Choosing what to plant and where to plant it


Choosing what to plantOK, so you’ve built your boxes and grids, mixed your perfect soil and now you’re ready to plant some vegetables. Choosing what to plant in my Square Foot Garden, and where to plant it, gave me a few headaches. There are obviously two ways of approaching this – my way and then (quite possibly) the right way 🙂

My way: Go out and buy a packet of seed for every different vegetable and variety of vegetable that you can possibly find. Get home and wonder why there are so many different varieties of tomato seeds in your knee high pile of seed packets. Sit down and pick a vegetable (like the tomatoes) and then start researching everything you can about planting seasons, companion planting, seed types & plant variety’s, crop rotation and seedling propagation.

This should lead you to even more research on the differences between Indeterminate (vine) and Determinate (bush) plant types, pruning practices, watering practices, plant pests & diseases and much, much more. You wonder why the back of the seed packets don’t tell you what the differences between the varieties are. You pick up the phone and spend a good half hour talking to the seed company sales and distribution manager and diligently writing everything down before requesting further information to be sent to you. Suddenly you realise that you are right back at the beginning again – Which seeds to plant and where?

The right way: Make a list of the vegetables that you would normally eat. Check our Planting & Harvesting Calendar to see which vegetables you should be planting at this time of year and go out and buy a packet of seeds for those vegetables. Quickly check the Plant Spacing Guide. Pick a suitable square in your SFG box and plant those seeds. It’s as easy as that.

Of course you still need to know whether those bean seeds that you are planting are for a bush or a vine variety so that you know whether to plant it in a trellised square or not (I like to have certain squares in my boxes permanently set up with a trellis and use only these squares for my vine plants). Again, check out the spacing guides for more info.

Don’t worry about all the different varieties of the same vegetable just yet, I’m sure that you will be trying many of them over the next few years to find your favorite but for now we just want to get you started.

Check our Planting & Harvesting Calendar
Check the Plant Spacing Guide

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21 Comments on “Choosing what to plant and where to plant it”

  1. Lyle says:

    Hi, please will you put up the planting and harvesting calendar. I am a little lost and any help would be great.

    • Mark says:

      Hi Lyle

      Thanks for asking. We have been away for a few days and I will put it up as soon as I get back this weekend.

      Where are you situated and what are you wanting to plant? What is your setup (i.e. are you planting in “protected” boxes or are they exposed to the weather)?


  2. Amanda says:

    +1 on the harvesting and planting calendar 🙂

  3. Mark says:


    We put one up a while back but I took it down again almost immediately to update/expand it and I’m embarrassed to admit that I never got around to completing it. Will look at finishing and re-posting it soon.

    • Amanda says:

      You could always try doing it in a Google Calendar, embedded into your WordPress post/page? Won’t be all that pretty… but there’s a nice Google calendar-Wordpress plugin that would display whats next on the planting season calendar quite nicely, I think… Of course, if you want it purty, with pics and stuff, you’d have to do that yourself. I’ve just moved into a new house – what can I plant now (technically Autumn, but still hot as Summer)?

  4. Adwina says:

    Hi Mark

    I only recently found out about square foot gardening, wonderful idea, especially if you are stuck with the terrible soil I have here in Kuilsriver, Cape Town. Is the ‘Mel’s mix only for veggies or can I use the create a Bulb bed also? I am also confused about the ratios of the mix, saw Amandas comment, but Mark in your article “How much to mix” you mention that 6 cubic foot peat bale is 170 liters, but expands to double it’s size. And you also mention that the vermiculite is also light. So do I use straight out of the bag or do I first fluff then measure (should all of this be very accurate?)
    I also read that people were struggling to find the products. I went to stodels (Bellville in Cape Town) and they had it all there.

    • Mark says:

      The “Mel’s Mix” is the ideal growing medium in the sense that it has the structure (light & fluffy), PH and nutrients as required by the widest variety of plants. Some plants however might need a more specialised growing medium – for example, roses and clivia’s etc might require a more acidic growing medium whilst carrots would require a more sandy soil. We want to keep this as simple as possible and we do not want to end up with a different growing medium for each plant, so we stick with the medium that is best overall (i.e. for the majority of vegetable plants) – Mel’s Mix.

      It looks like I will have to attempt another, simpler explanation for the whole “how to mix” process but for now, the mixing part is actually very easy – 1/3 part peat moss, 1/3 part vermiculite and 1/3 part compost… That’s it, simply take a bucket or other container and measure out one bucket of each!

      It is the “how much Mel’s Mix will I need for an ‘x’ sized box” and the “how much of each ingredient should I buy to get that quantity of mix” questions that generally present a problem, as each ingredient comes in bags that are measured in different formats (kg’s, liters, cubic decimeters and cubic feet). I will try and cover this in another article soon.

    • Blossom says:

      Hi Awina
      Also a very keen veggie grower in Kuilsrivier – maybe we could compare notes? from Blossom

  5. Conrad says:

    Can you point me in the right direction on the web to get planing calendar? I can’t find one for South Africa.

  6. JohnB says:

    Any news on the planting calendar, can’t eem to find one on your site?

  7. Carmen says:

    In your article, there is no link to the “Planting & Harvesting Calendar” which I very much would like to get. I also can’t seem to find one on-line anywhere. Not for South Africa at least. Could you please fix the link and make the calendar accessible. It would really be appreciated.

  8. David says:

    Hi Mark,

    I find your site very informative and I would also like, Carmen, really appreciate it if you restored the link to the “Planting and Harvesting Calendar”. I have spent a lot of time looking for one on the Internet but cannot find one for SA. I am looking at planting a basic array of vegetables and herbs for daily use and would like to get the planting seasons right.

    Thank you

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    my nice fruits and veggies for above. 0844702929


  10. Chris Rault says:

    Hey guys,

    For those of you looking for a list of what to plant when, I recently found this site which has a break down month-by-month. There is also an option to subscribe via email, so you get a reminder once a month.

    Hope that helps!

    Chris (Zeekoeivlei, Cape Town)

    • Mark says:

      Thanks Chris. Yes that is a pretty good planting calendar, just remember to select your climate zone from the drop down list at the top of the page 😉

      Also remember that all of these planting calendars (especially those that cover multiple large areas) are very generic. For example, the above mentioned calendar only has 4 climate zones for SA, we could actually break it down even further (into at least 7 different zones). Then you still have “micro-climates”… in urban areas for example, even in frost prone regions, you might not actually get any frost due to all the concrete and tarmac making things a tad warmer.

      Nothing beats good old trial and error in the gardening world. You would be surprised at what I have managed to grow in my little garden that, for the most part, goes against the grain nearly all of the “conventional” gardening wisdom out there.

  11. Mel says:

    So great to see something happening here … At last! I have bought the book but contact with others in the same boat/garden would be great. When is someone going to start a branch of sfg in Cape Town?!!!

  12. Chris Rault says:

    Yo Mark,

    Yup, I selected my region – and agree that it could definitely be broken up to be more region specific. That said, it’s better than nothing and has at least giving me something to try 😉

    I started my first veggie garden at the beginning of winter and it’s gone surprisingly well 🙂 Turns out I have a green thumb after all 😛

    As mentioned in my previous comment, I’m still figuring out the growing conditions for our area, but I’m in the process of setting up a community crop-swap, so I’ll soon be able to pick the brains of fellow gardeners in our hood.

    Another good resource I found is the website. It allows you to create a visual diagram of your garden, with each of your boxes/patches split into a grid, onto which you can drag what ever plants you have.

    As a bonus, they have a paid add-on that converts your beds to the square foot model. I haven’t purchased the add-on yet, as I need to figure out my specific growing conditions before I get any of the add-ons.

    @Mel – I agree! I got into a SFG a few months ago and apart from this blog, there isn’t much of it going down here in SA (at least not online that is!).

    Regarding setting up a branch of SFG in CT, there is nothing stopping us from setting up our own group, where we meet up once a month to share tips, seeds/seedlings, get advise, etc. I’m sure the folks growing in Zeekoeivlei would be interested in this, as they all seem pretty like minded. I think we could even use the Zeekoeivlei Yacht Club for the meetups. Where in CT are you based?

    PS, who else is excited for next month? Compared to what you can start this month, it’s like Christmas in July (or in this case September :P).

    Final note, one of my goals for this year is to get a personal blog up, to share some growing tips, post some videos of our own homestead, etc. I’ll share the link once I have something up 🙂

    • Mel says:

      Thanks for the speedy response. I live in Claremont ~ but my partner has a place at Marina da Gama. Both have minuscule gardens … I have yet to decide where to sneak some space …

  13. Chris Rault says:

    Have you considered trying out vertical gardening or growing in containers?

    I using square foot gardening for my boxes, vertical gardening on some of the walls and containers on the patio 😛 Gotta use whatever space you have available 🙂

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