Sample Raised Bed Garden Design- Wildflowers, Vegetables, and Herbs (Oh My!)
This is a simple garden plan (4x8' bed) that is great for beginner gardeners. Included are annual vegetables, as well as herbs, annual and native wildflowers that attract beneficial insects. See our blog post about Companion Planting to read more about incorporating specific wildflowers and herbs into your garden specifically to deter and repel insect pests, while attracting the “good guys.”
This garden was planned to allow for adequate space between all crops to promote good air circulation (which decreases the chance of disease), to allow for crops to size up, and to allow for the gardener to see what is going on with each plant. Allowing your crops to have enough room as they grow is important for new gardeners so you can make sense of what is going on and understand each crop’s behaviour. It is very easy to plant things too densely at first with your newfound garden enthusiasm, only to find that quickly your crops get into a tangle, and you end up in a situation where you may not know what is what and are unable to identify any issues should pests, disease or other problems arise. When designing your garden, make sure to research how much space each crop needs. Check out a few resources to make sure you are getting consistent information.
Some notes about this garden design and tips for productive harvests:
- Climbing/vining plants like peas, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers/melons etc can be placed on the edges of your raised bed and staked/trellised. Keep them “trained” throughout the season by helping their tendrils and branches stick to the trellis, keeping them from overtaking the interior of the garden. In the garden design above, note the trellis along the North and West sides of the bed for those crops to climb.
- Remember to prune your tomatoes, they have a tendency to take over (note the difference between determinate and indeterminate varieties and the specific care each needs).
- Cucumber/melon/squash vines can reach well over 6’ depending on the circumstances, so make sure they have adequate trellis to climb.
- Summer squash with “bush” behaviour, i.e. your average zucchini, can get quite large (I’ve seen these plants get to 2-3 feet wide and more than 3 feet tall- so give them space)! They are prone to disease like downy and powdery mildew which can be devastating to their growth, so airflow and sunlight penetration through their large stalks are key.
- Harvest your cucumbers and zucchinis every few days for maximum production. The more you harvest, the more your plant is likely to produce.
- Carrots and other root crops can be a hit or miss in raised beds. Depending on the location of your raised bed, the main water source for your plants might be coming mostly from the surface of the garden (whether from your hose or the rain). If your root crops are used to getting their water from the surface of the soil without deep penetration, they may be less motivated to go search for water in the depths of your garden bed (especially if you are planting on top of pavement or gravel etc.) and may stay quite stunted in growth. They just won’t need to put their roots down any further to get what they need, so they likely won’t! Using a soaker hose or drip tape can allow for a slow steady trickle of water that will penetrate the garden soil more deeply over time and may be more effective for watering then overhead irrigation with your hose. Sometimes you can stand above your garden with your hose for 10 minutes, thinking you are adequately soaking your soil- but when you test how deeply you’ve moistened the garden with your finger, you have barely surpassed one fingernail’s depth!
Crops like swiss chard and kale will produce all season long if maintained and harvested correctly. Head lettuce can grow some new shoots if you leave enough of the plant intact when you harvest, but what grows back can be tough and bitter.
- You could substitute head lettuce with lettuce mix, which features a variety of leaf lettuces that you plant densely together in rows, that you can “cut and come again.” These lettuce mixes are what you see in the grocery store in the mixed-greens packages with baby-leafy greens. You can usually harvest these up to 3 times before they start to get tough/ bitter, depending on the season. You can harvest baby lettuce mix after 21 days, which is quite a lot sooner than the 45-55 days you will normally need to wait to get a full head of lettuce.
- When you harvest kale, harvest the lowest leaves, keeping the upper leaves growing. A week or so later, when the next set of lowest leaves are at the size you want, harvest them, and again keep the upper leaves intact. You will see your kale continue to grow higher and higher to the sky throughout the season. Kale can take frosts and will continue living even when the snow arrives. If you cover your kale with row cover and/or plastic in the fall, you can harvest into the winter!
- If you harvest the exterior leaves of swiss chard, and keep the small interior leaves growing, it will continue producing all season. Similar to the method above with the kale, keep harvesting the exterior leaves as they size up, keeping the smaller leaves at the centre of the plant intact to grow.
- Note on succession planting: for crops that come to maturity and are ready for harvest by early summer (i.e. peas, greens, head lettuce), once they are done producing, you can take out the plants and seed a new crop in its space. Maybe you want to plant a new row of peas, or a new batch of lettuce mix. Maybe you want to seed a few more carrots that will be ready for harvest a little later than your first planting. Your garden space can be as productive as you make it! There are lots of resources online regarding succession planting.
Planning and designing your garden in advance is fun and will lead to great success as you will know how many seeds to start/ seedlings to purchase and what supplies and materials you will need throughout the season!