New to gardening: Layout question

valannb22February 5, 2013

This is going to be my very first year attempting to garden. I am planning on doing several raised beds, but I have a couple of questions. What would be the best way to lay them out? From what info I have read, it looks like the long side of the bed should be north/south. Is that the correct way? Also, I want to grow some tall crops like corn and beans. It looks like those should be to the north? Thanks for your input.

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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

This is a question for which there is not necessarily a universal cut-and-dried answer.

The primary consideration when deciding how to orient your rows should he the slope of your ground if it is not level. With sloping ground, you want to orient your rows so they run across the slope in order to prevent or at least reduce erosion. I have land that slopes from uphill at the south to downhill at the north and also from uphill at the west to downhill at the east, so I run some beds in each direction, just trying to cross the slope well enough to slow erosion.

If your garden plot is perfectly flat and is in full sun, you can run the rows either way in our climate. For gardeners in latitudes further north than ours here in Oklahoma, there may be a slight advantage to running the rows north-south. As far south as we are and with the angle of the sun we get during the growing season, I cannot tell that it makes a difference, and I have some gardeners near me on flat ground who run their rows north-south while others run them east-west and they seem to get good yields either way.

What is more important than which way the rows run for light exposure purposes, is just to remember to put your taller plants at the north side of the garden and shorter plants at the south side, no matter which way the rows run. That is the standard advice given so the taller plants are not on the south end of the garden shading shorter plants to the north. However, I don't necessarily follow that advice myself. Sometimes I deliberately interplant taller crops with shorter ones that like some shade so that the shorter plants benefit from the shade of the taller ones. In our climate, 6 to 8 hours of full sun can be brutal on plants, especially in the hot summer months, so I often arrange my plantings so some plants get shade deliberately from taller ones.

If we lived in a cooler climate with less intense sunlight and heat, we'd likely need to try harder to keep every plant from being shaded by something near it, but here in our climate some shade is beneficial to some vegetables.

Also consider your prevailing wind patterns when deciding how to run your rows. Look from your garden plot at nearby fences, trees, buildings, etc. and understand how they will or won't cast shade on the garden or block wind from it. Remember that the angle of the sun in winter is different from the angle of the sun during the warm growing season. This is why there's no standard answer to this question---because there are many variables involved and each gardener has to work with the site they have and make their choices on what will work best with their garden plot and with the surrounding area.

Truthfully, though, based on my experience over a lifetime of gardening I feel like the direction the rows run on flat ground in full sun exposure in our climate is irrelevant. With fertile soil and proper watering, you'll get good yields either way.


    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 10:23AM
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