Plant Spacing in Square Foot Gardens

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Typical square foot garden. Photo: ingunowners.com

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)

2 thoughts 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.

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