This method of gardening I find to be great for beginners to help the overwhelm of growing a garden for the first time. It is even helpful for more experienced gardeners when there is not much time to plan and they just want to get something in the garden for the season.
You can use a number of different materials (bamboo stakes, yardsticks, etc.) to make the square foot garden squares that keep your space organized, but I recommend this DIY irrigation kit from Garden in Minutes. It’s basically your garden grid and sprinkler system in one thanks to each drip line creating a perfect 1ft x 1ft square. You’ll use less water overall and have a ready visual for planting your seeds and plants.
Growing with the square foot gardening method requires a raised bed filled with nutrient-rich garden soil that will support your plants and provide good drainage. Check out our post on what type of soil to use in your raised beds if you’re still getting set up. We cover Mel’s recommended recipe, plus our favorite sandy loam mix.
GUIDELINES TO PLAN OUT YOUR SQUARE FOOT GARDEN
Keep these guidelines in mind to make the most of your available space in a well-planned garden.
Give Each Plant Enough Space But No More
This gardening method aims to make the most of any garden size. That means growing as many plants per square foot as you can. If a veggie doesn’t need an entire square foot to itself, you can either grow several plants of the same variety or interplant.
Herbs, for instance, don’t need an entire square to themselves, so I like to have them share a square with a couple small flowering plants. This is the ideal square combo for the front corners of your raised bed.
Grow the Right Plants for the Right Growing Season
For best results, you’ll change out many of the plants in your square foot garden so that each plant is growing during its optimal weather conditions. Below, you’ll find 6 garden planner printables to help you plan out your own gardening space for each season.
Use a Trellis
A strong vertical structure like a trellis means you can grow a large, sprawling plant like a vining tomato in just one square instead of letting it spread out over several squares. Trellises maximize your space and keep plants in the garden nice and healthy. A panel trellis is ideal for the back of a raised bed, while an obelisk goes great in the middle. If you have two raised beds, you could connect them with a beautiful arch trellis.
Place Taller Crops in the Back
If your raised bed backs up against a fence or your home, make sure to place large plants near the back so they don’t block sunlight from other plants in the growing area. If your bed is accessible on all 4 sides, place taller plants in the middle and then shorter plants around the outside. Low herbs like oregano, thyme, and trailing rosemary are best in the front of the bed, while taller herbs like dill and basil are best in the back.
Think About Your Plant Priorities
The idea is to grow a little bit of your own food, so don’t waste a square growing something everyone in your family hates. I recommend making a plant list of your favorite things for each growing season. You can easily swap out my recommendations below for similarly sized but different plants that tickle your tastebuds a little more.
SQUARE FOOT GARDEN PLANS
I’ve come up with 2 different planting plans for each of the three main growing seasons (cool, warm, and hot). These plans depict a 4ft x 4ft raised bed, so 16 square feet of growing space. I’ve got a panel trellis at the back of the bed to support two seasonal vining plants. Again, you can adapt this for your own bed by swapping the panel out for an obelisk trellis in the middle of the bed. You’d then place shorter plants around all four edges of the garden. If you have an 8ft x 4ft raised garden bed you can simply combine the two planting plans into one.
You’ll notice some themes between each garden layout. I like to put flowers in the corners of raised beds to attract pollinators and add color. I plant lots of herbs so that I always have some leaves I can harvest, even while the larger plants are still maturing.
Lastly, make sure you note the suggested number of plants for each square so that you don’t end up with one sad carrot plant all by itself in a square.
Click the button below for your FREE printable download of all of the planting plans.
Square Foot Garden Planting Plans for the Cool Growing Season
This planting plan features plants that can handle a light frost or two but love growing in temps between 45 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit. For those of us in the Austin area, this represents the plants we can grow over our late fall and winter months.
The first cool season plan has pea plants growing next to the the panel trellis. Tall herbs like cilantro and parsley can go in the back squares on either side. These herbs can be planted 4 per square foot.
Broccoli plants, which are large plants, take up the 4 middle squares of the bed. You can do kale on one side; plant 1 to 2 kale plants each square depending on how large you’d like the plants to grow. On the opposite side of the kale, you can grow 4 celery plants in one square foot and bok choy in the other (grow just 1 large boy choy plant or 6 toy choy).
You can do herbs with calendula flowers in the front corners, a couple chive plants on one side and trailing rosemary in the other. In the front 2 squares, you can do 16 green onions in 1 square foot and either 2 Swiss chard plants or 4 arugula plants, depending on your preference.
The second cool season planting plan is similar with pea plants on the trellis and 4 cauliflowers in the center of the bed. Place cabbage plants, one in each of the back corners, and then swap the kale for carrots, which are small plants that can be planted 16 per square foot. Opposite the carrots, you can grow a dill plant in 1 square and 9 spinach plants in the other.
In the front of the bed, you can mix calendula with oregano in one corner, calendula with thyme in another, and then give the last 2 squares to a cool season favorite: lettuce. You can grow 2 to 6 lettuce plants per square foot, depending on the type (looseleaf lettuce can be packed in, while heading lettuce will need more room if you’d like a full head).
This plan allows you to grow up to 66 plants in just 16 square feet of growing space!
Square Foot Garden Plans for the Warm Growing Season
This planting plan features plants that love growing in temps between 65 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit with no chances of frosty weather. If you live in a colder climate, these will likely be representative of your summer garden, while those of us in warmer climates like Austin do best growing these in the spring and fall.
The first warm season planting plan fills the garden bed with some of our favorite veggies. Two vining tomato plants utilize the panel trellis. Plant basil in each back corner. Growing just 1 basil per square gives each of these plants room to grow to their full potential and become small bushes.
In the middle of the bed, you can give 4 squares over to bush green beans, which can be planted 9 per square foot. This ensures you get good production from these bush-type plants. Opposite the green beans, you can grow 2 summer squash. These are large plants that need 2 entire squares each.
In the front of the bed, you can have a couple chives with marigolds in 1 corner square, and trailing rosemary with marigolds in the other. If you planted Swiss chard last season, you can leave these plants in their spot throughout the entire warm season. If you planted arugula, it’s time for a replant. The final square can grow 9 to 12 beets, depending on the variety you’re growing.
The second warm season bed features cucumbers on the trellis and zinnias in the place of basil. You can grow sweet peppers, dill, and eggplant along the side of your bed, and potatoes in the middle. Plant 2 to 4 potatoes per square, depending on the mature size of the spud you’re growing. In the front, you can grow oregano, thyme, marigolds, and hot peppers.
Square Foot Garden Plans for the Hot Growing Season
These planting plans feature plants that survive and even thrive when temps are above 85 degrees Fahrenheit. You may not have a hot season where you live. Here in Austin, these are just about the only plants we can keep alive over our scorching summers.
Tomatillos grow on the trellis, framed by basil on either side in the back. You can grow 16 black-eyed peas (4 each in 4 squares) in the middle. This ensures you get a large enough harvest from these bush-type plants to enjoy. On the other side, you can grow bush winter squash in 2 squares each.
In the front, you can continue growing the chives, Swiss chard, and rosemary from last season. When the marigolds fade, swap them out for gomphrena (a beautiful little flower for hot weather). If you planted arugula, replant before the heat of summer really hits, and your arugula should make it through. In the last square, add some New Zealand spinach plants. These plants are super heat and drought tolerant—and quite tasty!
It’s a little too hot for regular cucumbers, but you can still grow Armenian cucumbers on the trellis. Keep the zinnias from last season in the back corners; they can push through the heat.
In the front, you can keep your hot pepper plants from last season unless they’re showing signs of stress. You can also keep your oregano and thyme.
Let us know in the comments if you have any questions about planning your garden out foot by foot!
Need help making a custom planting plan for your garden?