Cultivate Plants in Tight Spaces With Square Foot Gardening

Gardening Home
a raised planter bed sectioned off with twine into areas growing different leafy greens

Home vegetable gardens are definitely back in vogue, and square foot gardening (SFG) is an interesting approach that lets people maximize their veggies regardless of the garden space they have. With the SFG method, you partition a raised bed into 12″ squares (hence the name) with wood or string overlays, then grow a specific amount of one type of vegetable in each section, based upon each veggie’s size and spacing needs — 16 parsnips, 9 green onions, 4 chives, and so on. It’s a simple concept that allows novice gardeners to get the most out of their space.

Complementary Crops

The plants share the same soil, and can be optimized for compatibility following recommended combinations. (The same holds true for non-SFG raised gardens.) Tomatoes, eggplant, kale, peppers, tomatillos, and potatoes (one each per square) will all complement each other and have the same water requirements.

Better beds

Using raised beds provides many advantages:

  • They don’t take up a lot of space
  • You use your own nutrient-rich soil
  • Because the garden is contained, water consumption is much less, and excess water easily drains away from the plants and prevents rotting
  • Bugs, slugs, and critters will have a harder time munching on your veggies
  • Weeds are less likely to get a hold and much easier to pull out

When you construct your raised bed, line the bottom of the bed with hardware cloth (not chicken wire) to keep gophers out. A simple drip irrigation system will reduce the time spent watering, and wet the soil not the leaves.

Garden Guidance

There are a wealth of apps and information available online to help you create your exact garden setup. Check out for guides on building planter boxes and lists of vegetable spacing to use; offers a drag-and-drop tool to help you design your layout. You can find a good list of compatible plants at Good luck!

This article first appeared in Make: Volume 64, page 70. Subscribe today and never miss an issue!

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