Figuring out what size garden beds you want to use can be a daunting task. There is a lot to think about when choosing the perfect garden bed size. I am going to tell you about the garden bed size I chose, why I chose it and why it’s perfect for my garden.
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In the past, I never measured out garden beds. I would pick a section of the garden to plant one type of plant and then move on to another section and plant another type of plant. What ended up happening was I would walk through the entire garden and not have specific walking paths. This caused major compaction issues. For my soil that has a lot of clay in it, compaction was not a good thing!
This year, as I started planning my garden and tried to get a little more organized, I started to do some research on garden bed sizes. If you are planning your garden, don’t forget to download my free garden journal and planner here.
The Research on the Perfect Garden Bed Size
I read a book by Eliot Coleman called The New Organic Grower. I definitely recommend this book for everyone, even if you don’t follow all of his advice or don’t grow on the scale that he does. It has lots of helpful information.
In his book, Coleman says he uses a 30 inch bed and a 12 inch path between beds. I decided to try this out. As I started measuring my beds, I saw that the 30 inch bed was a great size for me. However, the 12 inch walkways between were just not wide enough for me. I decided to stick with the 30 inch beds but use an 18 inch path between each bed.
The Benefits of the Perfect Garden Bed Size
Another reason I chose the 30 inch bed size was because I have a rake that is about 30 inches across. This rake was developed by Eliot Coleman in conjunction with Johnny’s Selected Seeds. It works really well for prepping the beds for planting. It can also be used to measure out the rows within the beds. It has a lot of functionality.
The 30 inch bed size makes it easy for crop rotation to keep plants healthy year to year. With 30 inch beds, it is easy to track what plants have been in the beds previously and not repeat those crops the next year.
The Total Garden Size in Relation to the Perfect Garden Bed Size
I have a pretty big garden area at about 100 feet by 25 feet of total space. When planning your garden area, I would say make it as big as you can. But, don’t overwhelm yourself. Start with whatever you think you can care for. And, if you’re not ready to jump into a full garden, you can start a straw bale garden with very little space.
For me, it made more sense to make my garden beds shorter by having them go 25 feet in length. This seemed more manageable to me than planting in 100 foot rows.
The most important thing for me in the garden is soil health. There are a few things I do to try to build the healthiest soil possible.
One thing I do to help build healthy soil is use no-till methods. Benefits of no-till include:
Pores are created in the soil that allow for air and water to be stored
It allows for beneficial fungi and mycorrhizal networks to be formed in the soil which allow for nutrients to be better available for plants
No-till methods help to regenerate the soil instead of degrading it. Some methods I use to help this regeneration process in the garden are:
I have my chickens free-range in the garden in the fall. This helps compaction by breaking up the top layer of soil. Chickens also leave behind lots of beneficial manure that adds nutrients to the soil. To learn more about the benefits of raising chickens, take a look at this post.
Cover crops grow roots deep into the soil. This is another method to help with compaction. Cover crops stop erosion so there isn’t as much rain runoff. They also bring nutrients up to the top layers of the soil so that they are more available for the garden plants.
Mulch is great to put around plants and in between the rows. To learn more about garden mulch, take a look at this post.
Some benefits of mulch include that it helps with water retention, helps keep weeds down and as it breaks down, it feeds the soil.
It is really important to add organic material to your garden to improve the health of the soil. Compost is a wonderful organic material to add to the garden to feed it. To learn more about how to start a compost pile, check out this post. Compost can be made from kitchen scraps, leaves and other yard waste and bedding from your chicken coop. You can also add organic material by using your leftover cover crop.
How to Measure the Perfect Garden Bed Size
To make it easy to measure out the garden beds, I cut two pieces of wood: one at 18 inches and one at 30 inches. These pieces of wood act as my measuring sticks by just placing them on the ground.
I used plastic tent stakes. You could use any kind of stake or stick that you can find. I placed the tent stakes between each piece of wood, measuring the beds and paths between.
I used twine to wrap around the stakes so that I could better see where the bed is.
How to Make Paths Between the Garden Beds
I wanted to mark out my paths in a way that makes them more long lasting. To do that, I wanted to smother the growth and then put down wood chips.
To smother out the current growth in the paths, I used compostable paper bags from animal feed that I have been saving up. You could also use something like paper grocery bags or cardboard that doesn’t have tape on it. Just make sure that you choose something that doesn’t have chemicals on it.
After putting down the bags, I added wood chip mulch. Wood chips take a while to break down so they will protect the ground as they also slowly create healthier soil.
I had wood chips left from some trees that we had cut down around the property. You could always check out the Chip Drop website to see if there are any tree trimming services in your area that are willing to drop loads of wood chips off to you for free!
Finding your perfect garden bed size doesn't have to be hard. Just keep in mind that having specific beds will lower the amount of compaction you have. It will create soil that will be easier to dig and have better overall health.