Building a Square Foot Garden Box

by Jennie Ward
(last updated August 12, 2016)

When you begin planning any garden there are many things to consider. One of the most important things to look at is the area where you live and the growing season you have to work with. For example, if you live in Florida, you can plant your garden much earlier and have a longer growing season than if you live in North Dakota. Different plants will grow better in specific climates. There are also circumstances when you might want to start your plants inside and then transplant them to your outside garden when they are big enough to grow in an outside garden.

One of the great benefits of square foot gardening is the small amount of space that is required. This makes it easier to place your box closer to your house where it will be easier and more convenient to take care of. One important thing to keep in mind when selecting a location for your garden is the amount of sun your plants will get. In general, plants will grow better if they have more sun.

After you have decided on where to locate your garden for the best results, you are ready to build the box. For this project you will need to gather some materials and tools.

Materials:

  • Four pieces of lumber, 2 inches thick, 6 inches high, and 4 feet long
  • 12 deck screws for the sides and 50 deck screws for the back and the grid
  • A 4 foot by 4 foot piece of 3/4 inch plywood or a 4 foot by 4 foot weed cloth
  • Compost, vermiculite, peat moss
  • Six 2 inch to 3 inch wooden slats, 4 feet long or nylon string
  • Drill, shovel, garden hose and water, and a saw if you need to cut your lumber

You never want to walk on the soil in your garden. For this reason, 4 foot by 4 foot is the best size because you can easily reach every plant from the edges of the box. If your garden will be against a barrier such as a wall or fence, then your box should be no wider than 2 feet so that you can reach everything without walking on the soil. You can build as many boxes as you want, just leave about 3 feet between them so that you will have easy access to your plants.

Building your box is easy and it can be made from lumber, blocks, or stones. This article will focus on the most common type of box that is made from lumber. Pine or fir will most likely be the least expensive while cedar or redwood will last longer. Avoid using treated wood. The chemicals can seep into the soil, and ultimately, your food.

You'll need four boards that are each 2 inches wide, 6 inches high, and 4 feet long.

  1. Arrange your boards into your square foot gardening box.
  2. Secure the boards together with 2 or 3 deck screws at each corner.

Now that the sides of your box are ready, you will need to create a bottom for it. There are two choices; plywood or a weed cloth.

Using the weed cloth is easy.

  1. Move the box to the location you have selected.
  2. Remove any weeds or grass from the area.
  3. Cover the ground inside the box with a weed cloth. This will serve as the base for your garden and will help prevent weeds.

To make an actual bottom you will need to grab your drill and a sheet of plywood that is the size of your box, in this case 4 feet by 4 feet. The thickness of the plywood you need will depend on the size of your box. For this 4 foot by 4 foot box, use 3/4 inch plywood.

  1. Drill 1/4 inch holes in the plywood every 12 inches plus one in each corner. This will help with drainage.
  2. Screw the plywood onto the box frame with deck screws and your garden box is ready to go.

If working with lumber and tools aren't your thing, you can purchase a pre-made box. These cost more, but are easy to put together and work just as well.

With your box built, you are ready to add the soil. The traditional blend for square foot gardening is to use a three-part mix: 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 vermiculite. These can be found at any nursery and contain the nutrients needed to nourish your plants. The type of soil will also help retain moisture and keep the soil aerated, which will make your job easier.

The final step of building your box is to add a grid. The grid separates your garden into square foot sections so that you can easily plant, harvest, and re-plant that square. You can use anything that is chemical free. Traditional square foot gardens only use a permanent grid made from untreated wood or other materials that can be secured permanently. If you don't mind replacing the grid periodically during the season, something such as nylon rope would work as well. Regardless of the material you use for your grid, it will need to be in place all season and should be attached to the box as follows:

  1. Place the slats on the box every 12 inches, creating a grid with 12-inch squares.
  2. Secure each slat in place on the edges of the box using deck screws.
  3. Connect the slats together within the box where they intersect.

You are now ready to plant your garden.

Author Bio

Jennie Ward

Jennie is a writer at heart. She enjoys sprucing up her home and yard and loves finding new ideas for home improvement projects. Jennie has a BA degree in journalism from the University of Georgia. ...

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