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Plant Spacing in Square Foot Gardens

The first gardening class I attended was about square foot gardening. I soaked it all in, and then bought Mel Bartholomew’s “Square Foot Gardening” book. One of the concepts I loved was the simplicity of plant spacing in square foot gardens. 

Plant Spacing in Square-Foot Gardens

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How do you space plants in square foot gardening?

A key factor in being successful with plant spacing in square foot gardening is adding a grid to your garden. Mel Bartholomew said, “If your garden box doesn’t have a grid, it’s not a Square Foot Garden.”  His book also emphasized that the grids be “prominent and permanent”. I have come to see the wisdom in this tip.

Plant Spacing in Square foot gardening

Why use grids for plant spacing in square foot gardens?

In the past, I had some garden beds with grids and some without grids. After using both, I can say the ones with grids have several advantages: 

Plant Spacing in Square foot gardening
  • Garden beds with planting grids utilize space more efficiently by eliminating the need for rows.
  • Using a garden grid helps you see exactly where there is space to plant. When I see an empty square, I’m quick to fill it with seeds or plants. In the past, empty spots in beds without grids were often left empty.
  • Garden grids help an unorganized gardener (like me) be more organized – I don’t have to worry about straight rows. 
  • Following plant-spacing guidelines with garden grids allows for proper spacing between plants. This prevents overcrowding, which causes plants to compete for limited resources of sun, water, and nutrients. 
  • Using garden grids in your garden beds allows for a system of polyculture (several compatible plants growing together) as opposed to monoculture (row after row of the same crop) which is better for pest and disease prevention.
Polyculture in square foot garden

Which type of garden grids should I use for square foot gardening?

Once I realized the benefits of using grids with square foot gardening, I added grids to all of my raised beds. My favorite way to add grids for square foot gardening is with the Garden Grid™ from Garden In Minutes. 

Plant Spacing in Square foot gardening

The benefits of using the Garden Grid™ from Garden In Minutes include:

  • The grids are prominent and easy to see. 
  • Assembly is simple; the garden grids come in preassembled sections that press together by hand in seconds.
  • At the end of each season, it’s easy to lift the grid off of the bed to add compost to fill the beds. With my previous grids made of wood, it was difficult to add compost because the grids were screwed into the beds. 
  • Each square is watered evenly with 16 water streams, which helps seed germination.

Full disclosure: Garden In Minutes provided me with some of these garden grids, but I liked them so much I also purchased some for my garden beds that didn’t have them.

How do I know how many seeds or plants to put in each square?

Now for the fun part – adding plants to your square foot garden. To calculate how many plants or seeds to plant per square, look at the back of your seed packet. Ignore the space between rows, but pay attention to how much space is needed between plants.

For example,

3″ plant spacing = plant 16 in each square.

4″ plant spacing = plant 9 in each square.

6″ plant spacing = plant 4 in each square.

12″ plant spacing = plant 1 in each square.

Some plants (such as melons, large squash, and tomatoes) require more than one square.

Use this tool to space seeds perfectly in your square foot garden. 

Plant-spacing guidelines for garden grids

You can also use this plant-spacing guide from Garden In Minutes to easily see how many plants to plant per square.  

Plant spacing guide for square foot gardens

Why is plant spacing important in square foot gardens?

Follow the plant-spacing guidelines. Planting the recommended amounts allows you to utilize all the space in the beds without overcrowding. Proper spacing ensures adequate airflow for plants.  

Plant Spacing in Square foot gardening

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Thursday 23rd of September 2021

Hi Angela, Thanks for the wonderful posts. I moved to a new build house recently and I am planning to use the big side yard area for vegetables. Using excavators, I have dug two areas of four feet width and 12 inches depth (One had 45 feet length and another is about 30 ft). Now I am thinking to fill these with good soil/compost/mulch and start going through your monthly vegetable list to find right veggies for the month. Do you have any advice on: 1) Which kind of soil should I use to fill this? 2) Is there optimal ratio of different kinds of soil? 3) I am planning to have irrigation setup. Do you have any advice on the drainage?


Angela Judd

Saturday 25th of September 2021

Hi a combination of mostly compost with some perlite or vermiculite and worm castings mixed in would be a great way to fill your beds up. (Arizona Worm Farm has all of those individually) Keep an eye on your watering - you will probably have to water less than in other types of beds.

Caitlin Wood

Tuesday 7th of September 2021

How long are you running the water for these grids? Sept

Angela Judd

Wednesday 8th of September 2021

About 10 minutes every other day or every third day. Also, we've had quite a bit of rain this year, so they are turned off for a few days if we get rain.

Chawn Tipton

Sunday 2nd of August 2020


I was so happy to discover your website and all of the valuable information you share with your readers! One of the silver linings to our COVID induced hunkering at home, is that the time I would have spent on airplanes away from home is now spent in my yard and garden. What a difference daily observation makes in being able to learn about one's garden and the lessons to be able to continue. Thank you!

As a fellow Arizona gardener (PHX) I would love to know the orientation of your back yard/raised bed and any crop specific "hacks" as it relates moving from summer to fall garden planning.

Stay well!

Angela Judd

Sunday 2nd of August 2020

Hello! Daily observation is one of the important keys to being successful for sure. I'm so glad the information has been helpful. My backyard garden has three areas: a sideyard that gets part sun, another set of beds that gets morning sun and afternoon shade (evergreen trees on the west side of the bed); and the newest addition to my garden 6 beds that get full sun with a western exposure. As for hacks, I share my best tips in my blog posts, videos, and on instagram etc. You can check the blog post on fall gardening. Best of luck to you.

Jay Teez

Friday 18th of October 2019

Thank for posting such an interesting article. I have recently started square metre gardening using a Vegepod and a covered raised garden bed in Australia (its Spring here now and starting to warm up). My Vegepod comes with a watering system inside the cover, but I have to remember to water the raised bed, which is in a different part of my garden. The Gardening in Minutes watering system looks like something which will be really useful here, not only for the grid system which can be left in place to aid planting but also as temperatures regularly reach over 40C here in the summer so plants tend to fry is not kept well watered.Can you tell me does the pipe have droppers in it or just holes? Now if only I can find some sort of tool to fit on my tap so I can water the garden without going outside in the heat it would be wonderful.

Angela Judd

Saturday 21st of September 2019

Thanks so much!