Will this work?

clayfarmer(Zone 5 Illinois)April 30, 2012

My yard was always kind of wet, so a few years ago I put in a large raised vegetable garden that measures 45' x 17'. It's great, but the fact that it's just a big rectangle makes it hard for me to plan what should go where each spring, and its hard to do proper crop rotation when you're not sure exactly what was growing in a certain spot the previous year.

I'm considering breaking it up into more manageable 3' beds simply by laying out permanent 18" paths in between mulched with wood chips or hardwood mulch. This would give me ten 3' beds, with 18" paths in between each one.

Do you see any problems with this plan? Are wood chips/mulch the right thing to use for the paths, or is there something better? Is 18" for the paths enough?


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tdscpa(z5 NWKS)

I think wood chips and mulch would be a huge pain, unless you have framed beds.

I think rotation is overrated. I till my whole garden every spring, and rake up raised rows. The tilling process rotates my soil, and I plant my crops in the most convenient place every year. (Same layout as last year.)

I have some "flower beds" around my house with bark chunks scattered on top. A real pain to try to weed and add amendments.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 3:47AM
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I use boards that I get from discarded construction, often my own.
Most of mine are one by eights but I have a few one by tens and two by eights.
Ten inches wide is nice but the weight of the two by eight is nice also.
Most are six to seven feet long.

I have been doing this for several decades now and it makes knowing where what is and staying off of the dirt much simpler.
If I do not turn the garden in the fall, which happens some years I just leave them in place and know next spring exactly where everything was.

When I plant corn, I take two or three of then and stand or keel on them as I plant.
They also make row spacing of 24 or 30 inches easy as if they are eight inch boards, eight times three is twentyfour, so I just roll one board over once and then put another next to it and plant along the edge.
Same works with the ten inch boards.

One last note,if you can get boards froma n OLD, eighty or more years old garage, barn or house that is being wasted and destroyed. The old rough cut boards are longer lasting, wider and thicker.
A one by eight is a true one by eight.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 2:06PM
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rotation is over rated, but I do it anyways.
I am with RpR 100%, use leftover boards & rough cut is best.
I till each season & add new compost, I get 10-11 months of growth here. I only Cole, onions & garlic in the winter.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 9:48PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Wood chips can cause real problems when used in the vegetable garden so they aren't usually recommended. If the boards and such don't appeal then stick with an organic mulch of some kind like straw or shredded leaves that can be incorporated into the soil each fall.


    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 11:16PM
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We have a large garden and we do rotate our crops. Rotation is for control of plant diseases and foiling bugs. Bugs will winter over or lay their eggs where they were feeding the year before. If that plant is not there they will have to search for a plant. It doesn't foil them all but it cuts down on the numbers

We have no physical divisions in our garden and no paths until after the garden is up and we make our own paths and have no trouble with rotation. I drew up a sheet mapping our garden on the computer and made copies which I put in a binder. Sometime after the garden is planted I take my binder out and write in where things are planted. The next year it is simple to look at the sheet and decide what to plant where.

If you want paths them you should mulch the paths mainly to keep out weeds. I would put cardboard under the mulch too.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 11:40PM
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To add to your list of options --you could use a cover crop. My extension service suggested crimson clover for my pathways, and I've used it every year and love it. The paths are semi - permanent, in that I do rake in some more seed each year to keep the clover thick. It's great for cleaning muddy hands on, too. And what's not to like about pathways that bloom? 18 inches sounds okay -- just figure out how much room you'll need for crouching, kneeling, etc.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 5:31AM
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susan2010(6 Massachusetts)

I'm going to comment that your paths in between might be too narrow to be useful. Having a path wide enough (on one side of each bed at least) for a garden cart to pass can make the beds much easier to work.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 9:42AM
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lonmower(zone8 Western Oregon)

I do not think that rotating crops is overrated. I think it would depend what you are growing. For example, I think that one could plant lettuce in the same spot forever. However, I would advise against tomatoes, potatoes, corn and many others planted year after year. Tilling an area is not the same as rotating crops.

Those who think that rotating is overrated should report back that one season when they lose an entire crop to pest or disease which might have been prevented by forward thinking

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 10:43AM
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Rotation between Corn and Legumes (beans etc.) will be useful.
Only Corn at the same place every year will create deficiency of Nitrogen in the soil.Beans at the same place every season will create over supply of Nitrogen which will push the plants in vegetative growth.Instead rotate Corn and Beans since Corn love Nitrogen for growth.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 11:27AM
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