Gardening Tips-Square Foot Gardening

— Written By and last updated by Chrissy Poole

Over the years, as our urban areas have become more crowded, the average yard size has decreased steadily. As a result, our landscapes have changed quite a bit, with certain plants and garden styles getting gradually squeezed out. Think about landscapes even in a small city like Roanoke Rapids compared to landscapes in suburban or rural areas. They really are vastly different, and this is primarily a function of lot size and proximity of one house to the next. Certain plants and plantings just don’t make sense in modern urban landscapes.
Vegetable gardens are one such element that seems to be missing from modern urban landscapes. Most city dwellers just don’t have the space to devote to a traditional row vegetable garden even if they wanted to. Fortunately, for those who are interested in growing vegetables in limited spaces, there are some options.
One such method that has been increasing in popularity is square foot gardening. Square foot gardening is a system developed by gardener and author Mel Bartholemew, and is described at length in his books Square Foot Gardening and All New Square Foot Gardening.
Square foot gardening is a system where vegetables are grown in one-foot by one-foot squares within a raised bed. Gardeners can arrange their beds in multiple ways, from a single square to as many as sixteen squares arranged four by four. Within each square, you can grow whichever vegetables you desire, with the spacing and planting density in each square varying depending on the ultimate size of the vegetable within that square. Large plants, like broccoli or tomatoes would have just a single plant per square, allowing sufficient room for each plant to grow to full size. Smaller plants like beets can be planted up to 16 plants per square, while others such as carrots can have 32 per square.
The main idea behind the use of squares and the spacing of vegetables within is to maximize the space available. Unlike in traditional row gardens, where there is generally as much empty space as plant-occupied space, there is no wasted space within a square foot garden.
Following the success of his books, Bartholomew established the Square Foot Gardening Foundation and began teaching his system in seminars around the United States. I am excited to announce that there will be a Square Foot Gardening Symposium held in Halifax on March 21-23. At the symposium, participants will learn how square foot gardening works, how to get started, help construct a square foot garden on site, and leave the symposium as certified Square Foot Gardening instructors, allowing them the opportunity to host classes of their own in the future. The training will be held at the Halifax Agricultural Center and is hosted by the Roanoke Valley Master Gardeners. The cost of the symposium is $165. For more information, contact me at 583-5161. To register, visit
Matthew Stevens is the horticulture extension agent for Halifax County Cooperative Extension. If you have any questions about this article or other aspects of your home gardening, please contact Matthew at 583-5161 or