How to Layer Soil Properly in Square Foot Gardens

What You'll Need
Lumber to build a box
Material for a grid like wood or plastic strips
Peat moss
Coarse vermiculite

If you are planning to create a square foot garden, one thing you need to be sure of is that you choose a method of layering the soil, and do it properly. A square foot garden is most easily described as a raised bed garden that is usually broken up into 1 square foot sections to isolate plants. Planting a garden this way can be done for a variety of reasons. One reason is that a square foot garden usually takes up less than 1/4 of the space of a traditional garden. Another might be poor local soil conditions. A square foot garden also requires a fraction of the seeds needed for a traditional garden, and cuts work time immensely.

Step 1 - Choose a Location for Your Garden

Before you get started on your garden, you will need to choose an ideal location. It should be easily accessible, but out of the way. It should get plenty of sun, but be protected from wind and harsh weather. It will also need to be near a watering source. The less hose you need to run, the better. It is recommended that you hand water your garden.

Step 2 - Choose a Design

In order to design your garden, you first need to determine what you want to grow. It is best to start out with a smaller garden at first so you don't become overwhelmed. Decide how many squares of each plant you will need and then add them up. Options for designs include a square design (often consists of two boxes of the same size), the long skinny row (consisting of a long row of two squares), the rectangular box, and the T-shaped design.

Step 3 - Build the Garden

The easiest way is to first build your box and then to build a permanent grid that will fit inside the box and sit on top of the soil. This grid makes choosing the square box design the easiest and most practical.

Step 4 - Layer the Soil

There are various methods of layering soil. Which one you use is up to you. According to the pioneer of square foot gardening, Mel Bartholomew, all you really need to add is a mixture of 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 of coarse vermiculite.

Others believe it is important to include a bottom layer of mulch, like grass clippings, leaves, or wood mulch, to add air under the garden and aid in drainage. After the bottom layer, you can add compost to the top.

A third method is to line the base with newspaper (no color newspaper), and to then layer compost and soil in until your bed is deep enough. The method you choose to use depends on your own personal taste and what is more readily available to you.

Step 5 - Lay the Grid and Plant

Once you have your soil in place, you can lay your grid over the top of the soil and begin planting according to your original plan.