Save Space with Square-Foot Gardening

February is a great time to plan a spring garden, as many produce types can be planted by transplant or seed beginning this month. However, if space is a concern, there is a gardening technique that is all about using every inch of available planting space. Square-foot gardening (SFG) is a simple way to utilize all the growing space available while still being able to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Garden lattice with plants growing.
An example of square-foot-gardening using lattice. Source.

All SFG beds are planted in square-foot blocks. Many beds are 4×4’, but they can also be 4’x20’, 2×2’ or any size that fits your need, according to Untreated wood, cinderblocks or many other materials can be used to construct the bed. Regardless of the bed size, a lattice is then created to separate the bed into 1’x1’ blocks using string or building a wooden lattice that can be laid on top of the bed. Once the bed has a nice soil mixture added, plants are chosen for each square-foot. Depending on the plant type, there is either 1, 4, 9 or 16 plants in each block. A list of plants and how many are planted in each block can be found here.

SFG is beneficial for a few reasons:

  • Great use of limited growing space
  • Can reduce the number of weeds in the growing space due to compact growing
  • Many different types of produce can be grown in the space at the same time
  • “Estimated to cost 50% less, use 20% less space, 10% less water, and require only 2% of the work needed compared to single row gardening”, according to the Square Foot Gardening Foundation.

The biggest downside of SFG is that the types of plants that can be grown using this technique can be limited. For example, it can be a challenge to grow trailing plants that take up lots of space, such as melons and squash. However, one way to help with this challenge could be to plant trailing plants in the blocks along the edge of the bed so they can trail outside of the bed. Just be sure you have enough space to access the bed up close.

An example of square-foot-gardening using string. Source.

If tackling one whole bed seems overwhelming, set up the SFG bed with the lattice, but only plant a few blocks at a time. Planting a few blocks every one to three weeks allows for a continual harvest since the plants will be ready for harvest at different times. No matter how big or small a growing space, SFG is a great way to begin growing.

Additional information and photos for this story came from here and here.

Emily Anderson is the Garden Specialist for the North Texas Food Bank.