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.
Plant Spacing in Square foot gardening

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.

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. 

Plant Spacing in Square foot gardening

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3 comments on “Plant Spacing in Square Foot Gardens”

  1. 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.

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