Square Foot Gardening: Step 3, Pickin' and Gridding

| 5/2/2011 3:46:52 PM

A photo of Allan DouglasIn this installment of the on-going series of adventures in Square Foot Gardening, we will discuss what plants to plant, how to plant them and how to divide up the planting boxes to plant according to Mel Bartholomew’s method. 

What to Plant 

Instead of browsing the seed catalogs and picking out things that look interesting, I suggest you start deciding what to grow by consulting your grocery store receipts.  What fresh or frozen produce do you buy regularly?  Which are the most expensive?  Use this information to pick your Top Ten or core crops list.  Add to that when we get to the companion planting step. 

How Much Space? 

Each 4 foot x 4 foot planting box is divided into 16 not-quite one foot squares.  In each square you will plant one type of vegetable or herb, how many go into each square depends on the size of the plant. 

Large plants like tomato, peppers, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and squash will take up at least one full square.  Medium-large plants like leaf lettuce will plant 4 to a square, medium plants like spinach and onions will plant 9 to a square, and small plants like carrots and radishes will plant 16 to a square. 


Some plants, like squash, will vine all over the place if left to do what they want.  But they can be “trained” onto a trellis so they grow vertically instead of horizontally, then each plant needs only one square.  Tomatoes too can be pruned to bush out or vine up onto a trellis. 

When using a trellis, make sure you set it up on the back side of the box (farthest from the sunshine) so the trellis does not shade the rest of the plants in the box.  I’ll talk more about building the trellis’s later, for now, just decide which ones will be trained up a trellis and where they will need to go. 

6/6/2011 1:23:21 PM

Your boxes look great! This is my first year for a Sq. Foot Garden so I'm still trying to figure out what works well and what doesn't. Right now I'm just counting on green and yellow beans, leaf lettuce, and onions this season. Normally I grow squash and zucchini too but I decided to take a break from them this year. I think I may try them next year in the boxes with a trellis and see how it goes. And I think you made a wise decision to use the string for the grids instead of the wood strips like I did. I put my strips on there a little less than two months ago and they look terrible, all warped and out of sorts (probably due to the ridiculous amount of rain we had in April and May here in PA!) These wood strips will be coming off soon and will be replaced with the string. Thanks for the idea!

Allan Douglas
5/9/2011 6:01:53 AM

WOW! That's great Penny! I've harvested lettuce and spinach and will have radishes this week, everything else is well behind yours. But then 3 weeks of "spring rains" may have a little to do with that. :-) If you were planting in Feb, you must live in some nice warm location, I'd have been nipped by frost several times planting so soon here. Mid March was teh best I could handle. Thanks dor dropping by, and for the encouraging report.

5/7/2011 9:09:12 PM

We mixed and planted our first box 2/16/11. Today (may 7th) we picked peas, chard, spinach, leaf lettuce, turnip greens and are waiting on the second batch of radishes to mature. We will probably have cauliflower and cabbage next week. We walk by they every day in the front yard so we always know when something is ready to pick. My boys are actually involved. The BEST thing is when you plant in grids you can easily tell which tiny plants are weeds and which are the goodies.

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