There are three things to remember when creating your plan. #1 is to plan for extra space for certain crops. This is why the above grid says “zuc space.” Some crops will take up 2-4 or even 9 (determinate bush tomatoes). #2 is to plant “tall” plants like corn or okra along the north side of the garden to prevent shade. #3 is to create a trellis for vining/climbing plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, melons and squash. Your trellis can be made out of pvc or metal pipe. Tie a string trellis over it, or for stronger support use wire or twine. Instructions on how to make a trellis can be found in chapter 8. Here I am below planting up the square foot garden. I had a great time! And I hope you do too. Please email me or post your experiences under “comments.”





  1. Just a question about mint – I had heard that it has a nasty reputation for spreading and should be kept in a container. Is this true?

  2. Randy Hermanson

    April 16, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    I have raised mint in a garden and it is true it does spread but not as much as weeds like quack grass, heavy seeders like thisles and pig weed, etc. I have been successful at controlling it by spading it over. It may also help to build a frame around it in the soil and keep turning over any shoots that escape it.

  3. What color/kind of paint did you use on the outside?

    • Hi Chris, the garden box shown in the photos was stained by the folks who own the nursery where I taught a class and unfortunately I do not know for sure what they used. The class was back in April 2011, so I don’t know if they would remember. I’m going to send an email to see if I can find out.

  4. 5/24/13 I am just starting my Raised Garden Bed and wondering what is best to plan for my climate in Vallejo, CA. Also what plants do best next to each other.. thanks pat

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.