There is nothing more satisfying than going out to your garden to harvest food for dinner. Nick and I trim arugula, baby chard, romaine, and bay kale every couple of days for mixed green salads. Maybe it’s just me, but the flavor of the greens is so much better because they’re fresh picked from our garden. When we started growing our own food we learned that many of our friends don’t garden, though they would love to start. We also found that the primary thing holding them back is space.
Thankfully, there is an solution! Square foot gardens are an incredible way to maximize your space and still grow great food in your garden. This method of gardening makes home-grown fresh food possible for anyone, no matter what kind of space restrictions you may have.
Pick Your Plant Mix
The key to any successful garden is to plant the foods that you enjoy eating most for each season. This ensures that you will not throw away veggies that you are putting effort into growing in your garden. Keep in mind that anything you cannot eat, can always be put to good use and composted.
Right now, Nick and I have three square foot gardens growing in our backyard. Two are lettuce gardens for fall and one is a mixed vegetable/root garden for winter. We planted lettuces because I like to make a salad every night with our dinner. Nick would probably prefer just to replace this with a potato or meat, but growing it in the garden makes him more amenable :-). The mixed vegetable garden is a combination of the veggies we eat most frequently.
In the next section, I’m going to show you guys how to calculate the proper spacing between plants. That way, you can create a garden using whatever combination is best for your palate without following a rigid guide.
Calculate Your Spacing
Take a look at the back of your seed packet or on your seedling’s planting instructions. You will see a section for plant spacing and one for row spacing. All you need to worry about for a square foot garden is the plant spacing.
For example, a beet’s row spacing is 18″ whereas the plant spacing is only 4″, which means that you can plant 9 beets into a single square foot. As you can see, if you had followed the row spacing, you would loose a lot of valuable space.
Below is a general guide for some common spacing configurations that you would see on seed packets or seedling cards. I’ve also included the basic mathematical formula to calculate plants per square foot, for those of you who are so inclined:
Formula if plant spacing is less than or equal to 12″
- (12″/Plant Spacing)^2 = plants per square
Formula if plant spacing is greater than 12″
- (Plant Spacing/12″) = number of squares for each plant
Our Square Foot Vegetable Garden
The square foot garden we planted this year consists of the following roots and veggies: Beets, Radishes, Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower and Brussel Sprouts. They are all still seedlings, as you can see to the right.
Before we started planting, we created a square foot template for our 4′ X 4′ garden beds using scrap wood, a table saw and small finishing nails. It helps to have a template when you are planting your square foot garden, just to be sure you have the dimensions correct. You can use anything you want to make this template, but this is a simple method.
After we laid out our template, we looked at the plant spacing instructions on the seed packets. We primarily used these guidelines as a precaution against over-planting. For example, we only had 12 carrots to plant, though we could have used as many as 16.
Once we calculated the number of plants per square foot, we arranged them within the square using the plant spacing requirements as our guide. At this point the process goes very quickly, as you’re just planting plants.
We also hit any newly planted seedlings with a good, organic liquid fertilizer and plenty of water. This combination seems to help the plant transition to its new location. We also find that, when used properly, liquid fertilizer increases the growth rate and overall yield of your plants. We are all for anything organic that increases the speed of growth for our plants while keeping them nice and healthy!
We hope that you enjoyed reading through this post and that it inspires you to try your own square foot garden! Whether you use it for a small herb garden or for a full veggie and root garden, it’s a great way to get fresh food on your table for you and your family.
Growing your own food is also a great way to get those pickier eaters in your family more interested in greens and healthy food. I find that whenever Nick and I have grown something we are not wild about, we end up finding a way to like it because there is a sense of ownership for it. If we put in the effort to grow it, then we are going to eat it!
As always, if you have any questions please feel free to reach out to us. We are here to help answer anything we can. If you’re interested in reading more about gardening, please check out our post on Growing Plants from Seed.