Planning Your Garden – Size

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Garden PlanThe three basic components of planning any SFG are:

  • Size,
  • Location and
  • Design.

In this first article I’ll talk about the number and the sizes of boxes that are recommended.

Box Sizes and Quantity.
This would depend on your reasons for starting a Square Foot Garden in the first place. If you simply wanted to grow a bit of food for the kitchen table and nothing else, I would suggest starting by using the following rough calculations:

  • One 4×4 Square Foot Garden box should supply enough produce to make a salad for one adult for every day of the growing season.
  • One more 4×4 box will supply the daily supper vegetables for that person as well.
  • If you wanted to have to have a bit more for preserving or giving away to friends and family then three (or more) 4×4 boxes would be required.
  • For children, count on the same number of 3×3 square foot boxes.

Note: Feet vs Meters – The SFG concept is based on the old Imperial system of inches and feet and, since it is a pain to keep converting all of these measurements to metric, I have decided to keep using these terms when talking about the boxes and squares. Only when measuring the wood for the boxes and when referencing plant spacing on our seed packets will we quickly (and roughly) convert the measurements to metric.

For now it is only neccesary to remember that, since 1 foot is roughly 30cm, a 4×4 square foot box is around 1.2m x 1.2m and a 3×3 square foot box is about 1m x 1m.

Because our own SFG is more of a test project at the moment (and because we have an entire townhouse complex ready and willing to take any extra produce off our hands ;-), Kathy and I have decided that the number and size of boxes will be determined by the amount of space that is available rather than by how much we want to harvest.

SFGSA Garden Plan

The SFGSA Garden Plan - Doesn't it look pretty? Pretty cheap too, all done in Excel.

Walkways and Aisles.
One of the most important principals of SFG is not to walk on (and compact) your growing soil. You need to be able to reach the middle squares of a box without too much strain and without leaning or kneeling in the outer squares. This is the reason that the standard width of a Square Foot Garden box is only 4 feet – a normal persons (comfortable) reach is around 2 feet. You would also build smaller 3×3, 2×3 or even 1×3 square foot boxes for children who have their own boxes to tend to.

Count on having at least 3 foot wide (1 meter) walkways between your boxes. Remember that once your plants are growing, some of them will be bushy or cascade over the edges of the box taking up some of your walkway room. If you are planning on putting a box up against a wall or a fence with a trellis then it’s a good idea to rather build a narrower box of around two or three squares wide.

You may also want to have a wider center aisle for easy access with a wheelbarrow or garden cart and for those times when you want to show off your garden and have many people walking around at once.

To save space you could have a long row of boxes but try not to stretch it out too far otherwise you will get lazy when having to walk all the way around reach the back squares, then you’ll try jumping over or leaning too far and end up stepping on your soil.

Start Small.
If this is your first foray into the wonderful world of gardening you may want to start small, with a few boxes to gain a bit of confidence, before you go all out and plaster every available garden surface with boxes. Most people will underestimate just how much they can grow in such a small area and will easily be overwhelmed by the results. If you are an absolute control freak like me then more boxes also means more records to keep of what was planted in which square and when 😉

Although we don’t need more than two 4×4 boxes for our own personal use, Kathy and I decided to start off with two 6×3 boxes and one 3×3 box for now, with two more 6×3 boxes and two 4×2 boxes (against a wall) planned for a bit later. If the sizes seem a bit odd it’s because I went out, measured, planned the garden and boxes in meters and then converted the boxes to squares and square feet.

Our garden is also very narrow, with flower beds (which are being replaced by the boxes) running down the sides. We are renting the place and although we got permission to … ummm… change the garden around just a little bit… we didn’t think the owners would be too impressed if we suddenly dug up the entire lawn 😉

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