Garden Myths - Learn the truth about gardening

Square Foot Gardening

The idea of square foot gardening has become popular over the last few years and some of the underlying concepts of the this gardening technique make sense.

I was at an industry gardening show recently and spotted a plastic box for square foot gardening. I just started to laugh. What a silly idea!!!

square foot gardening

Square foot gardening box

Square Foot Gardening

To indulge in square foot gardening, all you need to do is divide your gardening bed into ‘imaginary’ 1 foot squares. You then plant the correct number of seeds or plants into each square foot area. You don’t need a square box. You don’t need little plastic strips to divide the surface into precise square foot sections.

It will probably surprise the manufacturers of this product that plant roots will just grow under their little plastic strips!

You don’t need a ‘plastic’ box for this type of gardening. If you want a raised bed, just bang some 2 x 8 wood boards together.

What is really sad about this product is that the gardener is probably growing vegetables because they believe in fresh product and in organically grown food. Then the manufacturer asks them to create an environmental problem by producing a plastic box. Plastic is not good for the environment, it does not compost, and most plastic leaches chemicals into the surrounding area ie your vegetables.

Don’t buy a product that you don’t need, and more importantly, don’t buy a plastic version of it!


1) Photo Source: Everyday food Storage

Robert Pavlis
Editor of
I live in southern Ontario, Canada, zone 5 and have been gardening a long time. Besides writing and speaking about gardening, I own and operate a 6 acre private garden called Aspen Grove Gardens which now has over 3,000 perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees. Yes--I am a plantaholic!

I hope you find Garden Myths an educational site that helps you understand your garden better.

4 Responses to 'Square Foot Gardening'

  1. john karanson says:

    Dear Mr.Pavlis,

    I appreciate your science based gardening/horticultural information that you share.Thank you.
    The above information on the plastic square foot,raised planting box had me thinking,how about a column “Don’t buy this literature”.I and i suspect a great many others have been grossly mislead on gardening techniques and practices via “books” that have been published aimed at the home gardener,For a person to publish gardening literature that grossly misleads so many people is unjust,selfish,and just plain wrong.I love to learn and i have no problems with learning from mistakes.Having to learn the “hard way” ie,wasted money,time,effort,and productivity due to the influence of reading such books gets my temperature to rise.Speaking for myself,square foot gardening is a complete waste period and for most others for that matter.

    Everybody is entitled to have and express their own opinions,but not their own facts.That is why science is so awesome,because it is still the truth,even when people refuse to believe it.

    • Many gardening books are full of incorrect information. I think that in many cases the author is a writer, and not a gardener. so they copy a lot of material from other places.

      I like your last paragraph – very true.

  2. Christian says:

    Hi Robert, I just stumbled on your site doing some research for our vegetable gardens. I have been an advocate of vegetable gardening for 20 years and doing raised beds for the past 9. I find the raised beds to be much easier to maintain. I initially build mind because I was having some back issues at the time, so I built mine tall and installed a rail I could sit on while weeding and harvesting. I basically stacked two 2x10s on top of eachother for the sides and made them 4’x8′. I also used compost, most of which I made myself for the soil.

    I totally agree that one does not need to buy a product like this to have good raised beds. I am curious about your statement about plastic leaching chemicals into plants. I did a quick search and the www seems to have conflicting reports on that. Do you have a source you can provide that explains how this happens?

    Also, when I built my beds 9 years ago, I was actually concerned about the lumber I was using. I wound up using pressure treated lumber but was concerned about that leaching chemicals into plants as well. Is there concern over that? What would you recommend using to construct a raised bed?

    • All plastics leach chemicals – that is well known. Even the plastic water bottles people buy do this.

      Do plants absorb the chemicals? That I am less sure about. Most chemicals will not be absorbed.

      The pressure treated wood produced in North America is now safe for vegetables gardens. low levels of leaching and any leaching that does happen does not travel far. I would use untreated wood. Lasts 8-10 years and can then be replaced.

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