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Square Foot Gardening: A Simplified Method of gardening


Square Foot Gardening : Introduction

Square foot gardening (SFG) is more than just another new methods of planning and planting a garden. It is a different psychological approach to gardening which is a simplified method of gardening, practiced around the world. It also does not need any special or expensive equipment, investment, fertilizer, or experience.

The square foot garden is divided into a size and shape that gardeners of all ages, sizes and levels of experience can understand and cope with it easily. Though the system is simple, but it has versatile uses. It can be adapted to fit all kinds of gardening situations. The principles of square foot gardening can able to adapt for production of vegetables or salads for a week either for a person or a family in both village and urban situations.

The garden is well organized, easy to maintain, attractive and productive all season long. Limiting the size of the garden, really is easy to maintain, basically because it sets limits for us ahead of time. In developing this method, considerable time was spent looking for ways to make gardening with less work. The principle of this garden in simple word is planting of desired plants such as vegetables, flowers, fruits after dividing the available space into sections of one square-foot each.


History: Mel Bartholomew coined the term “square foot gardening” in his 1981 book of the same name and he recommends carefully spacing of seeds rather than planting the entire seed packet so that fewer but stronger plants will grow.

In 2006, he updated the concept with the book “All New Square Foot Gardening”, which advocates growing in raised beds instead of the ground. The rationale is that by using potting soil instead of dirt, one will enjoy the benefits of having perfect soil conditions from day one, instead of needing to undertake a period of soil improvement.


Square foot gardening is the practice of dividing the growing area into small square sections (typically 12″ on each sides, hence the name). The aim is to assist the planning and creation of small but intensively planted vegetable gardens. It results in a simple and orderly gardening system, from which it draws much of its appeal.

It can be done in as little as 4 feet by 4 feet, or 2 feet by 2 feet. But, can also be done as large as you want and get 5 times more production than a conventional garden in a comparable space. The condition of existing soil doesn’t matter because it will be replaced with a perfect growing medium that is weed-free and requires no tilth.

Much less water i.e. only about 10% of the water required for conventional gardening is required for it. The garden is purely organic so no need of any fertilizer or pesticide. The planting method results in very little thinning and use of much fewer seeds. It can be done by those with physical limitations also.

The garden needs only two fingers for planting of plants. If stooping or bending is a problem then the boxes can be raised to a comfortable level and can be done even from a wheelchair. It makes a great family project because all ages can participate; even kids like doing it. Square foot gardening basics create a beautiful garden with little work.

A square frame of width less than 4 feet and 6 to 8 inches deep has to be made. The length is not as important but a recommended size of one frame 4 feet by 4 feet

Ten basic tenets of square-foot gardening

  1. Arrangements of beds should be in squares approximately in 4′x4′ planting areas.
  2. Boxes are made to hold a new soil mix above ground.
  3. Boxes are spaced 3′ apart to form walking aisles.
  4. Boxes are with 1/3 blended compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 coarse vermiculite.
  5. Permanent square foot grids have to be made.
  6. The growing soils should not be stepped down.
  7. 1, 4, 9, or 16 plants of different plants such as flowers, vegetables, or herb crops in each square foot has to be planted in each square foot.
  8. 2 or 3 seeds should be planted per hill and transplants should be placed in a slight saucer-shaped depression.
  9. Sun warmed water to be given to plants.
  10. Harvest. Re-composting and replanting with new different crop has to be planted after harvesting from each foot square.

Lay out of square foot garden with possible recommendations



One can use a 12’ by 12’ square with a grid that divided it into 9 squares with equal lengths of 4 feet on each side. Each of these 4’ by 4’ squares were then invisibly divided into sixteen one foot squares that were each planted with a different species.

In smaller square gardens the grids may simply serve as a way to divide the garden but in larger gardens the grids can be made wide enough to be used as narrow walkways. To encourage a variety of different crops over time, each square would be used for a different kind of plants, the number of plants per square depending on an individual plant’s size.

For example, a single tomato plant, 4 plants of herbs such as oregano, basil or mint, 4 strawberry plants and up to 16 plants in case of radish, carrot and beet can be accommodated in a square foot. Tall or climbing plants such as maize or pole beans might be planted in a northern row so as not to shade other plants, and supported with lattice or netting.

One advantage of densely planted crops is that they can form a living mulch, and also prevent weeds from establishing or even germinating. Also, natural insect repellent methods such as companion planting (i.e. planting marigolds or other naturally pest-repelling plants) become more efficient in a close spacing, which may reduce the need of pesticides. The large variety of crops in a small space also prevents plant diseases from spreading easily.

Since the beds are typically small, making covers or cages to protect plants from pests, cold, or sun is more practical than with larger gardens. To extend the growing season of a square foot garden, a cold/hot frame can be built around the SFG, and by facing the cold/hot frame south, the SFG captures more light and heat during the colder months of spring and winter.


The entire concept of square foot gardening is the result of that search for an easier, more fool proof way to garden. As the basic concept of growing more food in less space is being fulfilled this garden is worthy to follow. SFG establishes definite limits, or boundaries, within which you will garden.

It can be made in limited amount of space, and time, one can devote to each vegetable and steps in the garden. It requires very little space i.e. 80% less space than conventional gardening.

Beginners and experts alike can enjoy this as it is easy to learn – easy to do method. So it can be followed irrespective of age, expertise of a person and amount of available space.

Contributed By:

Pankaja B.D1 , Pragnyashree Mishra2, Lokesh Bora1

1 Research Scholar, Department of Fruit Science, College of Horticulture, TNAU, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu

2 Assistant Professor, department of floriculture & Landscaping, College of Horticulture, OUAT, Chiplima, Odisha