Square Foot Gardening Planner: A Must-Have for the Urban Gardener

square foot gardening planner

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A square foot gardening planner is useful to maximize your space especially in urban locations.

Square foot gardening, also known as SFG, is a garden planning method developed by American author Mel Bartholomew. CFG was able to reduce the time spent in the garden than traditional gardening. It became popular in the 1980s worldwide; consequently, ready-to-assemble SFG gardens are available.

Related: “It’s as simple as saying Hello.” Discover our step-by-step planner for building your garden from scratch!

This method was developed as an alternative to address the inefficiencies of conventional gardening. During 1975, Mel Bartholomew, a retired engineer at that time, started gardening as his hobby. He analyzed the ways to avoid weeding through long rows and big gaps of crops which took a lot of time. He added some of his analytical skills and came up with the SFG method.

SFG rules

This method eventually evolved and has the following rules currently.

Deep raised beds

Four feet by four feet is the usual size of a garden bed and  where we place a square-foot lattice on top that will separate the crops visually. Beds are 6 -12 inches deep which are good for drainage and also offer more nutrients to the plants.

Soil Mix

SFG uses a specific soil mix and has vermiculite, peat moss and compost in one-third composition. This special mix of soil is effective in retaining water and nutrients, and makes the bed weed-free.

Related: Starting a Garden in the City: 10 Things to Consider

Don’t Walk on the Soil

SFG advocates follow the rule that walking on the soil is not allowed.

Planting in Squares

To make it easier in planting and spacing between the plants, SFG method follows a definite number. According to the plant size, each square will have 1, 4, 9, 16 plants. Beans and climbing peas are as exceptions, which will be planted four per square in two mini-rows.

Snip with Scissors

Rather than pulling up excess crops, you should use scissors to snip them. This will be easier and does not affect the fine roots of the plants.

Fitting Accessories

Square foot gardening provides some more practical guidelines for constructing other accessories like protective cages etc. It’s a great method for new gardeners, people who have little time, the elderly or disabled (SFG gardens can be built at a raised height to make them more accessible) and children. Many schools have embraced the SFG method because it’s easy to create and maintain without becoming an additional burden for the teacher. However, there are some limitations:


Plant size

Even though plenty of vegetables can be planted using SFG method, you will find it hard to grow large sized plants. Squash, main-crop potatoes, melons, fruit bushes and trees cannot fit in SFG.

Non-renewable soil mix

Though this is really good for plants, some of its ingredients are non-renewable. Peat needs many years to develop and vermiculite comes through mining. So many SFG gardeners avoid peat and vermiculite.

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Not affordable in large scale

SFG method is found to be expensive for large scale gardening. They are cheap in maintaining but expensive to set up for a large area.

All these limitations do not mean that the SFG method is bad or not efficient. You can use organic compost instead of non-renewable soil mix and you can have SFG in between your large garden.

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