Gardening Vegetables

Plant Spacing in Square Foot Gardens

Typical square foot garden. Photo:

The late American garden writer, Mel Bartholomew, really made a splash with his concept of the square–foot garden, now adopted by home gardeners all over the world. The idea is to concentrate plantings to get the most vegetables possible in a limited amount of space. Gone are rows, designed more for walking in than gardening and great wasters of space. In a raised bed 4 feet by 4 feet square (1.2 m x 1.2 m), you can reach all the plants from one side or the other, so you never need to put a foot in the garden. So, bye-bye rows! With them gone, it means all the space can be used for vegetables. 

Square-foot garden plan. Ill.: Rorybowman, Wikimedia Commons

To better use all the space, he recommended planting by squares one foot (30 cm) long and wide. Thus “square foot gardening.” Each square would contain 1 extra–large vegetable, 4 large ones, 9 medium ones and 16 small ones.

I personally don’t follow square–foot gardening by the letter, but I have been densifying my plantings for decades, based on an older and less precise system called the French intensive system, generally with longer beds. Still, Bartholomew’s square foot calculations come in very handy. 

Here is a list of recommended spacings based on his method with a few personal modifications. You may find them handy in planning your own vegetable garden. I’ve also included the height of the plants (based on their height at normal harvesting time), as you also need to know which ones might be shading out their neighbors.

Square Foot Spacing for Vegetables

Vegetable TypePlants per SquareHeight
Amaranth44–8 ft (1.2–2.5 m)
Annual flowers4–99–60 in (25–150 cm) 
Arugula49 in (25 cm) 
Asian greens49 in (25 cm) 
Asparagus15 ft (1.5 m) 
Basil2–412 in (30 cm) 
Bean (bush)912–18 in (30–45 cm) 
Bean (pole)95–7 ft (1.5–2 m) 
Beet912 in (30 cm) 
Baby vegetables9–166–8 in (15–20 cm) 
Bok choy41–2 ft (30–60 cm) 
Bok choy (baby)96–8 in (15–20 cm) 
Broccoli118–24 in (45–60 cm) 
Brussels sprout12 ½ ft (75 cm) 
Cabbage112–18 in (30–45 cm) 
Carrot1612 in (30 cm) 
Cauliflower118–24 in (45–60 cm) 
Chinese Cabbage41–2 ft (30–60 cm) 
Celery412–16 in (30–40 cm) 
Chives166–12 in (15–30 cm) 
Cilantro (coriander)912 in (30 cm) 
Collards12–3 ft (60–90 cm) 
Corn45–6 ft (1.5–2 m) 
Cucumber24–6 ft (1.2–2 m
Dill43 ft (90 cm) 
Eggplant (aubergine)124–36 in (60–90 cm) 
Endive410 in (25 cm) 
Fennel430–72 in (75–180 cm) 
Garden huckleberry124 in (60 cm) 
Garlic918–24 in (45–60 cm) 
Kale110–24 in (25–60 cm) 
Kohlrabi418–24 in (45–60 cm) 
Leek92 ft (60 cm) 
Lettuce (leaf)66–12 in (15–30 cm) 
Lettuce (head)6–12 in (15–30 cm) 
Lettuce (romaine or cos)410–20 in (25–50 cm) 
Melon1 per 2 squares1–2 ft (30–60 cm) 
Mint1–41–3 ft (60–90 cm) 
Mustard greens1620–24 in (50–60 cm) 
Okra13–6 ft (90–180 cm) 
Onion912–18 in (30–45 cm) 
Onion (green)1612 in (30 cm) 
Oregano12 ft (60 cm) 
Parsley46–12 in (15–30 cm) 
Parsnip910–15 in (25–40 cm) 
Peanut412–18 in (30–45 cm) 
Peas93 ft (90 cm) 
Pepper (bell)112–24 in (30–60 cm) 
Pepper (hot)112–24 in (30–60 cm) 
Potato412–24 in (30–60 cm) 
Pumpkin1 per 2 squares18–24 in (45–60 cm) 
Quinoa94–9 ft (1.2–115 cm) 
Radicchio26–12 in (15–30 cm) 
Radish166–12 in (15–30 cm) 
Rhubarb1 per 4 squares3 ft (90 cm) 
Rosemary11–4 ft (30–120 cm) 
Rutabaga412–24 in (30–60 cm) 
Sage112–30 in (30–75 cm) 
Shallot48 in (20 cm) 
Sorrel23 ft (90 cm) 
Spinach96–12 in (15–30 cm) 
Squash (bush)118–24 in (45–60 cm) 
Squash (running)1 per 2 squares18–24 in (45–60 cm) 
Strawberry18–12 in (15–30 cm) 
Sweet potato112–15 in (30–40 cm) 
Swiss chard412–18 in (30–45 cm)
Tarragon12–3 ft (60–90 cm) 
Tomato (determinate)13 ft (90 cm) 
Tomato (indeterminate)16–8 ft (2–2.5 m) 
Turnip912–16 in (30–40 cm) 
Thyme48 in (20 cm) 
Wasabi12 ft (60 cm) 
Watercress16 in (15 cm) 
Watermelon1 per 2 squares2 ft (60 cm)
Zucchini118–24 in (45–60 cm)

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

2 comments on “Plant Spacing in Square Foot Gardens

  1. I don’t use the technique either, although I to tend to fit a lot into a small area. There are many acres out there, but very little space is actually flat! Something that is not mentioned in square foot gardening (because it is outside of the squares), is how vines of melons or winter squash can be grown in a corner somewhere, and allowed to creep along over unused space, for example, at the base of a fence on the edge of a patio. Also, beans can be sown at the base of a fence, even if pavement is almost at the base of the fence. Pole beans are happy to climb string strung between nails pounded only part way into the fence.

  2. Pingback: Some Really Smart Ideas – Grandma's Prairie Garden

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