Using excel for garden planning Part one: Laying it out

Excel is a great tool for garden layouts. Especially well designed for square foot gardening, with the ability to add some very functional and useful functionality. Staring with basic layout techniques, then moving to some colour coding and basic functionality. Then in Part three, add a full functional planting guide.

Part one: Basic Layouts and design.
Part two: Colour coding, Adding functionality with excel math. (auto cell counters, auto calculate plants needed).
Part three: Adding advanced functionality – making a full automated planting schedule.

I have compiled an excel worksheet I have used to do all the things in this article series. You can download it here as a zip file.


This has been updated to >> Click here

Part 1: Laying it out

This tutorial demonstrates the use of Microsoft Excel to create a square foot gardening plan. Additional tutorials will add on the basics started here.
To use this tutorial you must have ms Excel (I am using excel 2003), different versions may have different commands but all should have the same capabilities as demonstrated.

Step 1: Open a new Excel worksheet.

Step 2: If the drawing toolbar is not already turned on you can turn it on by

clicking view>> toolbars >>Drawing (check)



Step 3: Making a grid

Since square foot gardening is based on the square foot, a grid of equal height/widths is more representative for layout purposes. By making a proper square grid where one square in excel directly correlates to one square foot in the garden.
Select rectangle on drawing tools


    1. Draw a rectangle somewhere
    2. Right click on the rectangle
    3. Choose format autoshape
    4. Size tab: set height and width to same value (.3″ I’ve used”).
    5. Properties tab: check “Don’t move or size with cells” and press OK.
    6. Move rectangle to top right cell square with the axis (will go all the way into upper left corner).
    7. Click on empty box above 1 and beside A (will select all cells)
    8. Hover mouse over the grid line between A and B on top row,
      when move grid icon shows click and drag the line to square with the rectangle
    9. Repeat for the grid line between 1 and 2

You now have the appearance of a square (1 square = 1 square foot).
You can highlight and delete your drawing rectangle.

Step 4: Choose and/or indicate north for layout (Top of page is easiest).

W           E

Step 5: Making a box:
Simply select and drag in any cell will make a box of whatever dimensions you want (1 square = 1 square foot).

4×8 box:
Click on a cell, drag to make a 4×8 grid (will highlight)
Right click and choose format cell

Border tab:

        1. Click on a nice thick line under style
        2. Click outline (will make thick outer line)
        3. Click on thinner line under style
        4. Then click inside (will make lighter inside lines)
        5. * You can add diagonal lines as well



Step 6: Layout your boxes / Garden

Using your north/south/east/west directions and assuming square boxes, and the above procedure simply make your total garden layout. Leave two squares open between boxes at least and follow standard square foot gardening “rules” where possible.

I utilize a modified for me version of Square foot Gardening. This method allows for very high yields in a very small areas. There are very strong advantages to this method and it is a must for people with limited space and time. By my estimations I can supply a family of five with fresh vegetables, preserves and frozen vegetables for nearly an entire year on less than 1000 square feet (excluding grains).

The primary advantages of this method are:

• Easy weeding (vegetables actually shade out weeds)
• No rototiller (once the soil is productive a simple rake/hoe)
• Customizable soil mixtures per bed
• Greater productivity/yield per square foot
• Alot less water (plants shade themselves to keep in moisture)
• Beds warm quicker so you can plant earlier and extend your season
• Minimal thinning (plant fewer seeds)
• Easy pest control and mitigation
• Can quickly and easily change soils/plants

If you are interested in this gardening method, following books provide all the basics, rules and information and some more advanced techniques.



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