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What are the optimum widths and lengths for garden beds?

Question details

The basic size of my garden is 50' by 30', but don't plan on filling the whole garden the first year.  This will be raised beds.  I need some idea of how long and wide I should make each bed.  Thanks!

I always recommend that beds should be max. 4' wide so the average person can reach to the center from either side. Conveniently that works well with lumber sizes. Length can be anything but 8' or 12' is good. You can get a bunch of 2x6" boards and make the beds 12, 18 or 24 inches deep, depending on what you can afford to spend on materials (remember the cost of soil). Then the boards can be cut into 4' pieces for your bed width. You don't need screen underneath unless there is a problem with voles or gophers, the grass will not be a problem with that much depth. To initially kill it I just lay down a bunch of cardboard-- free from a grocery store. Then wet it down and dump in the soil.
4' wide is definitely max for raised beds. If you have kids or anyone else you want to get in the garden with restricted/short reach, you might consider 3' wide so they can reach into the center easily. Length is much less important, and more dependent on your garden size and layout. Working in multiples of 4 does make the lumber purchase easier. We went with two 4x12s for the main beds in our approx 16x16 garden area, with a 2' perennials (asparagus and raspberries) and spring garlic area along the fence near the foot of the beds, and a not-raised 2' row that grows peas, tomatoes, etc, parallel to the beds. Remember to make the paths wide enough for your wheelbarrow/carts, and to be able to kneel comfortably between the beds. We went with 3' and have not grudged the space in the slightest. I've thanked myself for making that call more than once!
I'm not fond of straight lines, and find meandering paths give much more opportunity for self-sown surprises to come up and also give more beauty to the garden, especially if you can combine floral, vegetable, bush and tree plantings in a given space. This may not suit all temperaments or all climates, perhaps, but I'm not fond of segregation or discipline :-) .... Yes, very important to reach in and you can also meander into a wider space with a minor path. Edges are immensely productive places. Small ponds here and there encourage frogs and lizards. I am interested in yield per cubic metre rather than per plant.



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