Two Tips to a Great Vegetable Garden

By Cheryl Long and Tabitha Alterman
June/July 2006
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Rather than planting your garden in traditional rows, many experts recommend planting crops in wide permanent beds. By using the same areas for beds and paths each year, you can save on fertilizer and tilling time. Plus, you'll be able to keep soil loose more easily than if you use new rows each year, with some rows ending up in areas where soil is compacted from having been a path the year before.

The permanent beds can be raised (to improve drainage and warm up faster in spring), or they can be slightly sunken (to conserve moisture and protect seedlings in dry, windy climates). You can frame them with wood, bricks or logs, or leave them unframed. The important point is to designate the beds and paths and follow the same pattern from year to year.

When sowing seeds in the garden, it can be difficult not to crowd your future edible plants. That's the reason most of us spend a great deal of time thinning seedlings each spring. It's also the reason that those of us who can't find the time to do the thinning end up having tightly spaced plants that look a mess and don't have enough room to grow.

When sowing your seeds into wide beds, here's a tip that will help you space seeds evenly, reduce the time you spend thinning young plants and make it easier to spot weeds:

Lay a piece of chicken wire over the bed as a guide. The hexagonal openings in the wire are spaced on either one inch or two inch centers, and your seed packet will tell you how far apart seeds of each crop should be spaced.

The loose, fertile soil in your permanent beds and your chicken wire sowing guide will put you well on your way to having the best-looking garden in the neighborhood. To read more about making great garden beds, see Build Permanent Beds and Paths in the April/May 2003 issue.

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