Being Square is Cool

Spring is the busiest time of year for the garden. Don’t let a spring snowstorm delay plans and chores, and using the Square Foot Gardening method is an easy way to transition from a empty patch to bountiful vegetables and herbs.

The Square Foot Gardening method emphasizes use of compost and hand watering. Growing a different variety of plant in every square foot would ensure that there is no diminishing supply of a particular nutrient in the soil, according to Urban Roots, a community gardening center in Buffalo, NY. The common practice in Square Foot Garden is to first make a raised bed of soil, in a 4-ft. by 4-ft. area, and then divide the raised bed into several 1-ft. by 1-ft. areas using twine or some sticks.

“The biggest advantage of square-foot gardening is that you reach all portions of the raised bed and can work each square-foot area without stepping on the oil or affecting the other plants,” said Caesandra Seawell, who recently taught a Square Foot Gardening workshop at Urban Roots.

Placing several raised beds throughout a garden, separated by some aisle space to walk through, creates a “garden island,” making this method of gardening even more accessible.

Any backyard space will due when working with raised beds. Use newspaper, coffee bags, or anything biodegradable on the bottom. Planting can even be done on a concrete slab. If getting around is difficult, plant the raised bed on wheels. This also allows the gardener to chase the sun.

To calculate how many plants per square, refer to the plant spacing on the back of the seed packet.

12 inches apart, plant 1 per sq.

6 inches apart, plant 4 per sq.

4 inches apart, plant 9 per sq.

3 inches (or less) apart, plant 16 per sq.


Water in the morning to get evaporation and warmth

Water close to the ground and pull weeds while you’re down there (suggestion, use a snake hose)

Succession planting (leaving one square blank) works well for lettuce and carrots

Corn likes to grow up next to friends, be sure they have stalks to lean on

Plant one square of Marigolds to keep out rabbits, and make iced tea with the leaves

Options for marking dividers: string, twine, slats of wood, pebbles, pennies

Prepare a planting template using a power drill and drill-hole set; these make proper spacing within the grid

Make templates from foam sheets, brown paper bags or sturdy cardboard

Basic bed mixture:

1 part Peat Moss

1 part compost (commercial bags or shredded wood manures – cow, horse rabbit)

1 part Vermiculite (or Perlite)

Recipes Start in the Garden

Salsa Garden



Onions (Spanish or Yellow)


For a little heat, plants some peppers

60-day Root Soup for Kids

Look for fast maturing, early varieties.

Leeks (best planted from transplants)

Onions (best planted from transplants)




Boil all the roots until tender and add chopped herbs for extra flavor.

For additional information, refer to The Square Foot Gardening Method by Mel Bartholomew.

Published by

Michelle Glynn

Traded globe-trotting for motherhood. Side hustling as a freelance writer since 2001.

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