How wide should walkways be?

mprevost(7)September 13, 2005

Starting my first garden. Plan to have 4' wide rows (16' long) for intensive planting with 2' walkways. I don't want to waste space. Is 2' too wide? What would be your minimum width for a walkway?


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Kelly_Slocum(sw WA state)

You might consider making your walkways sufficiently wide that they can easily accomodate your wheelbarrow or lawn cart with space for you to walk around it. Two feet wide is a very narrow walkway that may make working along the beds a bit of a challenge.

Kelly S

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 12:37PM
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Wider if youre clumsy. Not saying you are, just that I am. :-)

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 1:01PM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

i make mine about 1 meter wide to accomodate the wheel barrow but if you don't need that then just wide enought to walk along will be fine.


mail len

lens garden page

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 3:36PM
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Walkways should be wide enough that 2 people can comfortably walk side by side and that is today 4 feet wide. Also consider whether you will ever have someone in a wheelchair touring your garden and make provisions with the walkway for those.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 4:50PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

Space for two folks walking side-by-side is nice for paths -- thata is, strolling paths. In that case, I suggest 5 feet.

But when you're squeezed for garden space, and the plan is to grow veggies or cutting flowers, allow for whatever you require for the wheelbarrow, wagon, or whatever you use to haul stuff. Paths between my 4-ft-wide beds are 2 feet -- plenty of space for my old litttle red wagon.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 5:02PM
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Thanks. I hadn't thought about the wheelbarrow. I'm pretty cramped for space. I'm starting about 540 square feet (16x34), slightly less than half of the size available for gardening in my back yard. I had originally planned 6 - 4x16' beds with 5 - 2'x14' walkways between them (the remaining 2' are for one long row at the back along a chain linked fence where I will grow beans). It just seems that walkways, though important, are non-productive space and should be minimized.

Don't you think that if I was wheelbarrowing stuff on the garden that I could back down one of the 2' rows and shovel it out as I move forward? I would think that the wheelbarrow would be used mostly for mulching which is not done very often. It definitely would be more convenient to be able to walk around the wheelbarrow, but I don't know that this justifies increasing the unproductive walkway space.

My goal is to get good enough at intensive gardening to grow all our vegetables. If this is going to happen in 1200 square feet, I have to make every square foot count. I'm not even sure that is feasible.

Now, I have ZERO experience at this, but at this point wide walkways seem to be a "nice to have" rather than a "must have". Am I "off in the weeds" or are wide walkways really a necessity?

Thanks for all your help.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 5:25PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I have as narrow a path as possible. My wheelbarrow work is done in the off season so I don't need the Champs Elysee myself.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 7:17PM
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You can drive the barrow to next to your plot, and bucket the compost or whatever in- I would make them wide enough to squat without the item behind you getting sat on. Or bring a little garden stool and place it across the path if you need to stoop for weeding. (I walk around with a litter bucket with a lid on it as a small stool. Keeps some of the ticks off me!)

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 8:06PM
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We use concrete paving stones to make our walkways, and they are set in the long way, so that the width of the walkway is only 8 inches. Our garden is about 5 feet wide, and maybe 18 feet long. We live in the city, so space is limited. We don't have space to store a wheelbarrow, so we use two 5 gallon plastic buckets, with handles, when we have to haul things in and out of the garden.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 10:49PM
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vickima(z5 MA)

I started a new garden this year and dug out 3' wide beds with paths of 1.5-2'. Would have been fine with my last garden but here everything did exceptionally well and it turned into an impenetrable jungle. I'm like you - paths seemed to be a waste of space and I had a larger center path between 8' rows for hauling stuff.

What I learned about myself is that the garden becomes an unpleasant place if it gets too crowded and I can't get to the plants to tend them properly. Luckily for me, I only prepared half the garden this year, so I will apply the lessons I learned to the other half and eventually redo the beds I have.

If at all possible, I'd start with structures that aren't permanent, so that you can adjust later as you learn your own style and more about how the plants you want to grow do in the space you have. This also allows you to indulge in one of my favorite gardening activities - planning for "next year" when everything will be just perfect! :)

    Bookmark   September 14, 2005 at 7:16AM
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lauragardens(z5 MA)

I hear you about space! I have a plot about 15x30 and have narrow paths between beds (15-18"). However, I have a big ol' 3 foot path down the middle for wheeling in mulch, tools and soil amendments. I splurged on this because I needed to fence in the garden, so there's no access from the ends of the rows.

As for how much space you need to grow all your vegetables -- you don't say how many you are feeding with 540 sq ft, but my 450 produces an abundance for the two of us -- more than enough to share with my mom and others. I'm not growing enough potatoes to eat through the entire winter, though, and no corn or grains.

One suggestion -- I've found 3 feet to be a much easier width to manage than 4 feet for the beds. It allows you to reach into the middle of the beds very easily, without straining the lower back. Of course, you may have much longer arms than I do!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2005 at 7:26AM
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VickiMa wrote "everything did exceptionally well and it turned into an impenetrable jungle."

This is what I was afraid of. I didn't know how much the plants would spread out onto the path. I guess if I had broccoli on either side of the path that I might not be able to get down it. If I do use 2' paths, perhaps I should be careful not to plant to close to the edge.

LauraGardens wrote "... you don't say how many you are feeding with 540 sq ft ...".

My wife an I and eventually 4 children. We currently have 7 (b), 4 (g), and 1 (b) year olds. We'll start working on the next one (g?) in a year or so. I will have to turn my whole yard into a garden when they get to be teenagers! Hopefully we will move to the country before then.

LauraGardens also wrote "Of course, you may have much longer arms than I do!".

Probably so, I'm 6' 2" tall and I can reach into the center pretty easily. But my children have short arms and they would not be able to reach all the way to the center to pull weeds. And that's what children are for right? ;)

Thanks for all the good experience-based suggestions!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2005 at 8:00AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

And remember: a useful path or walkway is never 'wasted space'. (Note the word: useful.)

    Bookmark   September 14, 2005 at 2:32PM
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paulyn(z 8 NW OR)

I wish I'd been smart enough to ask that question when I was putting in cedar raised beds. Now I'm having to cut down some of the beds from 4' to 3' to make roomier paths. The tomatoes, raspberries, etc "own the road".

Also, I like the narrower beds because it's easier reaching tall crops like pole beans. I'm leaving some 5' wide beds for certain crops like squash and corn. I started out wanting everything to look uniform (same size paths and beds) but now I've adapted to a more flexible pattern. It's more interesting to look at now, too.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2005 at 10:08PM
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Organic_johnny(z6b SEPA)

Personally, I prefer a path much wider than 2'. The plants in the beds will grow horizontally as well as vertiacally, on both sides, and you'll soon have no path to speak of.

My rule of thumb lately has been "wide enough for the mower to get through", but then I have a lot more space here.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2005 at 7:30AM
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Like Lauragardens, I have a single 3 foot "avenue" meandering through the garden. This provides ample "strolling" opportunities but its primary purpose is to make it easy to wheel in bulk material such as mulch or compost close to an end of each raised bed. It is the only path covered in a permanent wood chip mulch and is an attractive focal point of the garden, but its reason d'etre is strictly functional.

The garden consists of many double-dug 4' wide raised beds, mostly 12' long with 16" paths between, each reachable from the 3' path. Since the purpose of the garden is to produce as much food as possible on intensively planted beds, all aisles wider than necessary are wasteful for my purposes.

When I first laid out the main part of the garden, I built 2 1/2' wide raised beds with 2' aisles. When I looked at the resulting miles of paths, I quickly realized the folly of this considering my goal and widened all beds to 4' and narrowed and reduced the number of aisles.

16" is ample walking space for me, even when I'm not feeling particularly graceful. Children are not encouraged to run and play in the paths, nor is strolling hand-in-hand with one's sweetie. (This isn't the Botanicical Gardens.) And I don't need to wheel a garden cart along each edge of the bed. Since mulch can be wheeled up close to the end of each bed, a step or two lets me pitch a forkful of mulch to the farthest reaches.

Plant sprawl into the aisles is controlled somewhat by stakes and some strong wire along the edge of the bed to hold the foliage up. I don't mind brushing past a plant in my narrow aisle. In biointensive plantings, allowing plants to sprawl is as wasteful as wide promenades between each bed.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2005 at 12:22PM
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My paths are two feet wide with the exception of a "main pathway" up the center which is six feet wide.

I have a perimeter pathway four feet wide to handle the garden cart when I take the notion to use it.

I also have two paths that are 18 inches....they are way too small and will be redone this year.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2005 at 11:12PM
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vstech(z7 Charlotte)

ok, my paths are about 3feet apart, but I have a large area. about 40x80, but if you grow any of the squash or pumpkins, forget about a path. it aint gonna happen. they will outgrow the entire garden. know what you are growing and how much space it will require. corn and sunflowers are easy on space. pole beans are fine, the root plants are of course fine.
I did not know or have ANY idea how large theese things could grow. I learned.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2005 at 2:15PM
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vstech wrote "I did not know or have ANY idea how large theese things could grow. I learned."

This is what I'm currently trying to figure out. I've learned a bit about soil, but I don't have a clue about plants yet! For planning, I need to know what the following plants look like when they are full grown (height and width):

* Broccoli
* Bush beans
* Okra
* Tomatoes (caged)
* Potatoes
* Peppers
* Squash

I think that some, like tomatoes, can probably be trained to keep to themselves. Not sure about squash. But I don't know how much horizontal space to allow these plants and how tall they get (i.e., much they will shade other plants).


    Bookmark   September 28, 2005 at 2:23PM
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vstech(z7 Charlotte)

from what I have planted, it depends on the squash, the zukinii Green and yellow, seem to form a bush type growth, pumpkins and spagetti squash are like IVY or such. they GROW Huge long vines. I mean 20-35FEET! in each direction! really! of course when the SVB moth lays it's stupid egg and the worm starts eating the vine from the inside, it dies quickly.
the tomatoes I planted grew into about 10'tall bushes about 3-5 feet in diamater. maybe I put down too much mulch and composted horse manure. I will be putting much more space between my tomatoes next year.
the broccoli so far is just a single plant with large broad leaves. not sure how large they will get, but I don't think they will cause any problems with my walkways.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2005 at 9:44PM
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cherrisa(z6 MID TN)

I just got the book about biointensive gardening. It's pretty good because it gives you planting layouts to resolve the questions you had about items growing all over the place and plant spacing as well. I have a little 3 foot 10 foot space and needed to figure out how to fit as much as possible in it. It's very interesting and I'm glad I picked up the book.

Here is a link that might be useful: BioIntenstive Gardening

    Bookmark   October 7, 2005 at 5:32PM
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yooperjon(Up Mi. z4/5)

Walkways are a personal choice. Your rows being 16' long they are a nice size for strolling down with a basket in hand without the need of a cart or wheelbarrol. My wife and I are growing most of our yearly veggies. I pretty much let the veggies tell me the amount of spacing they need through observimg their growth habits, but sence your new at this hear are some general guide lines;
Root crops; 1' walkways between beds (beets, carrots, onions, radishes etc... a bed 2' wide could be devided into three 5' sections with three rows in each. Two and sometimes three harvest can be obtained from each section.
Salad greens; 1'walkways 36" wide bed, most salad greens can be planted with plants being 6" apart, but with head lettuce plant in a 3-2 pattern at 12" apart.(always use tranceplants for maximum yeilds, a crop out a crop in.)Two-Four Harvest per season.
Bush beans, and short vined peas 1' walkway 2' wide row with three rows in each row. (Two harvest from seed each growing season.)
Trellised crops, 2' walkway with a single row planted in a 2' wide bed.(tomatoes, pole beans, cucumbers, some pea types.
The following do well in a 3' wide row 3-2 pattern 12" spacing with a 2' walkway Cole crops; cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kolorabi 6" apart. Peppers, and okra in a 3-2 pattern.
Squash\Pumpkin (summer, and winter)
Melons in a 2' wide bed with a 6'walkway between rows.
Always use a thick mulch of choice in your walkways to reduce weeding time.
Corn single rows with a 2'path in between. (four row minimum for good pollenation)
Potatoes in genral, a single row with 2' walkways in between. Potatoes need to be hilled two or three times per season. There are space saving methods for growing potatoes.
When buying seeds look for two things; short season, and space saving types.
Hope this helps! Jon

    Bookmark   October 7, 2005 at 7:20PM
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yooperjon(Up Mi. z4/5)


    Bookmark   October 10, 2005 at 4:47PM
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veggiecanner(Id 5/6)

I have a 2000 sq foot garden. The beds range from 2 to 4 foot wide. Some of the beds are up against fences and buildings. The pathes are 18 inches wide. I use my wheel barrow only in the early spring and late fall.
How much room you need to grow your food depends on if you intend to start some things in pots while the room in your garden is being used for other things.
I grow replacement plants for cole and lettuce crops all summer long so that when the peas, garlic and beans come out in goes a row of broccolli , cabbage or lettuce.
During the summer the beds are not allowed to have any empty spaces.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2005 at 5:34PM
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yooperjon(Up Mi. z4/5)

Awsome veggicanner, Thats what I mean by a crop out and a crop in. Great Growing to you!!! Jon

    Bookmark   October 15, 2005 at 11:19AM
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