Do you want to grow a vegetable garden, but don’t have a lot of room? Square foot gardening is a great way to grow vegetables. You don’t have to worry about digging a garden because the raised beds are placed on top of the ground.

Mel Bartholomew developed the square foot garden concept in 1976. He published his Square Foot Gardening book in 1981, and it has been revised several times through the years. We built our first square foot gardens after reading All New Square Foot Gardening in 2009.

The theory of square foot gardening is to use a bottomless raised bed filled with a soil blend of equal amounts of peat moss, vermiculite, and finished compost from many different sources to add a diverse amount of nutrients.

Instead of planting in rows, the bed is divided into one-foot sections, and each square is planted in grids according to the spacing recommended on the seed packet and described in the book.

Building a square foot garden is a quick and easy way to begin or expand your garden. The method is also simple to understand, organized, and makes it easy to plan your growing beds. You can learn more about the benefits of square foot gardening in this article:

10 Benefits of Square Foot Gardening

We started out building three 4×4 square foot garden beds the first year and placed them to the south end of our garden area. We found the 4×4 size simple to build with standard lumber, and the beds lined up well with our existing garden space.

Step 1: Source the material

String and small nails to make the grid

Tarp or garden cart to mix the soil

Plus basic gardening tools such as a shovel, rake, and garden hose with spray nozzle.
Wood for Raised Bed Gardens: The wood that you use to build your square foot garden is going to be constantly in contact with damp soil, so it will rot over time. Use untreated lumber for building raised beds. Treated lumber may leach chemicals into the soil. Also avoid recycled wood when you don’t know the origin because it too may contain unwanted chemicals.

Step 2: Build the square foot garden boxes

Measure and cut the boards to 4-foot sections. Pre drill 3 holes on one end of each board. Position the boards end to end into a square, and screw them together using 6-inch wood screws.

Step 3: Position the raised beds

Trim the grass low with a lawnmower or weed whacker, and position the boxes in your garden area. Place a layer of newspaper or cardboard beneath the boxes on top of the ground. The cardboard will finish the grass and decompose over time helping to eliminate weeds from growing in the new garden beds.

Step 4: Mix a batch of garden soil

The classic square foot garden soil mix is made from 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 finished compost from several different sources. Measure by volume, not weight. We used a 5-gallon bucket to measure out equal amounts of each ingredient.

Step 5: Fill the beds with the soil mix

Add the blended soil mix to your raised beds. As you add the soil, hose it down several times so the entire mixture is well saturated. When the boxes are full, give them a final soaking to ensure the mix is hydrated.image of a square foot garden filled with fresh soil)

Step 6: Add your grids

Divide the bed into one-foot sections and add a permanent grid. I have used string and small nails to make the grid. You can also use mini blinds, wooden dowels, wood laths, or any thin strips of wood to make your grid.

Step 7: Plant your square foot gardens

Your garden is now ready for planting. If you haven’t yet, plan out your garden by drawing a garden map so you know where everything will go.

How to Make a Garden Map

As you plot out your square foot garden, use the spacing recommended in the book, All New Square Foot Gardening and map out the number of plants in each square. Remember to place tall plants along the north side of your beds, so they don’t shade the shorter plants.

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