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Recommended raised bed size


The time is approaching for myself where I will have to begin constructing raised beds for my allotment.

Rumour has it there is a golden size to make these raised beds for optimal performance and for less back strain.

I was wondering what size others have made their beds, how easy it is for you to crop and maintain from the size you have chosen and if there is a size to completely avoid!

I have plenty of space on my allotment and I'm currently mulling  over 2ft wide X 4ft long?!


  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,629
    You can make them any size you like but the usual recommedation is 4'/120cm wide so you can reach the middle form both sides to plant/weed/harvest without treading on and thus compacting the soil.  The length can be anything you like.

    I would advise putting a post in each corner - just thick enough to be sturdy and high enough to a) stop a hosepipe from trailing over the plants and crushing them as you go round watering and b) use as a support for future nets/cloches to protect plants from insects, cold etc.
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 9,562
    Make them short enough so you aren't tempted to step on the bed to get across to the other side. If they're really long you won't want to walk down to the end and back up the other side.
    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Posts: 11,622
    Good point Jenny. Ours are 10ft x 4ft wide x 3 - all we've got room for, but that provides one bed for potatoes (earlies), one bed sweetcorn (15 plants) plus 2 rows Swiss chard and third bed had runnners and peas. There's paths in between the beds, we do a 3yr rotation of veg and only grow what we like to eat. Apart from the Swiss Chard I must admit, as I only grew that this year for the colours! 
    North East Somerset - Clay soil over limestone
  • NollieNollie Posts: 7,316
    120cm/4ft does seem to be the magic width regarding reach. My six beds are 3.2m long and I am not tempted to step on them. The 120cm width allows me a grid with 4 long strings, stretched end to end, spaced 25cm apart with 10cm border around the perimeter. This gives me four rows of most things planted along the string line, or three rows of salad potatoes between the strings. I space courgettes, aubergines and other biggies 50cm apart (fitting quite neatly in my grid) and usually manage to squeeze a few catch crops in between before they fill out that space. I grow my tomatoes outside here, two rows of canes forming a wigwam along the two outer string lines, a row of spinach between them, which are shaded by the tomatoes allowing me to extend the spinach season a bit. I do like a nice grid. The paths between the beds are 60cm wide which I can manoeuvre a wheelbarrow around, just, but if I did it again I would make them 70 or 80cm wide so my steering doesn’t have to be quite so precise!
    Mountainous Northern Catalunya, Spain. Hot summers, cold winters.
  • Janie BJanie B Posts: 943
    Sounds a feat of engineering, @Nollie! A photo, maybe...? 
  • ah brilliant and yes a photo would be great to see!!

    And yes I think 100% I will be looking around the 4ft width mark for sure! Thanks for the input everyone.
  • NollieNollie Posts: 7,316
    Hi @Janie B, not much to look at, they are simple rectanglular boxes, it’s just the overall grid dimensions that seem to work for me. Helpful so you know where you have sown lines of seeds like lettuce, beetroot etc., so you don’t how them out by mistake. The feat of engineering was digging out a large steep bank to create a usable flat space!
    Mountainous Northern Catalunya, Spain. Hot summers, cold winters.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 53,924
    I often think four feet is quite wide, maybe because I'm small. I'd think it also depends on what you use the beds for.
    If you need to do a lot of reaching to the middle, it might be better to have them slightly narrower, but perhaps it's also a personal thing. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Another, less obvious, reason for using 120cm is that most timber comes in 240cm (8') lengths, so you can just cut them in half and waste no wood.  That's why you see a lot of 8x4' beds. :)
    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • steve howesteve howe Posts: 55
    edited November 2018
    I get my timber in 16' lengths (1" X 6") from a local sawmill, saw 4' off and make my beds 12' x 4'. using two lengths. 2" x 2" I don't think it sensible to make them any longer than that, and probably 10' is the ideal as most seed packets are arranged to sow a 10' row. Timber stakes form the corners and intermediate strength on the long sides. On some I used two layers of timber to make the beds 12" high where deeper soil was needed (potatoes, parsnips etc) The suggestion of putting longer posts in the corners is a great idea for stopping hosepipes scything across the beds, or you could be really posh and put those wooden balls you see for tops of fence posts....:) 

     I think 4' wide is the optimal width for reaching over, I use a cut-down scaffold plank set across the bed for access if I do need to dig without standing on the bed. I agree with Nollie about paths - I made mine 2' wide working on the (allegedly Monastic ideal) that One's heels should be against the next bed whilst One's knees are braced against the one being worked on...perhaps medieval monks had shorter legs in those days.... I would make them about 2' 6" wide if I were doing it again.

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