If you've ever got lost trying to put vegetables in a raised bed, don't give up hope. There are ways to place food plants in virtually any location!
While working for a Washington, DC-based nonprofit for food access, I drove around town in a large green pickup truck known affectionately as The Truck Farm. This farm on wheels was a tiny, blooming city garden that we took to community events, local libraries, and schools to show kids where fresh food comes from.
We planted leafy greens like spinach, fragrant herbs like basil, and showy tomatoes to encourage kids to interact with. Children could even make their own salads with these ingredients! We also turned some heads on the street. My colleague who took care of the garden was a farmer before joining our team. He later added a clear back gate to the program so kids can learn about root vegetables and watch worms in the ground! He's the real Ms. Frizzle.
The Truck Farm is an extra tall, raised garden that uses many of the principles of vegetable gardening in a small space, which we will cover later in this piece. For example, we added grids to maximize vertical growth space and had to adapt the system for a moving vehicle! We also attach great importance to the selection of plants so that they can thrive in less space and are suitable companions for each other. This tiny mobile vegetable garden brought a lot of joy and amazement into people's lives.
You don't have to wait for the perfect piece of land to cultivate your green thumb. You can buy containers like grow bags or quickly assemble modular raised beds made of wood or metal. The key to a great garden is taking your first steps. In the end, it will all pay off because nothing beats the taste of a home-grown tomato!
About vegetable clearances
Learn how to place vegetables in a raised bed to increase your yields in small areas. Source: Alachua County
The balance between water, nutrients, sunlight, and space is essential for growing vegetables. Plants naturally compete for these resources when they are in a confined space. In nature, some plants, especially trees, evolved to release chemicals into the soil that inhibit the growth or germination of other plants nearby.
In your home garden, overcrowding can result in smaller or no fruit, weak plants, and more disease and pests. Fungal diseases are particularly likely to reach neighboring vegetables if there is insufficient air to circulate in a confined space.
Tips for the spacing between raised bed plants
When you pick up a package of seeds, you will find that the back or inside of the package usually has information about the vegetable, such as: B. the pH of the soil, the sowing depth of the seeds, the need for sunlight and the distance each plant should have from its neighbors. If you're creating a container or raised garden garden, the spacing recommendations may put you off. I've seen packets of corn with a recommended row spacing of three feet, which is not possible for me as this is the full width of my raised bed!
Row spacing applies to these seed packets because in commercial farming, farmers must be able to drive machines through their fields to plow, sow, water, and harvest. Planting in widely spaced rows makes little sense for the average home vegetable gardener. Do not throw away your seed packet as it contains other valuable information. However, you can follow the tips below and combine several ideas to customize your own garden.
Choose your seeds carefully
Mixing plants with quick harvests between slower ones can improve yields. Source: David Mold
If space in your vegetable garden is a limiting factor, the first thing to do is make a list of growing areas and carefully choose a variety that is suitable for containers or raised beds. For example, you probably can't grow all types of winter squash because they will spread out on the ground and take up a lot of space. However, you can choose a variety like the Bush Acorn Squash that is more dainty. Planting a specific variety of tomatoes might make more sense for your space than planting an indeterminate variety. The Tiny Tim Tomato, for example, is a dwarf cherry tomato that reaches up to 24 inches in width and height when ripe and is an abundant producer.
You also don't need to harvest your plants when they are fully ripe. Peas can be harvested for both their pods and their shoots. Turnips, like the popular Early Wonder variety, have edible leaves that taste like Swiss chard. Beet green is valued in certain kitchens. You can grow lots of fruit or root vegetables specifically for their greenery and sow the seeds much closer together than you would otherwise. By coming up with new ideas for how to use your plants, you can dramatically increase your productivity per bed.
If you want to hyperdrive your raised bed garden, you can also choose early ripening varieties. An earlier variety will take fewer days to mature than a late variety. Lettuce is widely known as a quick grower, but even this family has plenty of choice. Lettuce can be harvested after 30 to 40 days, while bibb lettuce can take up to 70 days. Many varieties are named for this attribute, including the Early Wonder beet mentioned above, Early Xtra sweet corn, Early White Vienna Kohlrabi, Early Snowball cauliflower, etc.
Mounding to enlarge the surface
Gardening in a small space is not just about the width and length of your raised bed, but also the depth of the bed and the vertical space you can create above the raised bed. Mounding is a method of adding depth to your bed without digging further into the ground.
Potatoes are a typical vegetable used to collect more and more soil or compost as they grow. Potatoes form on the stem. By piling along the stem and covering some of the lower leaves, you create more surface area for the plant to produce a crop.
Square foot gardening is an intensive planting method. Source: baigné par le soleil
Square foot gardening is a gardening method developed in the late 1970s by Mel Bartholomew, a retired engineer and horticulturist who was tired of wasting time, space, and seeds. During his engineering career, he was concerned with making systems more efficient. He viewed his home garden through this lens of efficiency and questioned many gardening conventions at the time. The simplicity and accessibility of his plant spacing method increased and his book became a tenet in modern gardening.
A typical square garden uses 4 × 4 foot raised beds with clearly marked 12 × 12 inch grids and three to four feet between each bed. The size of the bed is designed so that a typical gardener can reach the plants in their back and care for them comfortably.
He states that there should be clear and permanent guides every 12 inches to create a visible grid template. Each square can be further divided into four, nine, or sixteen smaller squares, and each of those little squares would contain a single plant. Mel experimented hard with different flowers and vegetables and eventually found the optimal spacing for them without affecting their productivity.
Of course, different plants have different spacing requirements. For example, a single cabbage takes the entire square foot to make a full size head. On the other hand, Swiss chard can be planted four to one square feet and so on. His book provides helpful guides for common vegetables and an overview of when to sow, start seeds indoors, and transplant seedlings outdoors. We like this book here so much that it is on our top gardening book list!
Skip the lines
Planting on a curved surface can be a challenge. Source: Yogita Mehra
If you have an oval or round raised bed, you can skip the rows entirely.
Some advantages of using round or oval raised beds, such as those available from the Epic Gardening Store, are their accessibility from all sides and their aesthetic appearance. If the perimeter of two raised beds remains the same, the circular bed will have a larger surface area than a rectangular one.
When planting a circular or oval bed, consider the perimeter of the shape and the concentric rings that extend from the center. For example, plant the longest-ripening vegetables or the perennials in the middle surrounded by vegetables that you will harvest more often. Whipping up the center with compost or soil can create a dome shape that will add more surface area to your elevated garden. With this in mind, you can also add a cage or grid in the middle of the round bed and plant beans, peas, tomatoes and other vine plants.
Another way to place plants in a circular or oval bed is to move your plants. For example, if you are growing carrots and the seed pack says 16 inches for row spacing and 2 inches for plant spacing, ignore row spacing completely and use only plant spacing as a guide. Set your carrots in a diamond formation so that each carrot is 2 inches from the next carrot. Repeat this staggered pattern on the growing surface to optimize your space.
Submit your leafy vegetables
A common puzzle for the beginning gardener is that all types of plants ripen at the same time. By using different sowing and harvesting techniques, you can extend your growing season, get a higher crop yield and waste less food.
For leafy greens like spinach and kale, try distributing your seeds over the growing surface, then use the "Cut and Come Again" method to harvest just a few outer leaves at a time instead of the entire head. That way, the plant will continue to produce leaves from its center and you can get a much larger total harvest over time. As a bonus tip, when you sow a packet of mixed greens, you will get different flavors, colors and textures in your salad with each harvest.
Succession Planting for Success
The subsequent planting ensures that new plants emerge throughout the season. Source: aefitzhugh
Follower planting is another technique to increase the productivity of your garden. Instead of planting all of the seeds or transplants at the same time, consider extending the planting for a few weeks so that you can postpone your harvest.
For early vegetables like beans or radishes that ripen quickly, you should be able to get multiple plantings throughout the season. Sometimes it can make sense to pull out older plants and transplant new seedlings to ensure that all plants are producing at their peak.
Setting up an indoor grow light system to start plants from seed and bring transplants into your garden bed is a proven way to keep track of the subsequent planting. You may also want to add extra compost to your soil in between follower plantings to replenish nutrients and increase the total harvest per area.
Interplanting and multiple sowing are two additional ways to increase your garden production. Using the interplant technique, add earlier ripening plants between long-term crops for more yield in the same area. For example, vegetables with shallow roots, such as spinach and spring onions, can be planted next to peppers or corn, which will take longer to ripen.
You can also try the multi-sow technique with certain vegetables, where you transplant a group of seedlings and harvest the largest from the group to give room for the remaining plants to expand. This technique works well with vegetables like beetroot and leek.
Take it to greater heights
Creating trellises is another great way to add more space to a raised bed. An added benefit of training plants to grow vertically, rather than spreading across the ground, is that soil-borne diseases do not get onto the fruit or leaves, and overall air circulation is improved.
Plants that are particularly good for growing on trellises include tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, pumpkins, and even melons! On my own patio, I use this method to create a beautiful and edible green wall as a privacy fence. I really enjoyed planting scarlet runner beans for their bright red blooms which also attract pollinators and hummingbirds to my garden. My vegetable garden serves several purposes in addition to producing food, and the trellis system is an integral part of the landscaping.
The grid can also be used to create a canopy that casts shadows under the vegetables below. For example, as part of your early spring garden, you might want to plant some cold-resistant varieties of peas and salads. However, many salads are not heat-resistant and will slip in the summer. As the seasons change, the peas climb the trellis and provide some shade over the lettuce to extend your harvest.
Design a longer season
Weather plays a big role in creating a garden. For those of us who live in colder climates, we can extend our growing season by placing a cold frame on our raised beds.
A cooling frame can be as simple as using plywood or PVC tubing with plastic sheeting to create a protective barrier over the plants. The plastic stores the heat of the sun to create a warmer microclimate in the raised bed and allows some winter-hardy vegetables to grow long after the first frost. Plant varieties like the Giants of Winter Spinach or Mache are great additions to a conservatory.
Choose the right companion
Companion plants like marigolds mixed with vegetables can reduce pests. Source: trueepicure
When planting companions, several plants grow next to each other in order to improve the harvest, control pests, use space more efficiently or add aesthetic value. A classic combination is planting marigolds next to tomatoes, as marigolds deter root-knot nematodes and other garden pests. In general, adding flowers or blooming some of your vegetables can be a great way to attract pollinators to your vegetable garden. Plus, flowers can add a nice pop of color to an otherwise green patch and spice up your entire garden design.
Spicy Allium family vegetables like onions and chives can also be planted among other vegetables to hide the smell from potential garden pests. In raised beds and container gardens, you can plant companions closer together and wherever you see space.
On the other hand, avoid planting too many plants from the same family close together, as is the case with naming a garden bed made from Brassicas. Members of this family, including kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, are all susceptible to very similar pests and diseases. This bed would be a gold mine for cabbage grinders!
About the writer Huan Song:
Hello, my name is Huan.
My love of gardening was inevitable because I was raised by two epic green thumbs grandmothers. One was a paleobotanist who had all kinds of weird and cool seeds around the house, and the other was a farmer who turned into a dumpling entrepreneur and valued the freshest ingredients.
Studying environmental science and marketing in college, I was miraculously able to combine those interests into a career in nonprofits focused on social justice, food security, and sustainability. In one of those roles, I drove a big green pickup truck with fruits and vegetables to teach kids where their food comes from and how to eat healthier.
I currently work at a Big Ten science communications university and spend my free time gardening, making garden videos, and trying to keep my cat Nevis from destroying anything in sight.
The green fingers behind this article: