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There is no law that states that square foot gardening has to be in raised beds in your yard. Despite what you see on the internet, the square foot gardening method transfers beautifully to a conventional row garden.

Square foot gardening in your yard without a raised bed is definitely worth it. It helps you grow even more food in the same space, which in turn, gets you closer to food security. It’s simple to follow for beginners too!

I’ve personally been using the square foot gardening method in my traditional space with great results. Here’s what I’ve learned so far!

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You Can Still Garden in Rows, Just Make them Wider

Instead of gardening one row by one row, you’re going to squish some of the rows together into a condensed, wider row. Then your pathways will become your new rows. Market gardeners use this system, using 30-inch rows, spaced 18 inches apart.

For my raised beds and my in-ground square foot system, I use 3-foot by 5-foot beds in most of my garden. Most gardeners suggest 4-foot by 4-foot beds, but I’m a bit short, so I find that a 3-foot width works better for me.

Use the Seeding Square for Perfect Spacing Every Time

This seeding square is the easiest way to space out your flowers and vegetables perfectly every time. It spaces your seeds apart with the right space requirements that a plant needs in a square foot. Rather than doing the math to make sure you’re taking advantage of your space, the seeding square makes things so much easier!

It also comes with a handy sheet so you know the right spacing for every single vegetable. The colour coding makes it all practically foolproof. You can also read Mel Bartholomew’s book, Square Foot Gardening, for more information. Or just go ahead and buy the seeding square for super easy planting!

Need some more inspiration to try square-foot gardening? Check out my other blog posts on the topic:

Arrange Your Garden As If You Were Planting in Raised Beds

In the first photo, you can see how I planted my garden exactly as if I had raised beds. I just didn’t use any wood. This is a great option if you have an area with good soil, there’s really no need to raise your beds, or you want to maximize your space. It’s also a lot cheaper to do it this way without the raised beds.

Soil and wood add up. For our raised beds, we found we were spending $50 per bed for materials, and another $50 for soil (and delivery fees). The price of wood has gone up substantially in the last few years, so I’m sure it’s even more expensive now. By growing your garden as if it was in raised beds, you get all of the benefits and almost none of the expense.

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Powdery Mildew Might Become an Issue

The only downside to square foot gardening in a conventional garden is that there is not as much airflow. Therefore, powdery mildew can become an issue for your squash plants. However, if you stick to the spacing in the seeding square, and try to grow vining plants like cucumbers and pumpkins up and not out, you shouldn’t have too many issues.

Here’s how I stop powdery mildew from taking over my garden.

You Still have to Weed, But it’s Going to Be a Lot Less

Closer spacing between the seeds shades out the weeds, so as long as you do the initial two weedings when the plants are small, you likely will barely have to weed after that.

You can cut your weeding down even more by adding mulch around the plants after those two initial weedings. If you want to learn more about what mulch is and how to use it, check out this blog post.

And finally, if you really want to up your small space gardening game, you’ll want to grab a copy of Small Garden, Big Harvest. It’s everything you need to maximize every inch of growing space you have available. Grow enough produce to have something fresh from the garden every week, and feel more at peace knowing you’re contributing to your food security in some small way. Click here to find out more!

Rachel Kay

Rachel Kay

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Hi, I'm Kristen and I help new gardeners learn to grow their own vegetables and beautify their yards. I also share recipes that use all that delicious garden produce. Grab a coffee (and your gardening gloves) and join me for gardening tips, simple recipes, and the occasional DIY, all from the lovely city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

P.S. First time gardener? You'll want to download the quick start gardening guide below!