Square Foot Gardening with a Free Printable Template

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You can grow food for your family even if you have very little growing area. Square foot gardening is a great way to maximize vegetable garden harvest from every inch of your soil. Winter and early spring are a great time to plan what you will be growing and how much. You don’t have to be a master gardener to grow your own food and be successful. You can use the free printable square foot gardening template to plan your best garden year yet!

a raised garden bed with a wooden grid for square foot gardening

What is Square Foot Gardening?

Mel Bartholomew was the originator of the popular square foot gardening method. He was an American engineer, gardener, and businessman. He adapted techniques to grow a community garden in New York that removed many of the labor intensive aspects of gardening that discouraged many new gardeners. His methods allowed maximum harvest in limited space by dividing raised beds into 1-foot squares. After developing this new square foot gardening method, he said, “I garden with a salad bowl in mind, not a wheelbarrow.”1 In 1981, he published his first book Square Foot Gardening.

Planning to Maximize Garden Harvest

It’s early spring and a great time to plan what you will grow in your garden this year. After you devour your seed catalogs, put in your seed orders, and start to make plans on which vegetables you will grow, you can begin to plan out your garden space.

The free printable template provided here gives you all the information you need to plan out your square foot garden before the growing season begins. Download the template below to get started. You can cut out the squares for each type of garden plant and then place them on the blank grids provided to plan out your space. This printable is fully customizable for any size garden bed. Use what you know about companion planting to place the right plants next to each other for best results.

Raised Garden Beds

Square foot gardening is most commonly used in raised bed gardens. If you are row planting in a raised garden bed, you aren’t maximizing your space. The purpose of planting in rows is to create walking space between rows. Usually folks aren’t walking in their raised garden beds, so there is no need for row spacing. Raised beds are typically sized so that someone standing beside the bed can reach all the plants inside. The best raised garden beds usually have one dimension of 4-feet or less.

Using Square Foot Gardening Principles in an In-ground Garden

Even if you don’t have raised garden beds, you can lay out your in-ground garden with square foot gardening principles in mind. Simply designate blocks in your traditional garden not greater than 4 feet wide and however long you want. You can mark the corners of these areas with posts or rebar. These areas will never be walked in but will have foot paths on either side for accessing the plants, watering, and weeding.

How to Plan Your Traditional Square Foot Garden

Using the free square foot gardening template printable provided here, you can create your plant list and decide how much of each plant your will grow. Cut out the 1 3/4 inch paper templates that correspond to your different vegetables then use the appropriate number of plants per square foot for each plant to calculate how many plants you can fit in your space. You can use the blank garden grid pages to lay out the plant varieties in whatever arrangement works best for your garden space.

closeup of square foot garden printable template

Planting a Square Foot Garden

Now that you know how many plants you need and how many, you are ready to layout your planting area. It’s a great idea to organize your planting area before you put any seeds in the ground.

Plant by Area

Planting by area means taking a square section of garden and dividing the length and width of that section by the spacing needs of each plant. If you look at the back of a seed packet, you’ll see two types of measurements: Seed/Plant Spacing and Row Spacing.

If you are using square foot gardening methods, you can disregard the row spacing number. You will use the seed/plant spacing number to know how many seeds to sow in each 1-foot x 1-foot square block. These hole spacing numbers are already calculated for you if you download the free square foot gardening template planner pages provided in this post.

Make Planting Sections

There are many ways to mark out the 1-foot x 1-foot square planting sections in your garden beds. Guide lines are marked by attaching wooden pegs, metal, or bamboo stakes to the wooden board edges of raised beds to create a grid of planting sections. There are some guide line watering systems that are placed in a grid pattern for square foot gardening.

wooden raised bed with square foot gardening dividers

Figuring out How Many Plants to Plant

If you used the download link to get the free square foot gardening template printable, we have already figured out how many different plants of each type you can plant in each 1-foot x 1-foot section of your garden beds. If there is a variety of plant that we did not include in our template, you can easily calculate it’s spacing requirements.

How to calculate square foot gardening plant density: A simple method

  1. Locate the seed spacing number on the back of your seed packet.
  2. Divide the width of your planting section (most likely 12 inches) by the required seed spacing. For example, if your seed spacing was 3 inches, this means you can plant 4 plants across the width of your section.
  3. Divide the length of your planting section (most likely 12 inches) by the required seed spacing. For example, if your seed spacing was 3 inches, this means you can plant 4 plants across the length of your section.
  4. Multiply your two answers together to get the total number of plants you can place inside the planting section. In this example, you could place 16 plants inside each 1-foot x 1-foot section.

Crop Rotation in Square-Foot Gardening

After you use your square foot gardening template to plan out your garden, take a picture of it so that you can practice crop rotation next year. I have found that good garden record keeping can save you many headaches down the road. Planting different crops in different areas can help replenish depleted soil and avoid disease issues in the future. Planting different things with different planting times throughout the season can also help you maximize your harvest.

Leave a Comment

Are you using square foot gardening principles in your garden? Did you find the free template helpful? Please leave a comment below. I’d love to have a discussion with you!

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  1. “Bucking Tradition, Gardener Plants High-Yield Squares”. Marjorie Kaufman. March 31, 1996. Retrieved March 26, 2024. ↩︎
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  1. Ooooh! All the plans and thoughts started circling in my head now! Thanks for this article, I got now some serious planning to do!

  2. Oh! I think I finally understand it now! It never truly made sense to me before! Thanks for the printable. I am a visual person so this will be awesome!

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