Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How to Build a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden: Step 4 - Planning Your Plantings

First a note - Since this blog is basically also my garden diary, I'll also be updating my chart tables with anything I add or, if the seeds don't come up, anything I change. So, if by the time you happen upon this post things don't look the same between the picture and the table, that's why!

Also, in case you've hit this link off of Google, or are just now poppin' by, here's a recap of the previous links:


Step 1: Build a Box
Step 2: Dirt Mix
Step 3: Add a Grid (for Square Foot Gardening only!)
Step 4: Planning the Plants (You're here!)

Click HERE for all the Year One 2009 Square Foot Vegetable Garden Updates
Now... it's time to plant! If you're a regular reader, you know that I picked up some plants awhile back, even before I had my boxes ready. Well, they are finally in the ground and so happy because they weren't lookin' too great while they sat waitin' in those little cell packs through all that rain we had. They wanted some "real" dirt, and some nutrients, and they seem much happier now! But of course now, it's overcast and cloudy, barely any sun, and 4 days of rain forecast. I hope it doesn't drown my seeds or beat up my seedlings!

I have to say that I have never worked with soil this wonderful. I highly recommend Mel's Mix from the book or like me, as close as you can get to it. Anytime I planted before, even when I used a raised bed, I always worked with the soil I already had, and just amended it. This, is SO much better. I have high hopes for my veggie garden this year! I have a couple of squares left to plant so I think I'm gonna add some jalapeno peppers and some cilantro. I'm so excited to get my gardens finished - now I wait to see how they do. But right now, it's time to talk about the plantings in our new raised bed square foot garden!

If you are really interested in trying out Square Foot Gardening, I have to suggest that you pick up the book All New Square Foot Gardening because it contains all of the advice and guidance on how to plant the squares, and it's updated from the old version making it much easier and more sensible than the old SFQ methods. It's really just too much to try to cover in a blog post since some veggies - like squash - take up multiple squares, some squares can be planted with multiple veggies - like beans and carrots - and some are going to need vertical support - like melons, tomatoes, and cucumbers - and should be located in the back. It just depends on what you want to plant, and of course what area of the country (or world) that you live in! Not to mention that the author gives much more detail on the whole square foot garden theory than I could ever dream to do here. He is the inventor and originator afterall!! And, it's a great book, with lots of tips and other info - definitely worth a purchase.

What I can do here is show y'all what I am planting in my own raised bed square foot gardens, and hope that it gives you some inspiration to give this a try! Truth is, I do my gardening by trial and error - I am certainly in no way, shape or form an expert. And, while I have my standard things I like to plant - cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, beans, bell peppers - some of the seeds I have planted are old seeds that I don't even know whether they are even good or not... but I'm trying them anyway. And truth is, I should have started some of these seeds, like the herbs for one, a couple weeks ago in peat pots and transplanted seedlings instead of putting seeds right into the ground. So, if they don't come up, I'll try it again, or I'll try something else in that square - no big deal. Also, most of what I planted are warm weather crops and it might actually be a little too cool at night still for them to set blossoms, but I'm hoping that will give them time to establish some good roots, so I set them anyway. If they don't do well, I'll start over. Gardening is about experimenting.

And of course, I still suggest trying a raised bed even if you don't plan to plant a square foot garden (with the grids), but I have to tell y'all, I am really liking this whole grid thing! The garden certainly looks much neater and more organized, and it's so much easier to visualize the garden now! Let's hope that for a South Mississippi climate this method will work!

In the back of each of these beds, we'll be adding some vertical frames for the tomatoes and the cantaloupe to climb following the design and instructions that are in the book. These are fairly simple but strong supports using electrical conduit pipes, rebar supports, elbow connectors and trellis netting. (Hopefully I can find all of that!) And of course, I'll be blogging about it.

RESERVED indicates an unplanted spot that is reserved for an adjacent vegetable.
EMPTY SQUARE just means I don't have anything there at the moment but that it is available to plant should I decide to plant something there!

So here's what I have have done with my plantings (so far). The charts will be updated with anything that I add later, as I go.

First things first ... be sure to thoroughly check your plants for any bugs at the store, before you bring them home. Lift of the leaves - all of them - and give them a good inspection because I am convinced that my aphid problem came home on my plants. I've never had aphids before - and my pepper plants were thoroughly infested with them. By the time I knew that's what was going on, my plants were stunted, droopy, with curled leaves and in great distress. I may even have to replace them and start over! So check your plants ... at the store!

BED #1 - 4' x 4'

1 Big Beef Tomato (Indeterminate) 1 Big Beef Tomato 2 Cucumber (died) Square is Empty 2 Cucumber
4 Marigolds 1 Eggplant 1 Red Bell Pepper 1 Yellow Bell Pepper
Cilantro (replanted 5/16/09) 1 Dill 1 Chives Jalapeno Pepper (seed)

1 Basil (seed) 1 Oregano 1 Rosemary 1 Thyme (seed)

Mint if very invasive and should be potted alone. I didn't have a suitable pot when I found this mint plant, so once I do find one, this mint plant will be moved out of the garden! I just needed to get it in the ground at least temporarily.

In the pot behind the bed: 1 Roma Tomato (Determinate/Bush)
In a pot to the side, 1 Spearmint plant

BED #2 - 4' x 4'

RESERVED spot in this bed is for the Cantaloupe. 1 plant takes up 2 squares.

1 Big Beef tomato (vining) 1 Big Beef tomato RESERVED 1 cantaloupe (seed)
1 Green Bell Pepper 1 Green Bell Pepper 1 Green Bell Pepper 1 Green Bell Pepper
Lavender 6 Green Beans (seed Blue Lake Bush) Replanted 5/10/09) 6 Green Beans
Anaheim Hot Pepper (mild)

4 Marigolds 6 Green Beans 6 Green Beans 6 Green Beans

In the pot behind: 1 Bush Goliath tomato (Determinate)
In the pots to the right of the second bed (not pictured): 1 Quinault strawberry (root) (I realize this may not fruit this year, but found a root and wanted to try them); 1 Jubilee watermelon (seed) (might be waaaay too early on this but I'm trying it anyway!)

BED #3 - 4' x 8'

I had to split Bed #3 up into two separate charts to fit it in the blog post. The top 4 Rows represent the Left Side of Bed #3; the bottom 4 Rows represent the Right Side of Bed #3

RESERVED spots are for the yellow crookneck summer squash. Each squash plant takes up 9 squares and is located in the center of all of the squares.

Left Side of 4' x 8' Bed:

Better Boy Tomato (Indeterminate) Better Boy Tomato Better Boy Tomato Better Boy Tomato
RESERVED 1 Crookneck Summer Squash RESERVED 1 Green Bell Pepper

Right Side of 4' x 8' Bed:

Better Boy Tomato (Indeterminate) Better Boy Tomato Better Boy Tomato Better Boy Tomato
1 Green Bell Pepper RESERVED 1 Crookneck Summer Squash RESERVED

Side Pots: 1 Cucumber - Burpless Hybrid; 1 Big Beef Tomato


The marigolds were put in the garden as a deterrent against pests (hopefully!). You can place them wherever you like in the beds - the center would probably be the best location (thanks for that suggestion Kevin!). I plotted out where I wanted everything else, and the marigolds were an afterthought.

Since the Jungle Growth soil mix (from Lowe's) that I used contained several sources of compost plus some fertilizer, I did not amend the soil at all with additional fertilizer. The author swears that by following his perfect soil mix - 1/3 each of peat moss, vermiculite and blended compost (5 separate sources of compost) - your soil has all the nutrients it needs and no fertilizer is needed. Ever! (How is this possible??)

As suggested by the book since my plants were from cell packs - notorious for being rootbound {where the roots have started wrapping around themselves in a circle} - I trimmed off only the very bottom of each plant's root ball before planting. You only trim off maybe 1/4 inch or less, just enough to give the roots some space to branch out and send out little feeder roots. If you've got good homegrown from seed plants, or plants that have great roots, you don't need to trim.

I also cut off the very bottom leaves on each plant.

The tomatoes were planted just a bit deeper than the other plants to provide them with more stability. All other veggies were planted level.


  1. Mary, thanks for stopping by my blog. It's always nice to make a new friend. I really like your blog. I'm attempting to grow strawberries for the first time in my life...in my kitchen. Nothing grows outside. All I have is sand and rock. Wish I had seen your posts on raised planting before.

  2. Hi Teresa - thanks for swingin' over my way!

    This is my first time attempting strawberries in a long time. Course I'm not sure that I'll get any fruit this summer, but I found the roots and thought I'd give 'em a try anyway.

  3. Lookin' Good! My goodness you have a great variety. I am so lookin' forward to seein' how Mary's garden grows. LOL No really, I am very interested in the way you are doin' your garden this year. Will you be puttin' tomato cages over your 'mators and any kind of trellis for your vines?

    Mary, Thank you so much for drawin' my name on your giveaway. I'm lookin' forward to gettin' the fiber friend gift basket.

  4. Hey Rebel - did you email me your address yet?

    I know... Mary Mary Quite Contrary How Does Your Garden Grow? LOL.. yeah, I heard that all of my life. Although I never felt I was "contrary!"

    No cages in the square foot garden because I'm putting up a vertical frame structure from the square foot book up in the back of each of these boxes to tie the tomatoes to and (hopefully) for the cantaloupe to climb on. It uses conduit pipes, rebar supports, elbow connectors and trellis netting and is supposed to be really sturdy. We'll see! If I don't get to it, I guess I could stick the cages in the squares.

    I'm so frustrated with this post - I cannot see in the code what is causing this gap and it's driving me CRAZY!!

    Don't forget to email me with your mailing address!

  5. I love square foot gardening! I started doing it in the late 80's early 90's. It makes it so much easier!

  6. Oh COOL! Maybe you can give me some guidance along the way????!!!!

  7. Thanks for commenting on my blog! I love this and I've been working on getting some raised beds going. Unfortunately I have the perfect spot but it's covered in weeds and I don't know if I can clear it in time -- bad weeds, like blackberry bushes that are hard to get rid of and full of prickers -- but I love your tutorial!! Thanks!!

  8. Oh I am so totally jealous over those Meyer lemons!!! Hope you can get that stuff up and get a garden going. I'm anxious to see how mine does this year with the raised beds and the GOOD soil finally - have a feeling the squirrels are gonna be a pain trying to keep them away from it. And I just discovered I have a raccoon prowling around in my backyard too!

  9. WOW, talk about stumbling onto something completely awesome.

    I've already decided that once October comes around I'll be doing 2 of these beds.

    Now I'm just deciding all the things I want to plant with 32 holes to fill.

    Is there any restriction on what can be planted next to each other?

    And why not do the marigolds in the center?

    I'm probably going to sow seeds in pea pots about 3-4 weeks before planting as it's much cheaper and I canget more varities of certain things. Never seen onions or garlic plants for sale.

    Orlando, FL
    (under my wife's account)

  10. So Mel states that any plant that you put into the beds you must cut off the entire root ball ?!?!?!

    So you are just planting a stem? That doesn't seem logical at all, so hopefully i'm missing something

    (unless you were just talking about the Marigolds)

    Orlando, FL

  11. Hi Kevin! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

    First and foremost, keep in mind I am an amateur home gardener giving this 'all new' way of square foot gardening a trial run this year and blogging about my experience. So like I say, take what you need and leave the rest! I hope you find some helpful tidbits here and there from my experiences.

    As far as planting restrictions, I only planted the basics pretty much, and don't recall anything in the book. Not to say that it isn't in there - just don't recall seeing anything - at least not in relation to what I planted.

    I don't see any reason why you couldn't do the marigolds wherever you want them. I sort of plotted out where I wanted to put everything else and the marigolds went into the leftover spaces. I'm not really sure that they do anything anyway, I've just always included them in my veggie gardens.

    I had good intentions to start early with seeds and peat pots, but ... well, I procrastinated. Oh well...

    NO! You don't cut off the entire root ball!! You only trim off the very bottom - if they came from a cell pack and are a bit rootbound, which all of mine were and cell packs generally tend to be. If you've got good homegrown from seed plants, or plants that have great roots, you don't need to do that. None of my plants seemed to have suffered as a result of it, and {for now} they are all thriving, so I guess it was good advice!

    Best of luck with your beds!!


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