Square Foot Planting Templates

Last week I was faced with planting 512 carrots and wasn’t looking forward to poking 500+ holes in the soil using the method I’ve used for 17 years.  Basically, I use my fingers to make two holes at a time.  I love pulling up and eating the carrots that I grow, but I was dreading planting so many at one time.  Utilizing my tendencies toward laziness as a motivator, I came up with a tool that will not only save me time and effort with this particular planting, but is something I can use for many years to come.  It is a template that marks out a square foot and punches 16 holes, just the right size, exactly where I need to plant.  With carrots that can save quite a bit of time and only took me 20 minutes to build.  It worked so well that I used the extra plywood to make one for 9per SF (which I used to plant onions this week) and 4per SF.


  • 1 – 2’x2′ square piece of 1/2″ plywood.  You can use thicker if you want, but I wouldn’t go thinner. (Home Depot)
  • 16 – 1″ coarse thread drywall screws (Home Depot)
  • 16 – 5/8″ wooden beads with holes in the center (Michael’s)
  • 1 – Handle from a EP 4 in. Square-Notch Trowel (Home Depot)  Make sure you flip it over and can see the screw heads that hold the handle onto the plate. It cost me $2.79.


  • Measuring tape
  • straight edge
  • Saw
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Drill
  • 1/8″ drill bit
  • 3/8″ drill bit


  1. Take the plywood and cut a 1’x1′ square piece from it.  I planned on making other templates, so I cut mine in half each direction making 4 – 1’x1′ square pieces.  If you don’t have a saw, you can get it cut at home depot.  I believe the first cut is free.  For those who lay down strips to mark your square feet you will need to adjust the size of the plywood squares to fit between your marker strips.
  2. On one face of the plywood, use a straight edge to make a line from one corner diagonally to the opposite corner and repeat for the other corners so that you have two lines that make an “X” across the board.  This helps you find the center of the board.
  3. Measure from the left edge to the point where the “X” lines meet keeping the ruler parallel with the bottom edge and then measure and mark that distance at the bottom and top edges.
  4. Use the strait edge to draw a broken line from the bottom and top edges.
  5. Turn the board a quarter turn and then repeat steps 3 and 4 so that you have a cross through the center of the X.  These are the center lines that you will use to lay out the grid where you will screw on the beads.
  6. Next from the center-line running from the top edge to the bottom edge measure and mark to the right along the bottom edge at 1 1/2″ and 4 1/2″ and do the same along the top edge.
  7. Draw lines from the top edge marks to the bottom edge marks parallel to the center-line you measured from.
  8. Repeat 6 and 7 on the left hand side of the center-line.
  9. Turn the board a 1/4 turn so the marks you just made run horizontally and repeat 6 – 8.  At this point it should look like a grid with an “X” through the center.
  10. Then turn the board over and mark another diagonal line from one corner to the other.
  11. Take the trowel and unscrew the handle.
  12. Use the holes in the plate to make marks along the diagonal line for the the handle.
  13. Use the 1/8″ bit to drill the 2 holes.
  14. On the side of the board with the grid use the 3/8″ bit to drill those holes halfway through the plywood for a countersink .  Use a light touch to make sure you don’t go deeper than halfway though the plywood.
  15. Screw the handle onto the opposite side of the plywood from the grid.
  16. Finally take the beads and screw them to the grid where the horizontal and vertical lines meet excluding the center-lines.


Here are a couple of other templates that I made.

How To Use

To use I simply place the template in the corner of the bed and press down on the handle.  I then press on the flat part of the board lightly, just enough to make well defined marks.  It not only marks the holes that I drop the seeds in, it also marks the square foot.  I simply line up the edges marked in the dirt with the edge of the template and mark my next square.  I had 512 holes ready for carrots in less than 5 minutes.  Before the template just laying everything out and marking holes with my fingers for that many carrots would have taken 20 minutes and my fingers would have been a bit sore.

This project may not be worth doing if you’re only planting a few squares at a time, but for those that plant a lot it is well worth the effort.  It took me longer to round up the tools than it did to make my new favorite garden tools.

8 comments to Square Foot Planting Templates

  • Furbalsmom

    Great Job Richard.

    That’s a neat trick and for someone with a lot to plant, quite a time saver, especially in subsequent years. Plus it saves your poor little fingers. If those two had to punch that many holes, they really would be sore.

  • Richard

    I really wish I had made them a few years ago, but I just figured out the bead part that makes the holes big enough and not fill in once you lift the template up. You can even put bigger beads on if you need to.

  • This is cool, I can also see getting bigger beads for deeper things like garlic and onions. Thanks, I’ll have to make one of these, more for my 5yo grandson helping out in the garden, as I am on a smaller scale, but then I’m also for working smarter, not harder too…..

  • Rachel Pyle

    What a great idea…wish I had thought of it!

  • Richard

    @Valerie-If you do put bigger beads you’ll need longer screws. The 1″ guys barely go into the wood. I used 1 1/4″ on one of my templates, but they went all the way through so I had to grind off the tips. When used my 9/sf I simply used the holes it made as markers and my soil was loose enough that I could shove the onion deeper and cover it up.

    @Rachel-Thanks so much. I wish I had thought of it sooner.

  • Jeannie Beannie

    Oh My! You have come up with the absolute best tool ever for helping my friends with special needs plant their own gardens! It is difficult at best to get someone with limited mobility to make an individual pencil hole without let alone dicuss spacial issues and planting seeds in a grid, etc. THANK YOU! Thank you! :-)

  • Richard

    Wow. I hadn’t even thought about that. I’m so glad people are finding this as useful as it is for me. Thank you.

    Do they use beds that are elevated or are they on the ground?

  • Caitlin

    Yes! I agree with Jeannie, as I teach Pre-K (ages 4-5). I could even add numbers/ruler to it so that they still have the visual of measurement, but more freedom to plant the seeds independently. Very nice!

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