Square Foot Gardening
Role of Teacher
Square Foot Gardening Cards / Rulers (enough for each student) / Chalk
- Square Foot Gardening is a method of gardening that aims to maximize garden production by planting vegetables close together, thus being able to grow as many fruits and vegetables as possible in gardens with limited space. A grid system is used and each plant is assigned a certain amount of space to grow within each 12-inch by 12-inch grid (one square foot).
- Square Foot Gardening and Companion Planting work hand in hand! When planting a square foot garden, many companion planting groups are utilized. Just as the Three Sisters planting group helps each plant receive proper nutrients and protection from insects, the Three Sisters planting group also helps each plant maximize their growing space. The beans grow up the corn, giving the squash enough room at the base to spread out. In a space where only one plant would previously have been planted, now three plants can grow, thrive and be productive!
- Each plant is assigned a number based on how large they grow and how many can fit in one square foot space. For example, tomatoes take up the entire square foot, while smaller vegetables like radishes can be planted up to 16 times per square foot.
- The advantages of square foot gardening include being able to maximize fruit and vegetable production in a small space, minimize the amount of weeds that grow (because there is no room left for them!), and maintain and enjoy an orderly and organized garden that will impress your friends and family.
Topics / Goals / Learning Objectives
- To understand the method of square foot gardening.
- To understand how to measure using a ruler and be able to recognize the different between inches and feet.
- To be able to recognize the general size of most plants and how to space them accordingly in a garden.
Opening / Hook
Welcome to the garden! Today we are going to learn about a new method of gardening only created in the 1980’s! This method is called square foot gardening. Can anyone guess, or does anyone already know, what square foot gardening means? (Allow time for brainstorming.) Square Foot Gardening is a method of gardening that aims to maximize garden production by planting vegetables close together, thus being able to grow as many fruits and vegetables as possible in gardens with limited space. This is especially important for those of us who live in cities and don’t have large backyards to grow large gardens.
When going over the following, omit math questions if students are not familiar with multiplication and simply just give the students the answers.
In square foot gardening we plant on a grid with each square being one square foot. What does it mean to have a space that is one square foot? What shape do you think that looks like? (Allow time for brainstorming.) Yes, one square foot is in the shape of a square and means that each side of that square is one foot. Now, how many inches do we think are in a foot? (Allow time for brainstorming.) Yes, there are 12 inches in a foot! Great job! Who knew there was so much math in gardening? One last math question: if we have a square that is 12 inches on each side, what is the area of that square? In other words, how many inches are inside of that square? To find the area of a square foot, we multiply the height by the length. So which two numbers will we multiply? (Allow time for brainstorming.) That’s right, we will multiply 12 by 12. What is 12 times 12? (Allow time for mental math or for students to take out their calculators if on hand.) 144! There are 144 inches inside of one square foot. That’s a lot of inches, which means there’s a lot of space to grow many fruits and vegetables.
Today, we are going to play a game to see what it looks like to plant our garden using the square foot gardening method. Let’s begin!
Procedures / Activities
- Welcome students to the garden and introduce the lesson with the Opening above.
- Distribute the Square Foot Gardening Cards, rulers, chalk, and split the class into groups of 4-5 students each. Each group will work together to:
- Measure one square foot with their rulers and trace the space with their chalk.
- Reference their Square Foot Gardening Cards to “plant” as many plants in their square foot garden as possible while following the spacing instructions for each fruit and vegetable.
- Once each group has received instructions, they can begin. Walk among the groups and answer any questions they might have pertaining to math or otherwise.
- When each group is finished, check to make sure that they have followed the proper spacing rules for each plant. Once everyone has created a successful square foot garden, have each group tour the other groups’ gardens and see how each plot is different and/or similar.
- Once everyone has seen all of the garden plots, gather the students back together and discuss how the gardens utilized the same planting or completely different planting groups. Ask if anyone remembers the lesson on Companion Plants from last week. Did anyone use Companion Plants in their gardens? Which ones?
- If there is time at the end of the lesson, have students in their groups take their rulers to different beds and measure how many square feet are in each bed. This will give us an idea of how many fruits and vegetables we can be growing this year.
Extensions / Adaptations / Games
Test the students to see who can remember Companion Plants from last week’s lesson. Do any of these Companion Plants fit well together in Square Foot Gardening? Which ones?
Credit for Adaptation
Planning the Garden: Square Foot Gardening and Companion Planting, The Edible Schoolyard Project. www.edibleschoolyard.org