Garden Raised Beds and Small Plots

5 Ways to Grow More With Less

Credit: colostate.edu
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Garden-raised beds, tiny plots, container gardening, and other techniques help you grow more in less space. Here are 5 tips to make your harvest bountiful—plus, a garden plot design.

1. Raise Your Beds

 Forget about growing plants in single file in long, parallel rows. You can grow up to 10 times the amount of produce in the same space by raising your beds. Raised beds allow you to concentrate your energy in a small area, meaning you can work, water, weed, and fertilize as economically as possible. You can make the most of the entire growing season by using season-extending devices such as cold frames, cloches, row covers, and plastic tunnels.

Tip: Sit Pretty (Comfortably) by placing a board across the path between your raised garden beds.

2. Keep Seedlings Coming

Succession planting keeps the garden in continual production. Whenever one crop is harvested, have seedlings ready to transplant in its place. For best results, use quick-maturing varieties to fit several crops into one season and spread out the harvest. 

3. Put Plants Close Together

"Intercropping" means growing two or more crops together to save space. Plants should be placed close enough so that their leaves will touch, shading the ground between them when they are fully mature. This will keep weeds down and conserve moisture, eliminating the need to mulch and weed. As the plants begin to crowd out their neighbors, harvest the early-maturing ones, leaving room for the others to develop. For example, pair lettuce with longer-season vegetables such as broccoli, peppers, or tomatoes.

4. Plant Companions, not Competitors

Some intercropping partners thrive if their roots occupy a different depth of soil. Pairing shallow-rooted vegetables, such as bush beans, with deeply rooted beets makes good use of space without creating root competition. Similarly, planting heavy feeders such as cabbage or cucumbers with light-feeding carrots or beans reduces the competition for soil nutrients.The best intercropping partners are companion plants that make different demands while complementing each other.

5. Grow Up

Lay out your garden plot with the fence, trellis, or wall at the north side. By planting the tallest plants there, you will avoid shading the smaller ones. Vining plants, if left to sprawl, take up valuable space in a small garden, so help them grow up.

  • Cucumbers will eagerly climb a nylon net fence, with the subsequent bonus result that the dangling fruits grow straighter and are easier to pick.
  • Tomatoes produce more fruit and ripen earlier if kept off the ground on a trellis or in a wire cage.
  • Peas and pole beans naturally reach for the sky and will cover a wire fence or twine around a tripod of poles.

Some heavier plants, such as cantaloupes, melons, and winter squashes, may need help in climbing, so tie their vines to the structure to get them going in the right direction. Support the fruit with slings to keep them from tearing off the vine too soon.

Plot it Out

Good soil, adequate sunshine, and sufficient drainage are the only requirements for a successful vegetable garden. Every garden—and every gardener—is different. Create a garden tailored to your space and needs.

A 100-square-foot garden (10x10 feet) can easily yield a wide variety of veggies. Bisecting it with two narrow paths forms four beds that are easy to reach into and tend. (One square = one square foot.)

Garden raised bed plot

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Comments

This coming spring i'm going

By Enoch Mahana

This coming spring i'm going to be starting a garden. In the above suggestions it says plant the taller plants on the north side near a wall or trellis. But the way the garden is layed out in the above diagram it seem that the taller plants regardless of where they are would shadow the other plants. I've never grown a garden so i just wanted a little bit more info on how to plot it out so i could get the best yield

Hi Enoch, If this is your

By Almanac Staff on August 28

Hi Enoch,

If this is your first garden we suggest the you build a raised bed that is rectangle or a square. This way you can place it so that you can grow the taller (or vining veggies) on the north or backside and the shorter plants in the front.

See drawing at www.almanac.com/image/raised-bed-garden as an example.

Hi, thank you for this

By Heather Loftes

Hi, thank you for this informational site. We have 3 raised bed (8'longx4'wide) garden boxes filled with fresh compost. We live in Rhode Island by the coast. I have a list of veggies and herbs I would like to plant but I need help arranging them together and in the proper box. I checked out the planning program but I still am not sure where to put everything. Is there a site that takes the list and plugs them into the boxes according to companionship and productivity?

Hi Heather, Gardening has

By Almanac Staff

Hi Heather, Gardening has many variables including climate and timing for each type of veggies so there's no magic button. However, here are a couple key resources:

Your planting dates for each crop:
http://www.almanac.com/plantingtable

Companion planting chart:
http://www.almanac.com/content/plant-companions-list-ten-common-vegetables

Garden planner (free trial):

http://gardenplanner.almanac.com/

Use the garden planner to check out other gardeners' plans for ideas. Also, it WILL tell you when two plans should not be planted together and that's really the main concern. 

I have a 4x8 raised garden

By MM in Mesa, AZ

I have a 4x8 raised garden bed that I filled with a soil blend that is a Sod Mix of 60% topsoil / 30% Mulch / 10% Sand blend. I was told this is what I wanted to use for my raised garden bed. I also used a landscape fabric at the bottom of the garden bed to help prevent weeds from coming up through the bottom of the bed. My problem is that the vegetables aren't really growing, or are growing very slowly. The bed is retaining water and staying moist for quite some time. And I'm in Phoenix, AZ. I tried taking a pitch fork and puncturing the landscape fabric to help it drain because it was retaining water and not draining or drying. I don't know what else to do and if its even an over watering problem. Is the dirt mix not right? I have tried adding nitrogen, manure, fish fertilizer. I don't know what else to do to get the growth finally take off. It's like the growth is being stunted. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Oh, and also, the bed gets a good solid 10-12 hours of sunlight. Thanks!

The sand in your soil mix

By Almanac Staff

The sand in your soil mix should help with the drainage. Adding compost and/or aged manure to the bed will add nutrients and help with the drainage. If your soil is moist hold back on watering. Let the soil dry out between waterings. Some vegetables (for example lettuce, spinach, peas, and kale) like cool weather. If your daytime temperatures have been high these vegetables will not grow well.

I HAVE TWO RAISED GARDEN

By LAURA N.

I HAVE TWO RAISED GARDEN 8/4/2. WE LIVE IN GLOUCESTER VA. HAS YRS OF GREAT GARDENING. STARTING WITH THE RAISED THIS YEAR TO GO MUCH SMALLER . TWO YRS IN A ROW WE HAVE RAIN, RAIN AND RAIN. EVERYONE I KNOW HAS THE SAME PROBLEM WITH THEIR GARDEN. I HOPE THIS YR WILL BE A WARM AND SUNNY ONE. WE HAVE HA DA SOMEWHAT RAINING SPRING. NOT SURE HOW MUCH VEGGIES TO PLANT IN THIS SIZE BOX. WISH ME LUCK LAURA

Hi Laura, To figure out how

By Almanac Staff

Hi Laura,
To figure out how space the right number of vegetables in your raised garden, try our free online Garden Planner here:
gardenplanner.almanac.com
Raised gardens are usually a great solution for rainy, wet weather. This way, the beds won't suffer from wet soil. Adding lots of organic matter such as partially rotting straw or compost also helps. If wet weather is a common issue, consider planting vegetables with short growing cycles such as tomatoes, peas, radishes, potatoes, beans, and carrots.

 

I am installing 2 raised beds

By Julia H Hahn

I am installing 2 raised beds (3 X 8 X 8)and have had Rat Wire put on the bottom to prevent moles from invading the boxes. Plan to double dig and then add several inches of sand for good drainage.
Then adding a mixture of compost, mulch and good garden soil. Should I add manure to this mixture?? Any other suggestions???
Thank You

You can include manure in

By Almanac Staff

You can include manure in your mix but make sure that it is extremely well-rotted and the animals that produced it were from organic systems; many gardeners have had whole crops killed off by using manure from animals grazed on land sprayed with herbicides.

Make sure that when you add sand you mix it with soil or compost, as using sand on its own can form a hard-packed layer. Mixed with other materials however it helps to open up the soil and improve the structure, making it more free-draining.

Some people (especially square foot gardeners) also add vermiculite or perlite to their raised bed mixes, but if you have access to leafmold this is a much more economical option, and will also help to improve the soil structure.

I just recently started 8

By Deborah L Seligman-Dix

I just recently started 8 raised garedn veggie beds and I very new to all of this and I have started to grow alot of veggies with seeds and success has been happening......I need to know alot more about this they get betwenn 6 ot 7 hours of sunlight a day and currently Im growing Artichokes,corn Squash,Pumpkins,Green Red Orange and Yellow Peppers also Jalpenos,Spinach,Romaine,Buttercrunch Lettuce,Radicchio,Roma Tomatos,Early Girl Tomatos,Beefeater tomatos,Lima Beans,Sugar Snap Peas,Radish,Ceasar Salad mix,Cherry Tomatos,Brussell Sprouts,Black Beauty Eggplants and I do have a question my lima Beans are really growing like crazy I would like to know how big do they need to be on a trellis or twine with stakes? Like I said before this is still brand new to me and I need all the help I can get from anyone experienced Also on my Acorn Squash and the Artichokes do they need to grow up as a vine too???I have them starting from seeds and now they are very leafy and I need to know how big or wide they get???Please help help help???

Thanks
Deborah IN Sarasota Fl

Hi Deborah, Wow, that's a lot

By Almanac Staff

Hi Deborah,

Wow, that's a lot of vegetables. Any vegetable that vines will benefit from a trellis. Squashes may get a little heavy and you may need to give them extra support on the trellis. Peas and beans that are not bush types should also have something to climb on. Artichokes don't usually need a trellis. You need to check your seed package or look online to see how big or tall each variety will grow. Good luck! It sounds like you have a great start to a productive vegetable garden.

 

I am contemplating starting

By Heather Hale

I am contemplating starting an organic, heirloom garden in Tucson, Arizona. This article and your 8/9 shade and drip system comments are helpful. Conflicting advice suggests doing beds versus containers (that I could roll into the shade). We'll have plenty of space for a home garden - about 600 square feet. Trying to decide what to plant, how to plant it, etc. Thoughts? Links? Recommended books? Thank you!

You may want to speak to your

By Almanac Staff

You may want to speak to your local cooperative extension to get their on-the-ground perspective. To us, a raised garden bed provides much better moisture control. Either way, you'll need shade cloth for the afternoons. We have a few great book suggestions here: http://www.almanac.com/store/garden-outdoor/books

When you say at least 6 hours

By beckybuck

When you say at least 6 hours of sun,what part of the country is that in. I live in south central TX and believe me, the plants that call for that time frame are baked!!! Please help!!

You do need 6 to 8 hours of

By Almanac Staff

You do need 6 to 8 hours of sun for vegetables to grow. It's the heat that can be a problem in Texas. You can consider: providing some shade on the south or southwest side to protect the veggies from afternoon sun. You should avoid overhead shade or structures that block sunlight. Mulch generously and water with drip hose at the base of the plants. Make sure that the soil stays moist (NOT wet) or soggy. This keeps the root environment cool.
Also, use heat-tolerant varieties for your area! Check out some online resources from Texas A&M (http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/vegetable/ and http://plantdiseasehandbook.tamu.edu ).

Raised garden beds are great

By Garden-nz.co.nz

Raised garden beds are great for growing small plots of veggies and flowers. Good techniques are shared here.Raised bed vegetable garden are an easy way to plan and design a small beginner vegetable garden.

Yes the Rasied garden beds

By Deborah L Seligman-Dix

Yes the Rasied garden beds are awesome this is my very first time with any garden of any kind and I have 8 Garden beds filled with all kinds of veggies and alot of them are from seeds thet I start in the little growing pods first then I plant them in the rasied beds my beds are 4 feet by 4 feet and I filled all of them with compost and top soil and I have noticed since I have started all of this some of the soil have dissapeared is this normal???Do I need to refill the beds up but they are all full of the produce what do I do???

You can add mulch or compost

By Almanac Staff

You can add mulch or compost around the plants that have longer stems.

I have and wouldnt want to

By brino hosey

I have and wouldnt want to loose my avacado trees but also need to grow vegea. Any advice for me. Am in Africa with plenty of sun and water and fertile soil.

How much sun is sufficient

By E-nominous

How much sun is sufficient sun for a plot like this? thank you!

The more sun the better I get

By Deborah L Seligman-Dix

The more sun the better I get between 5 to 6 hours a day sunlight and mine are doing just great I have 8 Raised veggies beds...I live in Sarasota Fl and this is my very first time doing any kind of gardening...Good Luck I hope this helps you but I am certainly a newbie LOL

You need at least 6 hours of

By Almanac Staff

You need at least 6 hours of direct sun, but more is better.The more sun the more and better crops.

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