Gardening: Start Small and Utilize Square Foot Gardening Spacing Guidelines

If you are completely new to gardening, but really want to get started, the best advice I can give you is to start small. Starting with a smaller sized garden sets you up for success. It allows you to get started without becoming overwhelmed with a much larger amount of space to care for. It is also a great way to have children garden with you, they can have a special corner of the growing space or they can help you with the whole area. A simple 4’x4’ bed utilizing square foot spacing (SFG) guidelines will let you grow more food than you think is possible. I have used square foot gardening spacing guidelines for years, it is probably the one thing I stick to year after year in my garden journey, besides utilizing compost as my main nutrient source and mulch. Below I am sharing with you some amounts of what is possible in a 4’x4’ garden space using SFG spacing. Imagine the possibilities when picking and choosing what to grow based on the season. 

At the heart of SFG, you are sectioning your garden space into one foot squares. Traditionally it isn’t considered a true SFG unless you utilize a garden grid, which is made from a variety of materials to section off your garden into one foot sections. I’ve seen people use wood, twine, re-bar, and a bunch of other things. This makes it extremely easy for gardeners to plant out transplants or sow seeds in a highly organized manner. You simply plant however many plants or seeds per square for proper spacing. I don’t actively use a grid, so my beds are not considered true SFG gardens, but I do use other tools to help with SFG spacing like the Seeding Square. I have often just eyeballed it, which isn’t always the best way to do it, but works for me. I do plan to add the Garden In Minutes watering grids to my raised beds in the future. They look amazing! (Not affiliated with either, just like their products.)

Here is a simple list of common food crops you can grow in a square foot of garden space. For those with multiple spacing suggestions, these are in relation to the variety and size you will be growing. Larger sized varieties will need more space, use the lesser amount per square foot. Honestly, just think about the size of the plant at full maturity and give it the appropriate space.

  • Arugula 4
  • Basil 1-4 depending on variety.
  • Beans (Bush) 9
  • Beans (Pole) 8-9 grown with a trellis.
  • Beets 16 small and 9 for larger beets
  • Bok Choy 9
  • Broccoli 1
  • Brussels Sprout 1
  • Cabbage 1
  • Carrots 16
  • Cauliflower 1
  • Celery 4 – 9
  • Cilantro 1-9
  • Collard Greens 1
  • Cucumber (Vining) 2
  • Dill 1
  • Garlic 9
  • Green Onions 16
  • Kale 1
  • Kohlrabi 4
  • Lettuce (Head) 4
  • Lettuce (Leaf/Salad Greens) 16
  • Parsnips 9-16
  • Peas 9
  • Peppers 1
  • Potatoes 4
  • Radishes 16
  • Shallots 4
  • Spinach 9
  • Squash (Bush) 1 per 9 square feet suggested, but I do 1 per 4 square feet, (Vining) 1 per 2 square feet
  • Swiss Chard 4
  • Tomatoes (Bush/Determinate) 1 per 4 square feet, (Pole/Vining/Indeterminate) 1 per square foot 

This is by no means an exhaustive list of what is possible, but it will help you get started as you start to plan your garden. I suggest continually growing new plants with succession planting, replacing plants as they are harvested with something else or leaving space to sow more seeds at the proper time. Succession planting is a whole other topic for another post, but if you continue to sow seeds, you will ensure a continued harvest. I hope you start to utilize square foot gardening spacing guidelines to get the most out of you growing space! If you are interested in learning more about SGF, definitely get your hands on the book: Square Food Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.

If you are interested in 1:1 help with a garden coach, consider booking a Garden Coaching Session with me. I can help you address your biggest gardening issue. Find out more here.

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