How to Make a Square Foot Garden Without Raised Beds

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Many articles across the Internet will tell you that, if you want to make a square foot garden the “right” way, you must invest in raised beds. However, this is not the case at all. Anybody can start square foot gardening, so long as they have access to sunlight and natural soil.

This article will guide you through the process of making a square foot garden, without having to use raised beds. If you want to grow crops on a tight budget, or you can’t make major alterations to your garden, keep reading for six handy tips.

Plan the Layout of your Square Foot Garden

Before you plant anything, you must decide how your square foot garden will be laid out. The layout will heavily depend on how much you want to grow, as well as the specific seeds you’re using. No matter what, though, you will need walkways between your beds so they can all be accessed easily, without trampling over your soil.

Decide on Your Square Foot Garden’s Width and Length

The length of your square foot garden doesn’t particularly matter, but it is recommended that beginner gardeners start with a small garden. This way, your plants will be easier to maintain.

You should keep the width of your beds relatively small so that it’s easier to water and weed your plants. Between 3 and 6 feet is an ideal width, but feel free to use your judgement on this. The most important thing is that you should be easily capable of reaching the middle of each bed.

Ensure Your Square Foot Garden is Protected

When using raised beds, your plants are better protected from footfall and natural elements. However, you can still keep them shielded from harm without having to invest in raised beds. If possible, place your square foot garden in a secluded area that will still get adequate sunlight, and remind visitors not to walk over the delicate soil.

Choose Which Seeds to Plant in Your Square Foot Garden

The main difference between raised bed and in-ground planting is that some crops will grow much better than others. You should choose plants that will grow best in natural soil. Some examples are listed below.


This is one of the most versatile crops and will grow in almost all conditions. The seeds only need to be planted a few millimetres deep and, as long as they’re regularly watered, they are easy to grow. Lettuce is a perfect starter crop for budding gardeners.


Tomatoes will grow even in poor soil and are incredibly resilient. If you choose this crop, you should consider growing them on a pole or trellis, because the fruit can often grow too heavy for its vines.

Sweet Potatoes

These delicious vegetables will happily grow in rough soil. They do not thrive in overly moist conditions, though, so make sure your soil is not too wet.

These are just a few examples, but you’re free to do your own research. You may find it beneficial to grow your favourite fruits and vegetables, which can be eaten upon harvest.

Prepare the Soil For Planting

With raised beds, you have the luxury of choosing top quality soil. However, creating an in-ground square foot garden relies on the dirt from your garden. Often, you will need to give your soil some TLC to ensure your plants will thrive. Here are some things you can potentially add to your soil to improve its quality.

  • Fertiliser – to give your plants extra nutrients
  • Compost – retains moisture in the soil
  • Mulch – to reduce evaporation and weed growth

If you’re just starting out with gardening, it can be difficult to determine the type of soil you’re working with. This webpage provides handy tips for determining what soil you have. Once you know this, you will know what crops work best in your square foot garden and how to improve the soil.

Make sure to give your seeds plenty of space to grow underground (six to eight inches is ideal for most plants). Dig the soil so it’s nice and loose,  but be sure to level it before planting.

Decide How You’ll Split Up Your Square Foot Garden

The most distinctive characteristic of the square foot garden is that it’s divided into sections of one square foot, hence its name. You may choose to buy a square foot grid for your garden, but it usually isn’t needed, especially if you aren’t using raised beds.

There are a number of cheaper and easier ways to divide up your square foot garden. You can use something as simple as string; however, if you’re looking for something sturdier, you can use wood. This can even be recycled from old pallets, meaning you won’t have to spend a penny. Just make sure that you use a ruler and/or measuring tape to ensure that each section is the exact same size.

A major benefit to not having raised beds is that you don’t even have to use physical dividers if you don’t want to. A seeding grid will allow you to place the seeds in the exact places for optimum growth.

Plant the Seeds Into Your Square Foot Garden

The seeds you choose will determine how they are spaced in each section, and there can be anywhere from one to 16 seeds per square foot.

Here is a good general guide for types of seeds and their placement in a square foot garden. There may also be instructions on the seed packet, so be sure to check. It is vital to ensure you follow the correct seed placement to avoid overcrowding, as this will prevent your plants from growing correctly.

Keep Your Square Foot Garden Well-Maintained

Like any gardening process, it is vital that you maintain your square foot garden. If you follow these maintenance tips, you are sure to be rewarded with delicious homegrown fruits and vegetables.

Control the Weeds

The compact style of a square foot garden means you will experience less weeds, but they are undoubtedly still a concern. The risk is increased by not using raised beds, but this does not mean that weeds cannot be controlled.

You can’t pull the weeds from the root because it would destroy your other plants. Rather, use scissors to cut them as close to the base as possible.

Figure Out How Often Your Plants Need to be Watered

It is sufficient to water your plants every day to begin with, but pay attention to the growth of individual crops as some will inevitably need watered more often than others. The correct amount of watering is arguably one of the best ways to ensure optimum plant growth.

Rotate Your Crops

When it’s finally time to harvest your crops you will be keen to plant more seeds. However, make sure you never plant the same seeds twice in one area, since this will attract more crop-specific pests. Rotating your crop pattern will ensure longevity in your square foot garden as well as continued plant growth.

Is Square Foot Gardening Worth It?

Square foot gardening is (incorrectly) assumed to be a difficult and expensive hobby, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. There are several advantages to using this technique over regular gardening, which are heightened by choosing not to use raised beds.

  • Optimises space by growing many crops in a small area
  • Attracts less pests and weed growth
  • Easy to set up and maintain

The main benefit of not using raised beds for your square foot garden is that it is much cheaper. It can cost tens of dollars to build a single raised bed, and these will become damaged over time. Additionally, raised beds are usually permanent, whereas growing in-ground means you can always change your set-up at a later point.

Indeed, square foot gardening is an excellent way to garden on a budget and with a small amount of space.


Square foot gardening without raised beds is perfect for those who are just starting to enter the world of gardening, but can also be a pastime for more experienced gardeners. It is definitely a less popular option than using raised beds, but it is certainly doable and even the favourable option for many. With this article, you will now be able to make your own square foot garden.