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how wide to make these raised beds?

Posted by canokie 7a (OK) (My Page) on
Sat, Jul 12, 14 at 22:49

Ok, I'm ramping up to redo my backyard (again) for the last time. I've tasted success at last with growing some of my own food, and I want more!

I have a small backyard, about 54 feet wide and 21 feet from the back of the house to the back fence. That means when I step off the back patio there's only 15 feet to the back fence. To make gardening even more challenging, the house is on the south side so I have an even narrower strip that gets enough sun. I've tried different layouts trying to maximize the amount of growing space while not totally taking over the backyard, and have finally come up with what I think is the best solution yet - put narrow raised beds along the fence across the back and along both sides. Hog panels affixed to the inside of the fence will provide plenty of trellis, as I plan to grow vertical as much as possible. Then, for added growing space, I plan to add one 4' by 12' bed in each back corner, leaving the center of the yard open.

Ok, here's my question. I know the general rule is to make raised beds about 4 feet wide, so one can reach in two feet from either side. Since these beds will be along the fence, I was going to make them 2 feet wide. However, since I would like to grow tomatoes and pretty much everything else in these beds, do you think making them 2.5 or even 3 feet wide would be better? Adding 6 inches or a foot would significantly increase my growing area as well, without adding much to the cost of materials. Since I have about 90 feet of fence, that would mean 225 or even 270 square feet instead of 180 square feet. The two 4 foot by 12 foot beds would add about another 100 square feet. That's about as much as I think I can possibly get out of this little yard of mine, and that should be a huge improvement over the little 100 square foot potager I have now!

Looking forward to some input - you guys are great and have helped me so much!

Edited to add an image and correct the width of my back yard (54 feet, not 50). There is a manhole in one corner, which is why it jogs out like that.

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This post was edited by canokie on Sat, Jul 12, 14 at 23:08

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: how wide to make these raised beds?

Canokie, I don't see anything wrong with your plan, with your small lawn, you don't have a lot of options. I would try to grow as much produce on trellises as I could. If your patio is not covered you may want to think about growing something like Tromboncino squash or Seminole pumpkins over it.


RE: how wide to make these raised beds?


The words "for the last time" made me grin. I'm betting it won't be the last time, but that's okay---change is good.

You know I'm going to suggest going with 3' wide beds. You'll get so much more growing space that you'll never regret it.

I second Larry's suggestion that you trellis as much as you can. Even though my garden is large, I still use trellises to pack in as many plants as I can. Since mine is a big production garden for canning,freezing and dehydrating in addition to fresh eating, I always want to get the highest productivity from the space that I can. Trellising as many crops as possible helps improve your garden's productivity.

Over the years I have trellised the following (not counting tomatoes, since they are in stand-alone cages): pole beans, pole varieties of southern peas, cucumbers, Armenian cucumbers, winter squash, gourds, bitter gourds and snake melons, sugar snap peas, melons of all kinds in small to medium sizes (in terms of fruit produced)---watermelons, muskmelons and true cantaloupes, and miniature to medium-sized pumpkins. In the beginning I just grew flowering annual vines on my garden fence because I assumed (erroneously) that the deer would eat everything I tried to grow on the fence. While I enjoyed having tons of flowering vines (morning glories, moonflower vines, cypress vines, cardinal climber, vining nasturtiums, black-eyed susan vine, purple and white hyacinth beans, etc.), once I started growing veggies on the fence too, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the deer generally left them alone for the most part.

I think you'll be amazed at how much you can squeeze into wider beds. For example, if you plant a row of tomato plants along the fence line, you can put other things---veggies, herbs or flowers, in the ground at the base of the tomato plants. I often grow carrots and lettuce as a living mulch beneath, between and alongside tomato plants in raised beds, but also have grown bush varieties of beans, beets (planted long before the tomatoes went into the ground), radishes, turnips, etc. as an edging along the front edge of a raised bed with tomato plants along the back edge. Sometimes I just use flowers and herbs, and sometimes I have flowers, short veggies and herbs all mixed in together along with the tomatoes. I've even grown a row of peppers along the front edge of a bed adjacent to a row of tomato plants along the back edge of a bed. When you add a little more width to a bed, you'll be amazed how much more you can plant.


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