Traditional Garden Designs: Four Square Gardening

Designing a garden can sometimes be more stressful and time-consuming than actually planting and taking care of the plants. Should you plant vegetables and fruits in rows or clusters? Can you plant flowers in vegetable gardens? How do you get to the plants in the middle of the plot?

In case you are looking for a garden design that allows for ease of access to your plants as well as a traditional look, then a four-square garden is a design just for you.

History of the Four-Square Garden

Four Square GardenThe history of the four-square garden begins in Britain during the Black Death of the twelfth century. During this time period, landowners offered homes in the form of cottages and land to peasants who in exchange provided food for the aristocracy. To make planting and harvesting plants easier, gardeners often divided the plots of land around these cottages into four sections intersected by two paths. These two paths created the four smaller square gardens from which the four-square garden acquires its name. Because of the ease created by this design, gardeners continued to create four square gardens during the period after the twelfth century. The four-square garden design continues to be popular throughout the world.

Creating a Four Square Garden

Although the traditional four-square garden is located in front of the house, modern four-square gardens may be situated anywhere on your property. Wherever you choose to locate your garden, however, four elements must be present to make it an authentic four-square garden. The four elements necessary for a four-square garden are:

  • Four Square Garden DesignEnclosure
  • Entry
  • Four plots
  • Paths

To create your four-square garden, begin by choosing a section of your lawn large enough for the garden you want. Then prepare the soil by removing any grass, weeds, and other plants growing there. After you have created the foundation for your four-square garden, you will need to add the four required elements. Begin by creating an enclosure with an entryway in the middle of one side around the perimeter of your garden. You can use garden fencing, rocks, paving stones, brick, wood, hedges or any other materials that you would like. The entry can simply be a break in the enclosure or an actual gateway. Be creative to make your garden reflect your style!

After you have established an area for your four-square garden and built an enclosure, you are ready to work on the actual interior of the garden. Start by laying down a path system that intersects the garden to create four smaller gardening plots. You may also want to build a path around the inside of the enclosure to make accessing the four plots easier. You can use bricks, paving stones, mulch, wood planks, or any other materials that you find interesting to make the paths. Finally, you will need to plant the fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers that you want in your four-square garden. How you lay out your plants is up to you, but, in general, planting smaller plants near the edges and larger plants in the middle of the plots makes caring for your garden easier. The greatest benefit of four-square gardening is the ease of access to the plants.

If you’re not particularly green-fingered, however, your four-square garden doesn’t have to contain a huge number of plants. For example, you may want to turn one quadrant into a deck or patio to sit on and enjoy the sun. Deck King and similar decking specialists can build a deck for you, complete with lighting and space for a table and chairs. Another quadrant, meanwhile, could contain a fountain, statue or sundial. These decorative features require little maintenance, making them perfect for those too busy to garden. Alternatively, each quadrant could simply contain a potted plant display. Pot plants provide bright splashes of colour and are relatively easy to plant. They can also be moved, so if you fancy a change, pots can be swapped at any time.

Four-square gardening is a traditional garden design whose biggest benefit is the increased and easy access to the plants. Creating your own four-square garden is easy with these simple tips and instructions.


The Four-Square: A Classic Kitchen Garden Design:
Vegetable Garden Layout Ideas:

Image Credits

Four Square Garden 2011 Heather Johnson
Four Square Garden Design 2010 Heather Johnson

Written by Heather

Heather is a writer, librarian, linguist, wife, homemaker, homeschooler, and mother.


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