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bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

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bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

Post  sheisaeval on 9/21/2012, 2:41 pm

I just bought my house and I'm excited in learning all about gardening and growing our own food!

Anyway, I'm trying to design a plan for my garden right now, including some raised beds, of course, and I am trying to decide how to situate my raised beds.

First, would it better to have many smallerish boxes (2x2, 3x3, for example), or fewer large one (like 4x6, 2x8 or something). Also, has anyone done any really long beds like 10x2 or something? Any pros or cons to those?

My tentative plan is to do two long raised beds (10? x 2?3? shorter? longer? wider?) and then do a rounded cattle panel trellis between them, but should I run the length of the box parallel to the north-south line or the east-west line? Or should I just do a bunch of square beds instead?

Thanks
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Re: bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

Post  donnainzone5 on 9/21/2012, 4:11 pm

Great! And welcome to this forum! Have you read All New Square Foot Gardening yet? Here, you'll find the answers to nearly all your questions, and our forum members are eager to jump in to help with any additional questions that might arise.

You'll want to determine your gardening goals, such as:

- How many people do you want to feed?
- What do you like to eat?

In the book, Mel suggests that it is generally best to start small, although many people do charge ahead and build larger SFGs. If start-up costs are a factor, it may be best to start with just one or two beds.

Since tall crops should generally be planted on the north side (so they don't shade smaller crops), if you choose longer beds, I'd suggest laying them out on an east-to-west axis (with the long sides running east and west.) Remember, don't use a bed that's more than 4' wide, because few people can easily reach more than 2'. Leave at least 3' around each bed so that it's easily accessible.

Again, your best reference is the newer edition of Mel's book. I look forward to seeing pictures of your future garden!

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Re: bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

Post  sheisaeval on 9/21/2012, 4:16 pm

Yep, I've read the book and see some videos as well.

I think most of the time the beds are 4x4 but I was thinking that something longer like 8x2, which is the same number of boxes but longer, may work better for us so we can do all the trellised vegetables on one row and all the non trellised on one row, since I feel like most vegetables out there that we want to grow (tomatoes, eggplant, squash, cucumbers, etc) need trellises, and not too much out there don't need a trellis, other than lettuces/greens (which we may end up growing in pots on the patio anyway). I feel if we did a square shaped one we may just have to do trellises on two sides of the box anyway.
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Re: bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

Post  southern gardener on 9/21/2012, 4:25 pm

i can give you what we do, and hope it's helpful. We have 9 long and narrow boxes. they're 8x2. I like them this way because I can easily reach in from both sides. They go east/west so the north side I can do tall veggies if we want. We will try and grow things that are slow and permanent in one bed, like peppers, egg plants etc so we don't have plants shading other plants. We also have some long and wide beds. 4x16. they aren't planted at the current time, but hope to once we get things straightened out. Hope this helps. You can pm me if you'd like for more info.
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Bed designs - small vs large

Post  GloriaG on 9/21/2012, 5:54 pm

Hi sheisaeval,

Welcome to the forum and the DFW area. I'm just north of the DFW airport in Double Oak.

No one can really tell you what size beds will work best for you - because it's different for each of us. But we can tell you how we use each size bed.

I started out with 4' x 4' beds and found that I didn't like them all that much. My own personal observation is that they're harder to maintain than larger beds. For me, the larger beds seem to work better because - I fit more squares in the space I have available, and with more interior squares they stay weed-free better and don't dry out quite as fast.

Right now; I have one 2' x 8' bed that I use for trellised veggies (tomatoes, melons, peas, etc.) with a row of low-growing leafy plants in front (spinach, lettuce, mache, etc.)

In addition I have two 4' x 12' beds that I use for larger plants (eggplants, corn, peppers, etc.) and plants that take longer to mature (leeks, onions, carrots, kohlrabi, etc.) These beds have fast maturing crops around the edge with the longer growing crops in the center so I don't need to reach into the center too often. In other words - I can put large crops in the "back row" of squares or on one end of the bed so they don't shade everything else, then the long season crops in the middle and things I access frequently in the front (parsley, chives, lettuce, etc.) I also sometimes put a trellis on one or both ends of these to hold vining crops like cukes, or squash.

Last I have two beds that are medium size - one is 4' x 8' the other 4' x 6'. These are my workhorses of the garden. They're small enough for me to reach everything fairly easily but large enough to have enough squares to devote to each kind of veggie I want to grow. I'm rotating the crops in these beds at least three, hopefully four times per year. Right now I'm planting broccoli in the center of my 4' x 8' with onions, shallots, and garlic around the edge. The 4' x 6' is getting carrots and peas.

I'm fairly short and have to be careful not to overbalance when reaching into the center of the beds. The 4' x 6' and 4' x 8' however, work fine for me because, if necessary, I can still hold onto the end of the bed for stability when I reach into the middle. (I'm sure taller people don't have to worry about this.)

Although I didn't try it, I suspect a 4' x 4' bed would be ideal for things like a dedicated "three sisters" bed.

Hope this helps.
Gloria




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Re: bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

Post  sheisaeval on 9/21/2012, 8:27 pm

Thanks for the reply, Gloria! I'm actually in Grapevine, even closer to the airport.

Anyway, my question is, how do you layout all different sized boxes so that each gets enough sun and not shaded from other plants and yet still look good and neat? I have a small suburban yard ( so I am not sure how many boxes I can fit in my yard and not look too overcrowded, and still have a nice layout.

Also, another question not pertaining to layouts, since you're also in the area, do you have any tips on irrigating/watering your boxes, since sometimes it can get hot and droughty over here. Do you hand water or use a drip or some other system? Also, how's Mels Mix for Texas? I've heard too much peat moss might not be good in dry hot Texas summers but haven't had any experience with it myself.

Thanks again!
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Re: bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

Post  GloriaG on 9/22/2012, 1:24 am

Hi sheisaeval,

We live in an HOA so I have to be very careful about how I lay out my garden. Everything MUST be in the landscaping around the back of the house and our soji (outbuilding).





These photos are from earlier this year, sorry I don't have any current ones to share. The arrangement isn't perfect because of the shade I get in some areas, but I've found that it works OK as long as I keep the real sun-loving plants in the open.

I made my boxes the size that would fit best into the landscape. i.e. the top picture shows my two 4' x 12' boxes - slightly angled to create a curved bed line. The bottom photo has the 4' x 8' to the left with the trellised squash, the 4' x 6' in the center with onions and the 2' x 8' behind it on the right with the melons (against the side of the soji.)

Regarding Mels Mix, I think it's fine for our area. It does dry out quickly so you have to make sure to keep it VERY well watered. To help keep the beds moist longer, I made all my beds 10" - 12" deep. I feel that the extra depth helps retain water so they don't dry out so quickly. I also mulched around the beds 4" deep, and keep the area weed-free so there isn't any competition for the SFG water.

We are currently installing an automatic watering grid system made of PVC pipe. I found a very inexpensive 2-zone hose timer and ran underground PVC from the hose bibb to the beds. When it's finished, the two largest beds will be on one zone and the three smaller ones on the other. The parts that are finished work great.

It's quite possible to have a very nice garden in any space. Just watch where the sun is and mark out your beds to fit in with your lifestyle and the rest of the things you want to do in your yard.

Good luck with it.
Gloria

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Re: bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

Post  bnoles on 9/22/2012, 5:56 am

A beautiful job on your garden area Gloria. It all fits in so nicely with the surroundings and is very well maintained.

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Re: bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

Post  donnainzone5 on 9/22/2012, 11:59 am

Sheiseval,

Have you tried the Garden Planner at www.territorialseeds.com?
It will help you visualize your space and has a fairly expansive list of plants.

I'm with you about the long, narrow beds, although I've yet to try them.
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Re: bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

Post  quiltbea on 9/22/2012, 3:08 pm

I read that narrower beds (2 feet) dry out quicker than wider beds so that's a consideration, especially in the south.
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Re: bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

Post  Ericka2385 on 9/23/2012, 8:41 pm

About the Mel's Mix in the South... I'm in Central Florida and have not had a problem with it drying out. Over summer I put down black plastic on the beds until I was ready to plant in them. The MM's was dry, but it did not solidify the way I've heard of some people says it has.

I have long, narrow beds, and I love them. We have a small yard, so the beds are situated along the fence. We built the beds with retaining wall bricks, it's awesome, but permanent. The beds are three feet deep, and 30 feet long. I have dividing walls every 6 feet. Unless you need lots of space, I wouldn't do a three foot deep bed agaisnt a fence. If I have a lot of work to do, I put a board that's about 6 inches wide and 6 feet long across my divider walls to sit on. It is very easy to walk along the wall to check the garden in the evening, and I like the extra height when I'm working on something tall.
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Re: bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

Post  Turan on 9/24/2012, 1:54 pm

My thoughts from my garden~ I just took out 2 smaller beds and replaced them with a 3'X8'. They were old (10+ years) and the pine wood was rotting out. I like the 3X8 beds best generally. I can put a trellis along one long side and then have a 2' depth of squares for other plantings. It is harder to reach over 3' to do the same thing with a 4' wide bed. I like the 8' length because lumber comes that size and it is long enough to do a lot but not so long to be bother some to get around. I have one 1'X6' bed at an edge of the garden plot area. That is useful for sprawlers like squash or a single row of broccoli or peas. I am planning though to plant asparagus crowns in it next spring, and sweet peas.

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Re: bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

Post  sleepybeagle on 1/5/2013, 2:58 am

I made my boxes last year and just love them, they are quite big and maybe what you had in mind? going from east to west I have a 10x3, 10x3, 10x3. then a few feet north of that I have a 10x2, 10x2, 5x3, 5x4. I put all the tall veggies on the north row of boxes on the north side of the box and go shorter as you move south. everything did really well but i did notice i liked the 10x2 boxes better than the 10x3 because i'm short and it's easier to reach! i can't figure out how to add pictures, but when i do i will send them!
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Re: bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

Post  walshevak on 1/5/2013, 9:42 am

adding pictures
instruction are in the How to sub section of the Home Page

Kay

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Re: bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

Post  quiltbea on 1/5/2013, 1:41 pm

The older I get the harder to reach across a bed 4 ft square. When I have to replace mine, they'll be 3 ft by 6 or 8 ft long. Good for tall vining crops growing along the long north side with medium crops in the middle and smaller crops in front that I can reach easily from both sides. If I can put in tabletops, they'll be 3 x 4ft.
Believe me, reaching halfway across a 4 ft span is backbreaking sometimes.
Gloria, love the plan of your garden area. Thumbs up.
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Re: bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

Post  Kelejan on 1/5/2013, 4:14 pm

One thing for me in the future, nothing over three feet wide when I want to reach in from either side. Four feet is a stretch for me.Five feet tall is my height, with arms to match. (No, my arms are not five feet long, I'm sure you know what I mean.). Very Happy
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Re: bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

Post  quiltbea on 1/5/2013, 4:21 pm

Kelejan.....I'm 5 ft 10 inches but I still can't stretch that 2' distance to the middle all the time. Achy bones.
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Re: bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

Post  meatburner on 1/6/2013, 10:42 pm

Donna, I had to google the link you posted to get to the website. Clicking on your link kept bringing up an abnoxious and aggrevating pop up from Home Depot that wouldn't allow access to their site. Anyway, their garden planner software is really cool and extremely informative. Thanks for the link.
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Re: bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

Post  czechens on 1/7/2013, 6:52 am



These are my four 4 x 8 raised beds, which I would hardly call a "design" but rather a "necessity." I developed some knee problems a couple of years ago (arthritis, zero cartilage, blah, blah), and my osteo guy told me that my gardening days were over, about which I thought, "Ha! You watch!" So I got a friend to help me stack 12 former ground-level beds on top of one another to get what you see here. They're quite gnarly looking (contrary to other gorgeous layouts I've wistfully viewed on this site) because I insisted on reusing the old wood, to my hub's intense chagrin. (I'm a total cheapskate; he's not.) My thought is to replace the boards by the onesies when they get too horrible. (Most of you probably think they already are!)

Anyway, my garden was a complete disaster last year (pretty much a small salad bar for the neighborhood deer) because I was late getting started, didn't manage it well at all (basically same old row gardening in 4x8 space), and didn't add soil amendments aka Mel's Mix for water retention in our horrible Midwestern drought. Thanks to finally reading my dusty old copy of the original SFG book and picking the brains out of this forum (Time pit! Oh, my!), I'm really excited for a new start in old wood this spring.

I just thought I'd offer my photo of my beds for comic relief!


Last edited by czechens on 1/7/2013, 6:56 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : style)
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Re: bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

Post  walshevak on 1/7/2013, 8:06 am

If they allow you to keep gardening, then they are beautiful. So says another person with bad knees and tabletop gardens.

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Re: bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

Post  bnoles on 1/7/2013, 8:13 am

Nothing wrong with those raised beds at all czechens! The height looks very comfortable to work with and sure beats getting down on hands and knees which I am getting too old for. With those sized beds, it appears that you have a lot of good veggies to look forward to.

Thanks for sharing the pics!

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Re: bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

Post  Kelejan on 1/7/2013, 8:34 am

Whether a garden bed looks beautiful or not doesn't matter as the plants don't know, so long as they have the right food etc. In a while the beds will be covered with greenery and that is the beautiful part. Your beds are practical and really look OK to me.
I am thinking of doing something similar as I have a heap of wood because I bought a job lot three years ago as it was so cheap and now I want to start actually raising my beds before I get too old/decrepit to do so. Very Happy
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Re: bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

Post  quiltbea on 1/7/2013, 11:29 am

As long as they do the job and bring you good food, that's what matters. Forget the looks of them. I think they look great especially since they are tall and accessible for you.
Mine are plain, and only 12" high (wish I'd built higher like you) but I've loved them since I put them in for the 2009 season. They've given me great results which makes them blue ribbon winners to me.

I never thought about aesthetics back then. Now I've added a birdbath and a few potted plants around to give it more color. The plants are edible, too, like pansies and nasturtiums, and marigolds to repel pests. I put a brick across one corner of the bed and sit a plant pot on top. Gives it some pizzazz. I also stick a few pieces of small statuary right inside my boxes, like a fairy beside a pepper plant, a gnome beside a basil, a frog at the head of the strawberry bed, etc. You can always pretty up a garden site with a little thought.
The beauty of your garden is, those lovely assorted green shades of leaves, dark greens of peppers, reds and orange of tomatoes and yellow of squash will be brightening your garden soon. Good luck. You've got a beautiful garden already.
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Re: bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

Post  Lindacol on 1/7/2013, 1:03 pm

Czechens, I love your beds. Very rustic looking. Also love your attitude about continuing to garden.

By the way, what kind of chicken is that in your avatar?

Linda
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Re: bed designs - many small vs few large, and also long skinny ones?

Post  CharlesB on 1/7/2013, 1:17 pm

I like the 4x4. Reason being cages, watering grids, trellis, etc. that I build for one box fit perfectly on every other box.

I also have 10x4, 4x2 and some plastic barrels I cut the ends off then cut in half. Making an instant raised bed container. Those I grow blueberries in.

One thing to add is I have always put at least 3' between boxes. You may not think you need that much right off but once the plants get going you'll be glad you did. I would never put any new boxes I set up within 3' of another box.
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