Gardening in Beds

I’m a relatively new bed gardener (just got ours built last year), but have already found that there are many benefits to laying out a garden in beds rather than rows.

Garden laid out in beds.  Pay no attention to the weeds--they are outside the beds!
Garden laid out in beds. Pay no attention to the weeds--they are outside the beds!

First is the increased production in less space.  Beans don’t need 18 inches between rows like the seed packet says.  That 18 inches is for you to walk between rows.

Second is the decrease in weeds.  This is primarily due to the plants being close enough together to shade out a majority of the weed growth.  Strange but tested true in my own garden last year.  I was actually surprised at how few weeds we had.

Third, because the beds are to plant in and not walk on, the dirt stays soft and uncompacted which makes it easier for the plants to grow and be harvested.  We were careful not to walk on the beds at any time, and now I’m planting in the same dirt as last year without tilling this spring.  And no tilling also helps keep weed production down.

img_2690Building your garden beds can be as extensive and as expensive a process as you want.  Raised beds are nice, but not necessary.  I’ve seen beds built out of railroad ties, metal highway barrier, vinyl fencing, and a host of other things.  Ours were simply made from 2×6 rough cut lumber we got from an old barn screwed to wood stakes pounded in the ground.  The dirt from the walkways was shoveled into the beds before the sides were erected, so no fill dirt had to be brought in.  I love cheap.  Beds could also be laid out without being raised at all–just mark walkways and the beds are all the dirt in between.  We wanted some obvious way to mark the edges of our beds since we have kids that needed to know where they could walk in the garden and if it’s all flat, we’d probably have more stepping on the beds than we wanted.  We opted for beds that ran the full length of the garden and just have to walk around or step over to get to the next row.  It was easier to build them this way, and fewer walkways means more planting space, but if you don’t get around well, you can break the beds into sections with walkways between to get from row to row.

When building your beds, you need to make sure you can reach at least half way across so you can easily plant, weed, and harvest.  Make your walkways wide enough to walk on when the plants are full grown and hanging over the edge of the bed.  Our beds are about 30″ wide and the walkways are about 18″ wide.  I’ve got a salsa bed with tomatoes, peppers, and onions in it, and a salad bed with lettuce, peas, cucumbers, spinach, carrots, etc. in it.  Beans, beets, and melons in another, and still some empty space to fill.

There are a few plants we are not putting in the beds.  Corn still works well in rows, and we’re planting squash between the baby fruit trees this year instead of using garden bed space for them.  Just waiting for my drip system to get repaired to make watering it all a little (well, okay, a LOT) easier. ;)

So if you’re looking to increase production, decrease weeds, and generally make your gardening easier, take a look at gardening in beds.

17 Replies to “Gardening in Beds”

  1. If your beds are low, you could run a small tiller in them if you want, but according to “Weedless Gardening” by Lee Reich, you don’t need to. Just add mulch, fertilizer, and/or compost to the top each year and it works its way down–kind of like a forest floor.

  2. If your beds are low, you could run a small tiller in them if you want, but according to “Weedless Gardening” by Lee Reich, you don’t need to. Just add mulch, fertilizer, and/or compost to the top each year and it works its way down–kind of like a forest floor.

  3. I plant in raised beds every year and I can’t recommend it strongly enough! I use a big Troy Bilt to till and then a hiller/furrower to push the dirt up into raised beds. A little patting flat with a wide shovel and you’re ready to go. Potatoes boom in the raised beds, and since the soil remains relatively soft, gathering them is easy and completely tool-less. Everything seems to boom; even my tomato plants hit better than 6′ tall. To water, you merely drop the hose in the walking trench between rows and let it run for awhile. I’ll never flat plant again after raised bed gardening.

  4. I plant in raised beds every year and I can’t recommend it strongly enough! I use a big Troy Bilt to till and then a hiller/furrower to push the dirt up into raised beds. A little patting flat with a wide shovel and you’re ready to go. Potatoes boom in the raised beds, and since the soil remains relatively soft, gathering them is easy and completely tool-less. Everything seems to boom; even my tomato plants hit better than 6′ tall. To water, you merely drop the hose in the walking trench between rows and let it run for awhile. I’ll never flat plant again after raised bed gardening.

  5. Oh, and BTW- just lay several thicknesses of newspaper in the walking trenches to prevent weeds. At the end of the season, till them in with the fall tilling and they’ll be gone by spring. You can also use carpet squares- yes, carpet squares- obtainable from virtually any office building dumpster during remodeling. They’re almost completely weatherproof and make great “flooring” for your walkways between beds, while preventing weeds from growing.

  6. Oh, and BTW- just lay several thicknesses of newspaper in the walking trenches to prevent weeds. At the end of the season, till them in with the fall tilling and they’ll be gone by spring. You can also use carpet squares- yes, carpet squares- obtainable from virtually any office building dumpster during remodeling. They’re almost completely weatherproof and make great “flooring” for your walkways between beds, while preventing weeds from growing.

  7. I guess you could consider them just deep furrows, but I make mine about 18″ wide so I can easily walk around between the plants. Sure saves the back a lot when you can squat down and work at the plants on a higher level, doesn’t it? I picked up one of the 2-cycle mini-tillers, too, and I can churn up whatever small spots I need to do staggered time plantings (radishes, carrots, etc.) like lightning.

  8. I guess you could consider them just deep furrows, but I make mine about 18″ wide so I can easily walk around between the plants. Sure saves the back a lot when you can squat down and work at the plants on a higher level, doesn’t it? I picked up one of the 2-cycle mini-tillers, too, and I can churn up whatever small spots I need to do staggered time plantings (radishes, carrots, etc.) like lightning.

  9. I use the ‘Deep Furrow’ method for raised gardens too. I’ll be posting some pictures soon of my garden using this method. Great post Angela, LOVE your garden!

  10. I use the ‘Deep Furrow’ method for raised gardens too. I’ll be posting some pictures soon of my garden using this method. Great post Angela, LOVE your garden!

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