3 Raised Garden Bed Layouts and Growing Plans to Get Your Garden Started

Figuring Out Spacing in Garden Beds

In raised garden beds, spacing is much tighter than in conventional ground-level garden beds, resulting in higher yields from a smaller space. In French intensive gardening, crops are planted two to five times tighter.

There is very little to no bare soil, which makes it more difficult for weeds to grow. However, this type of close spacing only works if the soil is rich and has been amended with plenty of organic matter and the nutrients in the soil are replenished on an ongoing basis.

How Deep Should a Raised Bed Be?

The minimum for crops with shallow roots such as lettuce, spinach, and kale, is a soil depth of 6 inches. Crops with deep roots need about 36 inches of soil. If the soil below the raised bed is of good quality, the roots will continue to reach into that soil. As spacing in a raised bed is so tight, soil depth is especially important to give the roots room to grow.

3 Layouts for Raised Garden Beds

There are oodles of options for raised garden bed designs that suit any budget and space. Raised bed designs can be purely functional, basic, and inexpensive or elaborate and stylish; they can be temporary or permanent and moveable or stationary. The choice of materials is just as vast. Here are three basic layout options:

Small and Moveable

Grow bags, flower boxes, and milk crates are great low-cost options for moveable raised beds to grow herbs, lettuce, and other crops that require little space and depth, such as radishes. Grow bags are also suitable for individual larger plants, such as blueberry bushes. Raised beds make it easier to maintain the acidic soil pH that these plants need.

Medium and Ready-to-Go

Animal feeding troughs or stock tanks make excellent raised beds with a finished look. These galvanized metal containers with rounded corners are durable and easy because they require no assembly. However, to provide adequate drainage you need to drill a few drainage holes in the bottom before filling the trough with soil. With a height of at least two feet, they let you grow crops with deep roots.

Large and Customized

Building your own raised garden bed or beds from landscaping timber lets you build the largest raised beds while giving you the most flexibility in terms of size and height. The rectangular shape lets you use every inch of soil for planting. Use a rot-resistant hardwood such as oak, or pressure-treated softwood, which is a cheaper option. Non-treated soft wood decays quickly in soil. If using treated timber, make sure to use a liner to prevent chemicals from leaching into the soil.

5 Tips for Your Garden Plan

1. Place your garden bed in a location with at least six to eight hours of full sunlight every day. 2. Plant crops in a way that their light requirements are met. Group crops with the same light requirements together and make sure that taller crops don’t cast shade on shorter ones that need full sun. 3. Give any vines such as cucumbers or squash a spot near the edge so they can trail over the sides of the raised bed. 4. To maximize space, practice relay cropping. In relay cropping, you plant the seeds of a second vegetable in between the plants of a first vegetable that was either planted much earlier or takes much longer to mature. A classic combination is carrots and radishes. By the time the carrots have reached maturity, the radishes have already been harvested. 5. Taking your cues again from French intensive gardening, when planting succession crops, use vigorous seedlings rather than direct seeding in the soil (except root vegetables which don’t transplant well). That way you won’t waste any space for seeds with erratic and poor germination, which can happen despite your best efforts and even for experienced gardeners.

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