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raised bed garden

Grow More in Less Space with Raised-Bed Gardens

Raised Garden Beds

When you grow vegetables in a raised-bed garden, you can grow more in less space. You don't have to leave space to walk between rows, because you can reach every inch of a properly built raised-bed garden while standing outside the garden. (Raised beds shouldn't be wider than 4 ft. so that you can comfortably reach the center of the bed from either side.)

To get the most from your raised bed, though, you need to take advantage of every bit of space. This requires planning and information. Exactly how big will a broccoli plant get? How much room do you need for a patio tomato versus a large heirloom indeterminate (continually growing) tomato?

Spacing Cool-Season Vegetables
In most areas of the United States, vegetable gardening is split into a cool season and a warm season. In southern regions, cool-season vegetables are planted in fall and grow through early spring. In northern, cooler regions, cool-season vegetables are planted in early spring.

  • Plant one broccoli transplant per square foot of raised-bed garden. Space plants 12 in. apart in the bed.
  • Head lettuce requires space, but leaf lettuce can be planted quite close together. Scatter leaf lettuce seeds so that they're about ½ in. apart. Plant transplants 4 in. apart.
  • Plant radish seeds 3 in. apart. Radishes have almost 100 percent germination rates, so if you plant them closer than that, you'll have to thin.
  • Plant spinach transplants 4 in. apart. You can fit nine spinach plants per square foot of raised-bed space.
  • Space carrots like radish seeds, but plant two carrot seeds per 3 in. square.

Spacing Warm-Season Vegetables
Warm-season vegetables are generally bigger than their cool-season counterparts.

  • Leave 12 in. between pepper plants. These vegetables grow best when they are staked with a single stake for each plant.
  • Allow 12. in. between small patio tomato plants. Leave 24 in. between larger, indeterminate vining plants. Position tomato cages at the time of planting.
  • Plant bush bean plants or seeds 8 to 12 in. apart.
  • You can fit more pole beans in a small space. Use tomato spirals and plant pole bean seeds 4 in. apart.
  • Summer squash, which are sprawling plants, need at least 24 in. between plants.

Tips for Spacing Plants
The key to raised-bed gardening is to use every bit of available space. The easiest way to do this is to section the bed into a grid. If you have a 4 ft. x 4 ft. raised bed, you can divide the bed into 12 in. or 18 in. sections. Use twine and tacks to make a grid to help you visualize the spacing. Then, within each section, plant seeds or plants for the same crop. This way, when a cool-weather vegetable like lettuce is finished, you can easily pull it out and replant the space with a warm-weather vegetable like peppers.

Prevent taller, vertical crops from shading shorter vegetables by planting the tallest vegetables like tomatoes and pole beans on the north side of your raised bed.

With just a bit of planning, you'll be rewarded with heaps of vegetables all year long in just a small raised-bed garden space.