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A raised garden bed is often more productive than a spread-out garden plot. But how far apart should you space raised garden beds?
Raised garden beds should be no more than four feet (1.2 m) apart. The length does not matter as much as the width since you must be able to reach comfortably into the garden bed to pull weeds and harvest your plants with enough room to move around comfortably.
Whether you’re a novice gardener or an experienced horticulturist, planning your raised garden bed layout is essential to making your garden space functional and pretty. Keep reading to learn the best width between raised garden beds, what are the longest-lasting materials for garden beds, and what ratio of soil you need to boost the growth and production of your plants.
The Ideal Distance To Place Raised Garden Beds
When you’re calculating the ideal distance between garden beds, your primary concern should be how well you can move between them. The four-foot (1.2 m) space will allow plants to grow freely without the risk of crowding — not to mention you can easily plant yourself in-between beds if you need to attend to two or more of them at the same time.
Aside from the ideal distance between your garden beds, you should also consider how to map each bed and what plants to grow in them.
Mapping Out a Raised Garden Bed
Although a distance of four feet (1.2 m) between garden beds is ideal, the actual distance will vary depending on your garden bed. After all, no two garden beds are exactly alike. For example, some will have loads of space, while others have to make do with limited space due to the size of the area they’re in.
At any rate, here’s how to map out a raised garden bed:
- Measure the planting space you have available.
- Use a free raised garden bed website like Better Homes & Gardens’ Plan-A-Garden to sketch the garden plan. Alternatively, you can use a piece of paper and pencil for the same purpose.
- Decide which vegetables, flowers, and plants you’ll cultivate in the garden beds.
- Find out how far apart each plant should be so they can grow and spread in a healthy way. You can usually find the exact measurements on their seed packages, or consult an expert horticulturist for their opinion.
- Plan which plants will grow in the same beds. Remember, companion planting can protect your plants from harmful insects. On the other hand, growing plants that are incompatible within the same bed can be harmful too. Therefore, do your research on the plants that can grow best together.
How To Decide What To Plant In Raised Garden Beds
Some free online garden planners help you choose the right plant combinations to maximize growth in the garden beds. Once you move the garden beds and plants around to your satisfaction, you can save the finished result. However, if you want more detailed help than garden bed software provides, consider using a book to help you plan and install your raised garden beds.
For example, All New Square Foot Gardening (link to Amazon) by Mel Bartholomew encourages you to plan out a garden in square foot sections. This book has charts and other plans to show exactly what to plant together and where within the garden beds.
Choosing Materials for Building Raised Garden Beds
After you decide on the height, width, and depth of the garden beds, you should make a materials selection. When choosing the materials for your raised garden beds, you need long-lasting, durable ones for the edges so you don’t have to replace them each year.
There are several wood types that don’t decompose in the dirt, rain, and sun. You can also use materials like natural stone, stone blocks, and metal.
Remember that when using wood, you need corner bracing like a metal bracket to hold the sides securely. One of the advantages of wood garden beds is you can build boxes with finished top edges for an attractive appearance.
- Cedar: Western, red, yellow, and white cedar are all naturally rot-resistant. Because of the natural oils in cedar, this wood repels insects without harming your plants. Cedar will last between 10 to 15 years.
- Metals: Galvanized metal like steel tubs or corrugated roofing metal can make a practical garden bed that adds visual interest to your garden bed.
- Plain bricks, natural stone, and cinder blocks: If you have leftover building materials like these, it makes sense to save money and use them for the sides of your raised beds.
- Manufactured stone: Manufactured stone is a durable and stackable material, making the job of building the garden bed sides easier. You can find manufactured stones at any building supply store.
- Old oak wine barrels: If you can repurpose these, they can also make great materials for raised garden beds. The oak will hold water and is a hardwood that will last for years.
See our guide to the best wood options for raised garden beds.
The Best Soil for Raised Garden Beds
While the ideal soil ratios in raised garden beds can depend on your personal preferences, you should be aware that without quality soil, the plants won’t thrive as they should. One of the main advantages of building raised beds is the control you have over the soil compared to what’s naturally in the ground.
A raised garden bed allows you to bypass sandy or hard clay soil to mix the ideal soil composition. The raised garden bed method also eliminates the need to dig up tree roots and move heavy rocks.
Raised garden beds offer benefits such as growing a variety of foods and flowers in a small space and less weeding since the beds are contained.
Spacing the raised beds any less than four feet (1.2 m) apart can reduce your plants’ growing space and cause them to overtake the narrow walkway, making navigating your garden spot difficult.
When there’s plenty of space for plant growth and walking between the beds, you won’t have to worry about things being out of reach.