Recent Comments

How to Plant a Compact Vegetable Garden

What makes this compact garden so productive is that you will be placing plants close together in squares instead of traditional rows. You can continue to plant as you harvest.


What You’ll Need

  • Hammer
  • Saw
  • Shovel
  • Wire cutters
  • Tape measure
  • 4 4-foot 2-by-10’s
  • 16d galvanized nails
  • 2 6-foot 2-by-4’s
  • 4-foot 2-by-4
  • 49 feet of 12-gauge galvanized wire, cut into 7 7-foot lengths
  • 8d galvanized nails
  • About 1/2 cubic yard or 14 cubic feet of good garden soil
  • A sunny spot for your garden

What You’ll Do


1. Using the 2-by-10’s and 16d nails, hammer together a 4-foot square.


2. Nail the 6-foot 2-by-4’s to the back of the frame.

3. Nail the 4-foot 2-by-4 across the back of the uprights.

4. Attach the 7 wires on the back of the trellis by wrapping wires around nails.



Fill the frame with good garden soil. Divide it into 16 squares. The smaller the mature plant, the more you can plant in each square.

A Helpful Garden

Nail 5/8-inch or heavier exterior plywood to the bottom of the frame and lift the frame to table height by placing it on sturdy saw horses or legs. Once filled with soil, it will be easily accessible to a person in a wheelchair or someone who is more comfortable sitting than kneeling.

More Go Green! projects:

66 Comments on How to Plant a Compact Vegetable Garden

  1. Can you substitute different plants for the ones shown?

  2. You can often get used fencing from local fence companies. You can ask tree trimming companies of they’ll drop their haul of the day at your place for mulching. Flag one down in your neighborhood. You’d be surprised how willing people are to help establish gardens!

  3. I echo Sarina’s question what direction should it face?

  4. this may be silly, but what holds the bottom together? Like if I wanted to set it on sawhorses what would be holding everything together?

  5. What’s the best direction to face this garden. Should the vines face south so they don’t block the sun?

  6. Just Done // May 1, 2012 at 11:32 am // Reply

    Our local lumber yard suggested using cyprus for this. We did and it turned out great, light weight too. If we decide to move it to another spot in the yard we can before we fill it with dirt and seeds.

  7. Maybe a dumb question, but what are the measurements of this box?

  8. GrandmaMarilyn // April 7, 2012 at 4:17 pm // Reply

    This sounds great. Will have to have my hubby build one of these for me on the saw horses.

  9. If you use pressure treated wood can you use a weed liner around the box so that it doesn’t make direct contact or will that still hurt the veggies?

    • Yellawood is a pressure treated lumber that will not hurt your plants. You can get Yellawood at Home Depot.

  10. Can this type of planter be used on a deck or cement patio?

    • This can also be put on sawhorses for wheelchair gardeners. There is a book by Mel Bartholomew called Square Foot Gardening that teaches you this method and it is great. I got all my wood from construction sites garbage piles, and old litte league bleachers.

  11. This is such a great idea. One tip; putting lots of mulch around the plants will help keep the moisture in as well as help keep the weeds at bay.

  12. What would you say the average cost for the building materials is?

  13. Can lattice be used instead of wire, I’m not very hands on with building.

  14. Green Thumb // March 7, 2012 at 12:07 pm // Reply

    This is great! We have a built up small garden spot at our new home. It’s built up on the ground with bricks. I was wondering how to best plant the veggies this year and this is just the ticket!

  15. I have 16 veggies in my room. what about fruit?

  16. What time of year do you need to start planting veggies?

  17. @ Metallica, please give more details. Sounds like a great idea!

  18. Can you plant it in the ground but use the same design for the square?

    • Southern Gardener // April 6, 2012 at 10:32 am // Reply

      Yes, you can do it in the ground if you have good dirt. Most types of in-ground dirt is either too wet (clay) or too dry (sand). You have to know your dirt. Using good, loose, fertile, well-drained, near neutral dirt that has a lot of decayed organic matter will yield you a good start to a great harvest.

  19. Pine or spruce construction lumber will last a couple of years before the rot becomes significant. White oak lumber will last a lot longer although it is more expensive. Do not use pressure treated lumber with vetetables.

  20. If you wanted to substitute cantaloupe or watermelon, where would you put them? We would have a larger garden but I like the layout of yours.

  21. I have a table garden like this. Something to keep in mind is that you need to be sure to water frequently– more frequently than if the garden was sitting on the ground. The soil does not retain as much of the moisture as it would if it could leach moisture from the surrounding area.

  22. this is a square foot garden – check out the book called All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. Brilliant ideas! promise success if you use his recipe for filling the container – 1part vermiculite, 1part compost (mixed from different sources) and 1part peat moss. Makes for a light, fluffy fill that roots love and plants thrive in – plants grow like you can’t imagine! so worth it!!!

  23. Will be trying this!

  24. lettuce eater // January 13, 2012 at 2:39 pm // Reply

    Any ideas for small apartment living spaces 🙂 I have house plants and they always seem to get a pesticide. If I can grow indoors or in a hallway area with lots of light,I will try it!

  25. Why does it say 2×10 in the directions but not the supply list

  26. Been waiting for this. This is great.

  27. Hmmm…Any recommendations for type of lumber that won’t rot after one season? Maybe composite or something? I’ve seen some reaised bed kits made of composite/resin but they’re pretty expensive. Would love to built one myself but I want to be sure I’m building something that will last. Thanks!

    • Georgia Gardener // November 22, 2011 at 3:04 pm // Reply

      We used marine treated wood for our raised beds. We also lined the bottoms with 1/2″ mesh stapled to the inside bottom of the boxes to keep moles and voles out.

    • Pressure treated redwood will last for years and will withstand termites too! Redwood alone is great too:)

      • Pressure treated wood used for gardening will leach arsenic into soil & plants. Arsenic is used to pressure treat wood. There are other choices like cypress & redwood for example.

  28. Awesome idea! I think there may be a typo in the supply list? It say 4 – 2×4’s but in your instructions it says 2×10’s.

  29. TTC Camper // June 27, 2011 at 3:52 pm // Reply

    The compost and compost tea from the compost barrel works great as the soil for this garden.

  30. TTC Camper // June 27, 2011 at 3:50 pm // Reply

    You can make this garden smaller in size if you combine it with hydroponic gardening. I used a system like that to get my FFA State Farmer Award Philadelphia.

  31. We actually board raised beds last spring, but didn’t know “what next.” So, good timing for this info, and now we’re ahead of the game. Thank you so very much!!!

  32. I am not a fan of vegies but I might try home grown ones 😀

  33. Awesome info! Glad I found this!

  34. amazing small space with lots of possibilities

  35. cobblerman // July 12, 2009 at 7:21 pm // Reply

    This reminds me of the Square Foot Gardening method. If you look up that book, go for the revised version called “The All New Square Foot Garden”…or somtihng like that.

    • We’ve got 4 beds via Square Foot Gardening. Look it up. the soil composition is phenomenal. My son can’t get enough and I love that he’s learning to self-provide.

  36. thewrestler // June 11, 2009 at 6:11 am // Reply

    awsome i will try this

  37. I’m going to try this.

  38. i think its a good idea

  39. Thanks metallica! That’s a realy cool idea, I am going to try that with an apply and orange tree.

  40. Go Green!! This thing is awesome!

  41. I will try this!! Do I need to have drainage holes in the bottom of it? I will put it on sawhorses or legs.

  42. Countryboy96 // April 9, 2009 at 5:41 pm // Reply

    This also works really well in a larger area if you have one

  43. SailorDude // April 4, 2009 at 9:13 am // Reply

    For a larger scale of this principle check out the book “How to Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine” from your local Library. If you want to start a VERY productive produce garden in a relatively small area, this is the book to have!!!

  44. rabbit dude // March 30, 2009 at 3:00 pm // Reply

    I will try this

  45. spyscout123 // March 30, 2009 at 8:13 am // Reply

    great it will help prepare for the garden.

  46. another good way to get a bunch of fruit in one area is makeing a tree with branches that produce diffrent fruit. Its done by tieing the end of branches together for a few months and they will all make one tree. My Uncle Planted one of these and it produced apples, pears, and peaches. Real Cool

    • Gardener wannabee // February 25, 2012 at 11:33 am // Reply

      Please give more details. Are existing apple, pear, and peach trees growing close together and branches are tied together while still on the trees or what? Thanks! Sounds like a great idea!

  47. you can also hang window box flowerpots on the sides with marigolds in them to keep out rabbits and other small critters.

  48. Archeopteryx // March 28, 2009 at 8:32 pm // Reply


Leave a Comment

Please don't use your real name.