(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on January 27, 2008.)
This method is very similar to using Square Foot Gardening, except the area is larger and the planting not so particularly spaced.
Wide Row Gardening
Rather than plant single straight rows in your garden, try planting wide rows. Several advantages are listed below along with some general instructions for creating wide rows. You'll get more yield in less space, and your garden will require less maintenance. You can make your rows as long as you need and have the space.
The advantages of using wide rows vs single row planting:
More space in your garden can and will be used to grow plants. You will see an increased production per square foot. You are creating and controlling a micro climate. You can add amendments selectively if necessary. If you are gardening in limited space this method allows you to get much more production per square foot than many other methods.
You save time because you have fewer weeds and properly monitored, less watering is necessary. You only need to mulch heavily between the rows. The shade provided by the growing plants eliminates the need for heavy mulching in the rows.
Harvesting is much easier, you will be able to pick more produce from a single location. You can control the height of your beds making picking much easier on your back. Many of the cool weather crops will produce longer with less bolt if inter planted among taller plants.
Companion planting is much easier. By inter planting root crops such as carrots, beets and radishes with other plants, you cultivate and aerate the remaining plants as you harvest the root crops.
Your plants stay cleaner and healthier. Heavy rain is less likely to splash mud on your growing vegetables.
Creating wide rows:
We have found 3 foot wide rows work best for us. It is easier to reach the middle of the row from either side.
Take extra time to properly till or spade the soil to a depth of six to 12 inches. Mix in ample amounts of compost, if available, processed manure, well-rotted manure and if the others are not available an all-purpose vegetable garden fertilizer, like 10-10-10. After mixing these soil additives with the existing soil, rake the area level to eliminate low spots where water night collect and keep the soil cool. By mounding the planting area you will find the soil dries out and warms up sooner and crops reach maturity at an earlier date.
Plan the layout of the garden on paper, before you start planting, keeping in mind that tall-growing crops should be to the north. Otherwise, they would shade lower-growing plants
This same type of wide-row vegetable gardening can be adapted for use in small areas such as flower and shrub beds. I have referred to this as intensified gardening, but it really is the same thing as wide-row gardening. Crops are planted very close together in various shapes to suit the particular space available.
Regardless of how you lay out the rows, here are some pointers to keep in mind:
First of all, when young seedling plants begin to develop be sure to thin them and space them properly. Otherwise, the crop will not grow and produce as it should. This is the hardest part if you're just starting to use this method. However, grit your teeth and thin with an iron toothed rake. Most of the tiny seedlings you rake are etabile. Great in salads or saluted with a bit of oil and a splash of vinaigrette. Yummy. The holes left from this process allow the remaining crop to thrive and grow. It leaves pockets where more air and water can get to the root systems of the remaining plants.
Other Tips and Tricks:
I use radishes as a row marker between plantings. Since they germinate and come up fast it acts like a marker so I can tell where one planting stops and another one begins.
As you can see in the pictures you can also use hoops or row covers over the beds, this will give you a "jump" on starting seed before your frost date. Just remember to monitor it closely, as on a warm day the area can get too hot. Just open the end of the row cover. You also prevent a lot pests from feasting on your new veggies until they get a good start.
There are also illustrations of some raised beds made of different types of materials. Those can be as diverse as materials avalible in your area. You do not have to use side boards if you do not want too. It's a matter of personal taste and budget. We don't use them, too cheap. And I like the additional flexibility of being able to move the beds around from year to year. But I am using a big Troy rototiller, if you don't have access then you would probably be better advised to use side boards of some type. Just keep good records of what your planting, so you can get good crop rotation. You have fewer diseases with this method, but good sanitation practices are always a good thing.
If you want to save space and time, plus make it easier to harvest vegetables, wide-row gardening may be right for you this year. Once you try it you'll never go back to single row again. :)
Picture used with permission ofceeadsalaskazone3, Mary McP, and Dann_L. Thanks so much :)