Ideal size bed for vegetables

melikeeatplantsJanuary 20, 2012

I'm getting rid of the front lawn and putting raised beds in for vegetables. What size do some of you guys find optimal for growing seasonal produce?

I'm sure it would vary from plant to plant and you would want to rotate crops from season to season in the same bed. That all being said...

Square or rectangle shape?



thanks for any input

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3'X anything is great. The longer the better. I started out with 4' wide beds but found my back much prefers 3' wide beds. Sure some plants will spill over the sides but its still much easier to harvest and care for the plants, soil and irrigation system when the beds are 3' wide rather than 4'.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2012 at 12:12AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

The ideal size would be what YOU will manage easily. There is no ideal size.

You'll have to decide what you wish to many of them...and then perhaps get out a sheet of graph paper to do some configuration.

There's probably a scad of articles on line regarding the 'average' home garden size, if you are interested. For a short time, I was in charge of a community garden and our plots were all 25x25. Some folks opted for two while others shared one.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2012 at 12:18AM
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bejay9_10(zone 9/10)

Agree that 3 ft wide is best. Now have 8 boxes - 3 ft. x 8 ft. long. Each box has PVC-pipe type cages - fitted 2 to a box, which are surroundeded with wire - approximately 4 ft. high - to keep out ALL 4 legged critters.

The boxes have hardware cloth nailed to the bottoms - to keep out all underground burrowing type critters. The cages can support Remay cloth - to exclude flying critters - i.e. white butterfly - when they are active, and birds when I want to exclude them (emerging beans/peas).

This arrangement has worked well for almost 10 years. The boxes are made with 1 x 6 inch (stacked) cedar boards, to make 12 in. high sides - reinforced at the corners with 1 in x 1 in stakes.

I've only had to replace one box -

It isn't necessary to have cages for all boxes, because at times they aren't needed - when crops aren't attractive to predators.


    Bookmark   January 21, 2012 at 2:22PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

I also agree with the three foot width rule. Would also recommend 3 foot wide paths between your beds. You might want to check out the potager forum on GW, and google "potager". This is a term for a kitchen garden that has been specifically designed to be aesthetically attractive, incorporating interesting bed shapes and layouts, arbors, trellises, benches, flowers and herbs. It's just the concept for a front yard garden.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2012 at 2:45PM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

we find 6m X 1m to be the most functional


Here is a link that might be useful: lens straw bale garden

    Bookmark   January 21, 2012 at 3:17PM
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3 feet is good. There is a chance you may want to adjust it for your arms and your favorite cultivation tool. I want mine to be just as wide as to let me reach to the middle of them with my small hoe from either side.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2012 at 3:59PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I am not concerned about burrowing animals so I am freer to do without boards and block enclosures.

For my plantings I use from 7 to 14 feet wide and 18 inch paths. I am not afraid to walk on my soil some. My beds are from 20 to 45 feet long and parallel each other.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2012 at 4:27PM
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I just got done tilling up my main bed for this season, 8'x12'. I plan on growing quite a few rather large plants this year though, so you could probably get away with smaller.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2012 at 1:23AM
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I use 4' wide beds and find it works very well for me, with 3' spacing between beds. As long as I can access both sides, I can reach the whole space (and I am fairly short).

You could start with as small as a 4' x 4' bed and still get a decent amount of vegetables. But you can choose a length as long as what will fit in your space.

For a front yard garden, you might be more concerned about aesthetics than you would in the backyard. The October 2011 Southern Living magazine had a relatively simple design that you might like (see link below) - this sort of design is common for potager style gardens.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2012 at 9:49AM
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Thanks for the input so far. A lot of people like 3ft wide, interesting. My front yard is small 20ft deep x 30ft wide so it's a matter of figuring how many beds to stick in it, and like some people mentioned, make it more aesthetically pleasing so neighbors don't feel like I'm "bringing down the neighborhood value" ....checking out those links now...

    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 12:14AM
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Basically, the rule of thumb is to be able to at least reach the middle on the length side from each side of the row. So, you want to be able to weed easily and harvest easily. I stick with 3' to 4' at the most. In one of my mounds of 16'x16' areas, I have multiple rows and paths in between each row. They're only about 2' to 3' wide each, so they're not very efficient I don't think.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2012 at 4:56PM
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here is my front yard. (2) beds that are 4x8 and one is 4x4. I think 4 feet is a little wide, but I like the shape.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2012 at 11:06PM
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Hi melikeeatplants,
My beds are 4' wide and for me that is good because they are 2' tall, but my beds that are only 1' tall, If I wasn't so lazy , I would rebuild them at 3' wide. My paths are 2' wide , and if I had more room ,I would make them 3' wide.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 6:27PM
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3 foot wide for me. 8 feet long.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 8:37PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

Make sure your paths are minimum of 3' wide! I made the mistake of 2' wide between a couple of beds and had a terrible time getting a wheelbarrow turned to fill the beds with soil(compost, mulch, etc) without tweaking my back!
You might want to check out the potager and cottage garden sites. I seem to remember a couple of threads including pics about turning front yards into vege gardens!
Good luck and have fun! Nancy

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 8:41PM
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jonhughes we all live and learn. When I posted pictures of my garden last season in the AZ Forum I got all kinds of Ooo's and Ah's. People even came over just to look at it. When I see them taking notes the first thing I do is start telling them all the things I wish I had done differently and why. Everyone sees your garden and gives Ooo's and ah's, myself included. But knowing what you would change and why is at least as helpful as knowing what you did.

I did a lot of reading before installing my garden and though I did a good job. I sure wish I had started a thread like this one before I spent all that money.

melikeeatplants thanks for starting this thread. I'm sure it will help a lot of people.

Thisisme, still living and learning.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 9:26PM
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My first ones were 4 feet wide. I made about 3 of those and switched to 3 feet wide. I prefer the 3 feet but I'm glad I made a couple of wider ones.

Most of mine are 10 feet long,but I have a couple 12's and 8's. The length doesn't really matter, it depends on your space.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 11:01AM
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My beds are for a market garden, but the principle I use should apply to anyone, and that is to create the garden that is easiest for you to work, For me, that means not only the physical labor, but the calculations involved as well. I am neither tall or long-legged, and much of my labor involves straddling the beds, so they are 30" wide. The length varies, determined by the topography of the 4+ acres I'm working, but in the interest of efficiency they are all multiples of ten feet... Why? because a bed that is 30" by ten feet long is 25 square feet of growing space, and that makes calculating spacing, seed, fertilizing, and watering much easier. It also helps in determining the value of my crops in terms of $/square foot - not something even a home grower ought to take lightly. By keeping these kinds of records, many gardeners find that the yield on such low-value crops as potatoes, onions, and carrots makes them more pragmatic to buy than to grow, whereas things like basil, arugula, and asparagus are well worth the effort. The standardization also makes it easier for determining crop rotations, season extension techniques, and irrigation methods.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 1:41PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I do like the idea of having beds of equal size for rotational reasons and I have 2 sizes for that.

Even though some crops are not as high value as some others, I still enjoy raising things like onions. If one is in it as a business, you have to point for your best market values....if you are not in it as a business, you can indulge to your heart's [money and back too] content.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 2:37PM
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ralleia(z5 Omaha, NE)

I have used four-foot wide beds for years, since that was the recommendation out of Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening book. However, it is always a *r-e-a-c-h* to get to those inner two beds for seeding maintenance. It gets worse the older you get.

I very much favor the 3-foot bed idea. The easier that you make it on yourself, the more likely you will be to maintain things.

I'm switching all my beds over to a 30" bed now while I try to implement seeding using a mechanical seeder, following in the footsteps of Eliot Coleman...

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 3:09PM
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Well based on what I've read hear I will do only 3ft wide beds. John made an interesting point of the higher beds being okay at 4ft. My beds will only be 1ft high. BTW, very nice pics/beds Calik and John! Would love to see pictures of others beds (front yard or otherwise). Some good input in this thread.

Nancy good point about path width. I wasn't thinking much about that. I'll have to revisit the yard tomorrow and see what 3ft paths look like.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 12:40AM
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ediej1209(5 N Central OH)

Due to age and other things that have resulted in severe range-of-motion restrictions, I had DH build me a U-Shaped bed that is only 2' wide; the outer sides of the "U" are all 8'. That does mean that I can't plant as much as I used to (I think we did 8 tomato, 3 pepper and a couple of cabbage plants in it last year.) I have a little bench in the middle of the "U" so I can sit and enjoy. I did notice the other day that the soil has settled quite a bit so we will have to refill it before I can plant anything this year but I sure am looking foward to another summer of garden goodies!

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 1:27PM
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I started with raised beds 4 x 4 and if I replace any in future or make new ones, they'll be 3 x 4. I don't reach across as easily as I did when younger and 3' is a good width with a foot and a half distance from either side.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 11:18PM
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