Are you frustrated with spacing plants properly, especially with Square Foot Gardening? The Seeding Square is the perfect tool you need for spacing plants.
Have you struggled with spacing your seeds or transplants properly?
Do you find you try to cram too much into too small a space? And then have plants that don’t thrive.
Or the opposite: not utilizing the space fully? And then you don’t get the full harvest that your space could produce.
Maybe you have tried square foot gardening as a solution but didn’t like the grids of string or lattice that is recommended.
What you need is a tool that makes spacing easier and faster, especially when you have a lot to plant in the spring.
That’s where the Seeding Square comes in. It provides that template you need to space your vegetable plants the right distance apart.
Why Square Foot Gardening?
Square foot gardening (or it’s metric equivalent, square meter gardening) was coined by Mel Bartholemew back in 1981 in his book Square Foot Gardening (available on Amazon).
The main practice of SFG is dividing up the planting space into squares that contain just the right number of plants based on plant spacing recommendations.
Plants are not planted in rows as in traditional gardening or agriculture.
The idea here is that as plants fill out, they shade the ground, suppressing weed growth and keeping the soil from drying out.
In order to divide the plant space (usually raised beds, although SFG can be done in traditional in-ground beds as well), grids of string or thin pieces of wood (lattice) are used.
Mel also came up with “Mel’s mix” to fill the raised beds used in SFG: 1/3 peat moss or coconut coir, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 compost. This mixture is supposed to be light and airy so easy to plant into and has all the nutrients for plant growth.
Compost is added every time you rotate your crops and plant something new in a square (this is called succession planting).
Why strings and lattice don’t work
In the book, the recommendation is to use either some string or some thin pieces of wood (lattice) to create a grid of squares across your raised bed.
I’ve tried the string method. I didn’t like it!
The string once strung gets in the way when you need to weed or harvest. Also it’s extra work to remove and restring when renewing the bed at the start of the new growing season or between crops.
Plus I used nails to secure the string on the edges of my raised beds and I can’t count how many times I kneeled on the nail heads trying to reach something in the bed! OUCH!
The lattice is a bit better in that you can make them removable. However it’s extra work to nail together the lattice and it will eventually rot away as it’s made from thin wood.
So ideally you need something that you grab from your garden shed and easily use when you plant. And that you can then remove, clean and store for next time so it’s not in the way.
That’s where the Seeding Square comes in. This tool is a template to seed and transplant your veggies in the proper spacing used in square foot gardening.
It replaces the cardboard templates you might have seen some square foot gardeners create. The cardboard template is a good cheap idea, however like most cheap ideas is not very durable, especially in the wet, dirty environment of a garden.
Can you use the Seeding Square if you’re not square foot gardening or growing in raised beds?
Not everyone wants to do square foot gardening in raised beds.
Maybe you don’t want to spend the money and time to build the beds and just want to plant directly in the ground. You can definitely use the Seeding Square for this type of growing.
You just won’t have a straight edge of a raised bed to guide the Seeding Square along, so you may need to use a string that you have staked along the edge of the bed or a long piece of wood.
Or you perhaps prefer planting in rows. The Seeding Square can work in this situation and even space out the rows, depending on which seed spacing holes you are using. More on that below.
What is included in the Seeding Square box
So let’s unbox the Seeding Square and see what you get.
- Seeding Square: a sturdy, colourful molded plastic template with coloured holes.
- Seeding Spoon and Wand: a round plastic cylinder with a spoon molded into it on one end. It has etched measurements along the length, marked off in 1 inch increments which is used to make holes at the proper depth. The spoon on the end can hold several small seeds (brassicas, lettuce, carrot) or one or two larger seeds (bean/pea). There is a molded depression in the Seeding Square to store this tool and both the Seeding Square and wand are magnetized so it won’t easily fall out.
- Funnel: this has it’s own spot underneath the Seeding Square, where it snaps into the central hole. It’s used to funnel seeds into the correct hole.
- Planting guide: this double-sided laminated guide has a list of veggies for each hole spacing/colour so you know how to space each type of veggie property. The back of the guide has brief illustrated step-by-step instructions of how to use the Seeding Square.
So let me show you how to use the Seeding Square.
Preparing the Soil
In square foot gardening, the soil used in the raised beds is called Mel’s mix. It consists of compost, vermiculite and peat moss.
While you can follow the recipe (and perhaps replace the peat moss with coconut coir as the latter is more environmentally sustainable), you can also use a garden soil/compost mix and amend it with such amendments like rock dust, organic slow-release fertilizer, etc.
The important thing is to make sure the soil is fairly fine consistency (but not over-tilled), is free of large chunks of non-decomposed material and has been levelled.
You can lightly fork your soil to make sure it’s not compacted. If you have problems with compacted soil, you need to mulch heavily with either compost, wood chips or mulch, especially in winter.
I don’t recommend roto-tilling as it can cause damage to soil tilth, bring up weed seeds and is extra work.
Once the soil is loose, I use a garden rake to flatten the surface and break up any clods of soil. I’ve found with the Seeding Square that any unevenness in the surface or large chunks of organic material that has not yet decomposed, causes issues with pressing down the Seeding Square to make it’s square impression.
And you’ll also find that with the wand/dibber included, you will have a harder time making holes if the soil is compacted or filled with large chunks of organic material.
If the soil is very dry you probably should water it lightly to at least get the first inch or so moist. This will help keep the holes you make with the wand open until you can throw in seeds or a transplant.
Pressing the Square into the soil
NOTE: remember to remove the included funnel from the bottom of the square before you use it. It snaps out easily.
Starting at one corner of your bed, place the square on the surface of the soil and lightly press it into the soil to make an impression all the way around it.
The square impression you make will then act as a guide for the square when you move it to the next location.
If you are planting in the middle of the bed as the photo shows, simply start at a corner, press the square in and keep moving it, lining it up with the previous impression.
In chunkier soil, I found I had to press quite hard. Ideally you want the surface of the bottom of the square to sit on top of the soil.
Deciding on Seed Spacing
You’ll need to decide what seed spacing holes to use. This is where the included Planting Guide comes in.
Just find the veggie you are planting on the Guide and where it is listed is the hole spacing to use.
If the plant is not listed, see if there is a similar plant either in the same family or with the same growth habits. You can then use that spacing.
Alternatively you can also use the recommended seed spacing in a row or the distance to thin plants to to determine the seed spacing in a square. Get that info from the seed packet or a seed catalogue. There is info in Mel’s book on how to determine the number of plants per square foot based on the seed spacing recommendations.
But in the end you want to space plants so that at their mature size they fill up their allotted space. It’s okay for plants next to each other to touch, although for plants more susceptible to mildew such as squash, cucumbers and melons you may want to make sure there is a bit of an air gap between plants.
Making holes of the correct depth
Now to make the holes. Use the included wand or dibber to press into the correct coloured holes the required depth.
Unfortunately the included Planting Guide doesn’t contain seed depth info so you’ll need to check the seed packet or a seed catalogue for the correct seed depth. Or if you subscribe to my weekly newsletter, you’ll get access to the PDF in the Homegrown Resources Library.
The increments on the wand indicate inches. So if your seeds need to be 1/4 inch deep, you’ll push the wand in about 1/4 of the way to the 1 inch mark. You do however need to consider the thickness of the Seeding Square as well, so this requires a bit of experimenting.
And you really don’t need to be that accurate. If you are off 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch, your seeds will likely still be fine.
If the hole is too deep: sprinkle in some soil from the surrounding area until you have the right depth.
If the hole is too shallow: use the wand to deepen the whole to the right depth.
Using the funnel to add seeds
The included funnel is handy to direct seeds into the holes in the Seeding Square.
It simply sits on top of the holes and you move it from hole to hole.
Keep the funnel dry otherwise seeds will stick to it and not fall into the hole in the soil.
Or not using the funnel
Or you can ditch the funnel and simply drop the seeds into the holes.
I can do so fairly easily but my daughter had issues, so using the funnel with kids is a good idea. And they like moving the funnel from hole to hole for some reason!
Using the wand to plant seeds
The included wand can be used to remove seeds from the seed packet. It has a small spoon-sized depression that can hold a number of seeds, depending on the seed size.
You can then use the wand to tap the seeds into the holes through the funnel (or without the funnel).
We found it doesn’t work that well for very small seeds, so you may still want to use the pinch and drop technique to be more precise with how many seeds end up in the hole.
Typically you want to add just one seed to a hole but if that seed doesn’t germinate, you are then left with an empty spot. It is better to add at least two seeds and then if they both sprout, you can pull one out or cut it at soil level.
Closing up the holes
Once you have seeds in all the holes, remove the Seeding Square. I found that if I move it to the next location already and press it down things went smoother. Otherwise when you close the planting holes, you might level out the ridge created by the edges of the Seeding Square when you pressed it down initially.
Now time to close up the holes to give your seeds the best chance to germinate. This literally means just using your hands or the garden rake to level out the soil and that will push some soil into the seed holes.
Then tamp down the soil a bit to firm it up around the seeds.
Give the seedbed a water with a fine spray from a garden hose or watering can.
For some seeds such as carrot seeds, I recommend covering the seedbed with some clear plastic sheeting. This will help conserve moisture. Just keep an eye on them and remove the sheeting once the seeds have sprouted and replace it with row cover.
Using the Seeding Square with Transplants – what is different
Alternatively you can also use the Seeding Square with transplants. You use the same steps to decide on spacing and make the holes to mark where the transplants will go.
Once the holes are made, remove or move the Seeding Square to the next location.
Using the holes you made, plant your transplants in each location. You may need to enlarge the holes with your fingers or a trowel.
I show how to do this with my onion transplants in this video:
Taking care of your Seeding Square
The Seeding Square is easy to clean. I just put it in my greenhouse sink and using an old kitchen dish brush, I scrub the dirt off.
It’s best to clean it after every use, otherwise dirt will build up and it’s then harder to clean later.
There really is no other maintenance to do. As a busy gardener and homesteader I like that!
What I like about the Seeding Square
There are many things I like about the Seeding Square, which is why I’m promoting it with this review:
- Easy to clean:the plastic seems to not stain from dirt and is easy to wash off
- Bright and cheerful: it often is mistaken for a children’s toy because of the bright colours. It does though make it easy to find the Seeding Square if you misplace it in the garden (except maybe in tall green grass).
- Hole size and colour: these are a decent size to fit most veggies seeds. The molded coloured inserts around the holes seem to be durable and able to withstand UV exposure. If the colours had been painted on, I would worry that the paint would eventually wear off
- Included funnel: this is great for little fingers if you have your kids helping you plant your garden or if they are lucky enough to have their own garden planter box like my daughter.
- Included wand: this is just the right size to fit easily in the holes in the Seeding Square. The included increments in inches is well thought out and eliminates the guesswork of trying to determine how deep the seed should be planted. The spoon is also handy to scoop out seeds from the seed packet.
What I don’t like about the Seeding Square
While it’s a very useful tool, there are a few things I don’t like about the Seeding Square which may require a few adjustments in how you use it.
- If you use the 9 or 16 hole spacing, the plants at the edges of your bed, might be too close to the wood sides of the bed. You can adjust this by placement of the square initially when you start.
- Trying to put just one seed per hole using the included seed spoon is difficult; it is easier to use your fingers and pinch a seed or two between them – the spoon is good however in getting a few seeds out of the seed packet easily. If the spoon gets wet then the seeds will stick together, so keep it dry.
- I’d prefer there being an even closer spacing for such veggies like green onions, which can be planted very closely together. You can compensate for this by simply making more holes between plants to plant twice as many.
- There is no printed guide to show seed depth. You have to rely on the seed packet or a seed catalogue’s planting guides to know how deep to push the dibber when making the holes. Or you can download my Plant Depth Guide for Seeding Square which is part of the Homegrown Resources Library which you get access when you subscribe to my weekly newsletter.
- The laminated Planting Guide is not waterproof. It can withstand some water drops on it, but water will soak through the edges into the paper if the edges get wet. I would recommend putting it into a protective clear plastic sleeve.
To buy the Seeding Square:
You may be able to find it in your local nursery or garden centre. Most well stocked ones have it.
Or find the Seeding Square on Amazon.
The Seeding Square is a handy tool that will make spacing out your plants much easier and foolproof. It will be a great addition to your garden shed and you’ll be eager to start your spring planting so that you can use it!
If you enjoyed this article, have something to add or have any questions, please leave a comment below.
Wishing you all the best!
Tranquil Urban Homestead, Victoria, BC