An Overview of Square Foot Gardening Spacing

Square foot gardening is a method of garden planting and spacing that maximizes space, harvest, and promotes a diverse garden layout. In this article we’re going to specifically look at the best square foot gardening spacing to help you plan and create your garden. You can also find more detailed information below on spacing considerations and some general information on how to create a square foot garden. You can also scroll down to the bottom for a few specific garden designs using the square foot garden method.

We’ve been experimenting with square foot gardening for many years and often interplant our gardens with variations of this method to increase diversity and limit pests and weeds. This year we’re creating a 8×8 foot square foot large bed to try new plantings.

Learn more about Square Foot Gardening.


Quick Look at Square Foot Gardening Spacing

An Overview of Square Foot Gardening Spacing
An Overview of Square Foot Gardening Spacing Chart

In summary you should be planting your large plants 1/square and your smaller plants with several/square using the guide below:

Plant TypeExamplesSpacing per Square Foot
Large PlantsBroccoli, Cabbage, Kale1 plant
Medium PlantsLeaf Lettuce, Spinach, Swiss Chard4 plants
Small PlantsCarrots, Radishes, Beets9 plants
Tiny PlantsOnions, Garlic, Parsley16 plants
FruitsStrawberries, Dwarf Tomatoes1 plant
HerbsBasil, Cilantro, Mint4 plants


  • Large Plants: These need ample space to grow and develop properly, hence only one plant per square foot.
  • Medium Plants: Moderate space requirements allow for four plants per square foot, making efficient use of garden space while ensuring healthy growth.
  • Small Plants: Nine plants per square foot work well for small root vegetables and similar plants, balancing space efficiency and plant health.
  • Tiny Plants: These have minimal space needs, allowing for sixteen plants per square foot, maximizing the use of space for small herbs and similar plants.
  • Fruits: Dwarf varieties and compact fruit plants can thrive with one plant per square foot, ensuring enough room for fruit development.
  • Herbs: Common herbs fit well with four plants per square foot, providing enough space for robust growth and easy harvesting.
An Overview of Square Foot Gardening Spacing

Principles of Square Foot Gardening

Below you can see some basic information to get started square foot gardening.

Basic Layout

Grid System

  • Concept and Design: The core of square foot gardening lies in its grid system. The garden bed is divided into a series of 1-foot by 1-foot squares, creating a manageable and organized planting space.
  • Creating the Grid: Use materials like string, wood slats, or plastic dividers to lay out the grid on top of the soil in your raised bed. Ensure that each square is exactly 1 foot by 1 foot for accuracy.
  • Plant Placement: Each square is designated for a specific type of plant or crop, allowing for precise planning and utilization of space. This method simplifies planting and ensures optimal spacing for each plant’s needs.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability: The grid system can be adapted to any garden size, from a small balcony garden to a larger backyard plot. It’s flexible and can be tailored to fit the available space.

Raised Beds

  • Construction and Materials: Raised beds are typically constructed from wood, stone, brick, or recycled materials. They range in height, usually from 6 inches to 2 feet, depending on the gardener’s needs.
  • Soil Quality and Health: Raised beds are filled with a high-quality soil mix, often consisting of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite. This ensures a nutrient-rich environment for plant growth.
  • Accessibility: Raised beds bring the garden up to a more manageable level, reducing the need for bending and making it easier for individuals with physical limitations to garden.
  • Drainage and Aeration: The elevation improves soil drainage and aeration, preventing waterlogging and promoting healthier root systems.

Benefits of Square Foot Gardening

Easier Maintenance

  • Reduced Labor: The structured layout minimizes the area that needs to be managed, making tasks like planting, watering, and harvesting more straightforward and less time-consuming.
  • Simplified Crop Rotation: With defined planting areas, crop rotation becomes more organized, reducing the risk of soil depletion and pest buildup.
  • Enhanced Control: The smaller, concentrated planting spaces allow for better monitoring and quicker intervention if problems arise.

Water Efficiency

  • Targeted Watering: Watering can be more precise, directly targeting the plants rather than the entire garden bed, leading to less water waste.
  • Soil Moisture Retention: The high-quality soil mix used in raised beds retains moisture more effectively, reducing the need for frequent watering.
  • Water Conservation Techniques: Incorporating drip irrigation systems or soaker hoses into the grid system can further enhance water efficiency, delivering water directly to the plant roots.

Reduced Weeding

  • Dense Planting: The close planting in each square foot reduces the space available for weeds to grow, naturally suppressing weed growth.
  • Mulching: Adding a layer of mulch on top of the soil helps to further prevent weed seeds from germinating, keeping the garden bed weed-free.
  • Focused Effort: Any weeds that do appear are easier to spot and remove in the confined spaces, making weeding a quick and manageable task.
An Overview of Square Foot Gardening Spacing

Understanding Square Foot Gardening Spacing

The idea behind square foot garden spacing is that each square in your garden gets a certain number of plants depending on the size of the plants. While the chart above shows the general spacing, this can change depending on the specific variety of a plant. Below you can see a bit more about the spacing requirements.


Large Plants (e.g., Broccoli, Cabbage)

  • Spacing Requirements: Large plants like broccoli and cabbage need ample space to spread out their leaves and roots. Planting one per square foot ensures they have enough room to grow without competing for resources.
  • Growth Considerations: These plants often grow tall and wide, so providing adequate space helps prevent overcrowding and allows for sufficient air circulation, reducing the risk of diseases.
  • Supporting Growth: Consider staking or providing supports for larger plants to keep them upright and prevent damage from wind or heavy produce.

Medium Plants (e.g., Leaf Lettuce, Spinach)

  • Spacing Requirements: Medium-sized plants such as leaf lettuce and spinach can be planted four per square foot. This spacing allows them to develop their foliage without overcrowding.
  • Harvesting Tips: Regularly harvest outer leaves to encourage continuous growth and prevent the plants from becoming too crowded.
  • Successive Planting: To ensure a steady supply, practice successive planting by sowing new seeds every couple of weeks.

Small Plants (e.g., Carrots, Radishes)

  • Spacing Requirements: Small root vegetables like carrots and radishes thrive when planted nine per square foot. This density helps maximize yield while allowing each plant enough space to develop properly.
  • Thinning: After seedlings emerge, thin them to ensure the healthiest plants have enough room to grow.
  • Soil Preparation: Ensure the soil is loose and free of stones to allow roots to grow straight and avoid deformities.

Tiny Plants (e.g., Onions, Herbs)

  • Spacing Requirements: Tiny plants such as onions and small herbs can be planted sixteen per square foot. This close spacing is ideal for plants with small root systems and minimal foliage.
  • Growth Management: Regularly trim herbs to encourage bushy growth and prevent them from overtaking their allotted space.
  • Intercropping: Consider intercropping tiny plants with larger ones to maximize space and enhance pest control.



  • Spacing Requirements: Plant one strawberry plant per square foot. This spacing allows for sufficient air circulation and sunlight exposure, crucial for fruit development. Remember that strawberries are perennials so will take a little more planning.
  • Runners Management: Regularly manage runners by either trimming them or allowing them to root in adjacent squares to expand your strawberry patch.
  • Mulching: Use straw or mulch around strawberry plants to retain moisture and keep fruits clean.

Dwarf Varieties (e.g., Dwarf Tomatoes)

  • Spacing Requirements: Dwarf varieties of fruiting plants, such as dwarf tomatoes, can be planted one per square foot. These compact plants are ideal for small spaces.
  • Support Structures: Provide cages or stakes to support the plants as they grow and bear fruit.
  • Pruning: Regularly prune lower leaves and suckers to promote air circulation and reduce disease risk.


  • Spacing Requirements: Plant basil four per square foot. This herb grows well with moderate spacing, allowing each plant to receive adequate sunlight and air.
  • Harvesting: Frequently pinch off the tips to encourage bushier growth and prevent the plant from flowering too early.
  • Companion Planting: Basil is an excellent companion plant for tomatoes, as it can enhance their flavor and repel pests.
  • Spacing Requirements: Plant parsley four per square foot. This spacing supports healthy growth and easy access for harvesting.
  • Regular Harvesting: Cut outer stems regularly to promote new growth and extend the harvesting period.
  • Versatile Use: Parsley can be grown alongside many other plants, offering benefits such as pest control and added nutrients to the soil.

Square Foot Garden Example

There are many ways to design a square foot garden. Below you can find one garden layout for a 4×4 foot garden (this will be 16 squares). We generally recommend keeping your garden spaces to less than 4 feet so you can reach the center of your bed. We are growing an 8×8 foot bed this year due to the pre-made beds already on our properties but we don’t recommend it.

Square Foot Gardening Spacing Example

Top Tips for a Successful Square Foot Garden

  1. Proper Soil Preparation: Ensure your garden bed is filled with a high-quality soil mix, such as compost, peat moss, and vermiculite, to provide essential nutrients and promote healthy plant growth. This is the most important element that is often overlooked in a successful garden. You can find lots of easy to follow information about creating healthy soil in our ebook or mini-course.
  2. Follow Spacing Guidelines: Adhere to recommended spacing guidelines for each type of plant to avoid overcrowding, which can lead to competition for resources and hinder growth. Utilize the square foot grid system to plan and allocate space efficiently, ensuring each plant has adequate room to thrive.
  3. Regular Watering and Mulching: Maintain consistent moisture levels by watering your square foot garden regularly, especially during hot and dry periods. Mulching with materials like straw or shredded leaves helps retain soil moisture, suppresses weeds, and regulates soil temperature, promoting healthier plants and reducing water usage.
  4. Implement Succession Planting: Maximize your garden’s productivity by practicing succession planting, where new crops are planted as soon as previous ones are harvested. This ensures a continuous supply of fresh produce throughout the growing season and optimizes space utilization in your square foot garden.
  5. Monitor and Manage Pests: Stay vigilant for signs of pests and diseases in your square foot garden, and take prompt action to prevent infestations from spreading. Incorporate companion planting techniques to naturally deter pests and attract beneficial insects, reducing the need for chemical pesticides and promoting a more balanced ecosystem.
An Overview of Square Foot Gardening Spacing

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