How to Build a Square Foot Garden Box

I’ve never been very good at gardening. I’ve pretty much killed every plant I’ve tried to grow, except for the little Christmas Cactus that’s sitting in my window. Still, the frugal part of me has always wanted to grow a vegetable garden.

Vegetable gardening appeals to me, because I can grow my own organic vegetables for less money than it would cost to buy them. At least that would be the result if I could succeed in keeping my vegetable plants alive.

Two years ago I read the book Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. If you’ve never heard of Square Foot Gardening, it’s a space-saving gardening method. Mel makes it sound so easy. But I was still scared to try. Until last week.

Last week I read about how Frugal Dad built a square foot garden, and he made it sound so easy! My competitive nature kicked in, and I decided if he could build a garden bed, surely I could too.

Saturday presented the perfect day to do this project. My husband and daughter were gone for the weekend, it was sunny outside, and I had a whole day to get this project done. I knew my son would be easily entertained. He likes to help build anything.

The Essential Supplies

We headed off to Home Depot to pick up our supplies. We bought

  • some soil
  • some wood screws
  • nylon string
  • weed blocking fabric
  • some boards to make the sides of our garden bed.

All I can say is thank goodness the Home Depot cuts the boards down for you, or we would have been in big trouble.

Building the Square Foot Garden Box

I’m not going to post detailed instructions for building the garden bed, because Frugal Dad explained it so well already. But I thought I’d give you the highlights (or lowlights) of my building project.

1. Lay Down the Weed Blocking Fabric and Stake it Down

Sam and I put the weed blocking fabric down first. Then he hammered in the garden stakes all by himself. So far so good.

2. Assemble the Boards into a Box

Next it was time to assemble our garden box. We lined up the boards at right angles. Sam held one of the boards, while I attempted to screw them together using my electric screwdriver/drill and one of the wood screws. The screw went halfway in, and then the drill started making horrible noises. I’d stripped the screw. That thing wasn’t going to go in or out. I even tried a pliers. Nothing. So off to Walmart we went to buy more screws. Being the frugal person I am, I only bought enough screws for the project at Home Depot.

Once we were back home, I decided it might be beneficial to drill a pilot hole first. I guestimated which size drill bit to use and drilled a hole. Then I tried screw #2.

Halfway in, I got the same weird noise from the drill. I guess the pilot hole was too small. So I drilled a bigger pilot hole. The third screw was the charm, and the rest of the box came together without too many problems. And I’m happy to report Sam didn’t learn any new words from me, as this project unfolded.

3. Move the Box to its Home and Fill with Soil

We moved the garden box to it’s permanent home, filled the box with soil.

4. Mark off the Squares

Marked off the squares with nylon string.

We haven’t planted anything yet, because we are still getting frost in the mornings. Soon though.

Lesson Learned

All in all it was an interesting day. I learned several things.

  • I’m a better computer nerd than I am a contractor.
  • With enough effort you can complete a project that you’re not good at.
  • Pilot holes are important.
  • It’s important that your pilot holes are the right size.
  • It’s not frugal to skimp on supplies. Better to be prepared for mishaps.
  • 5 year old boys are good helpers.
  • 5 year old boys have more energy and enthusiasm than grown women.
  • It’s possible to build something without swearing.
  • It’s very satisfying to complete a difficult project.

We’re looking forward to eating out of our garden this year. We have seeds for lettuce, scallions, squash, green beans, carrots, basil, cilantro, and marigolds (for pest control). I’ll also plant some tomatoes, because I love fresh, home grown tomatoes.

I promise to update on our garden throughout the spring and summer. Hopefully I’ll be able to report a bountiful harvest!

For more information on Square Foot Gardening, visit the official Square Foot Gardening website or read the book.

Do you garden? What do you grow? Have you started preparing your garden yet?

Photo credit: thelazydba


By , on Mar 10, 2008
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. Well we are finish tilling our old garden post winter to start a new vege patch so thanks for your tips. We just have to buy a few more seedlings and weed blocking fabric this year……the weeding takes way too long

  2. Dee:

    Great post on finally taking action on building your square foot garden. I love my square foot garden, which I have been doing for the past 3 years.

  3. If you put some black plastic at the bottom it will be more water efficent. Just google “wicking garden beds”

  4. Dena:

    Your post inspired me.I was planning my garden to do list when I came across this.Saturday my plants will come in.I can’t wait to get out there and see what happens.

  5. Krysta M:

    some extra hints.
    look into companion planting, more plants in small spaces. (like carrots & tomatoes),
    let one plant go to seed every year & you have plenty of seeds for the next year (lettuce works GREAT!)
    Newspaper works as a WONDERFUL weed barrier, you can use color or black & white, just don’t use magazines. Color pages used to be a problem, but that kind of ink is not used anymore.

  6. Thanks for the tip, I am going to try to build one myself next month.

  7. Andiora:

    A frugal alternative to weed barrier is newspaper. If you lay it down about three sheets thick it will prevent weeds and eventually turn in to compost. This sounds like a fun project. I might give it a try.

  8. Thanks for sharing, we will be gardening in raised beds next year at our new home!

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