What’s the right size for raised garden beds? That’s a great question! The answer? Well, it’s not complicated, but it does take some consideration.
Of the many wonderful aspects of a raised bed garden, one of the things I love most is that they can accommodate a variety of gardeners. While some of us are agile and able to get on the ground to weed, plant, and tend our vegetables, that’s not the case for everyone. However, raised garden beds make gardening much more accessible.
A raised bed allows people with all kinds of mobility issues to garden. Plan it well, and gardeners in wheelchairs, gardeners with bad backs, gardeners with bad knees, kids, or gardeners who just don’t like getting dirt on their pants can all enjoy the produce that comes from a raised bed.
Raised beds can accommodate soil issues, too. Whether you have clay soil, contaminated soil, or a space covered in concrete, a raised bed can give you the option of growing your own food.
As you can imagine, that means there isn’t one “right” size for raised garden beds. There is, however, a right size for you. Here’s how to figure out what that is.
How to determine the best size for raised garden beds in your garden
For many raised beds, the goal is to be able to access your vegetables without stepping into the garden. Given that parameter, location is one factor in determining the right size for raised garden beds. Ideally, you’ll be able to access the garden from each side, but that’s not always the case.
With that in mind, if you can access the bed from both sides, the University of Georgia Extension suggests “raised beds that are 3 feet wide for children and 4 feet wide for adults. If providing wheelchair access, plan raised beds that are 2 feet wide for children and 3 feet wide for adults.”
That said, I’ve seen some gorgeous raised beds that are only about 18 inches wide. Gotta work with the space you have, right?
Moving on with our three dimensions, what’s the best size for raised garden beds when it comes to length? That’s not very important from the gardening end of things. The proper length for a raised bed is really about the space you have and how far you want to move around it.
What may be the most crucial factor is depth or height. This is also where you need to consider how to combine your needs with the needs of your plants and the constraints of your space.
Let’s start with whether or not wheelchair access is a consideration. The city of Seattle Community Gardening Program states that “wheelchair modified beds should have a maximum height of 34 inches.” That’s also a good height for people who aren’t as able to bend over and would prefer to garden standing up.
However, nearly 3 feet of soil can come with a hefty price tag. And, for many crops, you only need around 18 inches of soil. One option here is to raise your raised bed. Build or buy a tabletop style or elevated raised bed like this one or this one.
You might need a deeper bed if you’re growing on top of concrete, gravel, or another hard surface, and you want to grow vegetables that require more soil, like corn, indeterminate tomatoes, melons, and other vegetables with deep roots. If that’s the case, however, you don’t need to go with the same size for raised garden beds all around. You can have some that are shallower and some that are deeper. Remember, that soil costs money!
So, where does this leave us?
Ultimately, the “right” size for a garden bed is one that works best for you, with consideration of your landscape and constraints. But if you want actual numbers and are looking for something versatile enough for most gardeners, the best size for raised garden beds is …
Between 3 to 4 feet wide, with a length of 6 to 8 feet. As far as depth, 12 to 18 inches will accommodate most roots, and a truly raised bed with enclosed bottom should have a top-height of 3 feet.
Now then, who’s ready to go buy some lumber?
What size do you find best for raised bed gardens?
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