On this page, I’ve provided sample layouts and rotations for small raised garden beds, to give you a better idea on how to plan multiple crops and regular harvests throughout the year:
1) Grow Year-round Salad Crops in Two 4′ x 4′ Beds
Would you like to harvest fresh salads from early May through most of the following winter? Learn how to plan your small garden so you can harvest fresh salads all year round! Download this PDF file to see sample layouts:
Sample Salad Beds Layout (PDF file)
2) Double Your Main Crops in Most Beds
Succession planting is when you plant one crop after another in the same year. It’s pretty easy to grow two crops in one year in most of your garden beds. To see photos of examples, go to Photos of Gardens.
Sample 1: April 15th – Plant onions (after harvest, to store in home until next spring); August 15th – Plant kale, or other winter greens (to be harvested under row covers or cold frames throughout winter)
Sample 2: Nov. 15th 1st year – Plant garlic (to store in home after harvest until next spring); July 15th next year – Plant carrots, beets, turnips (to overwinter in cold frame)
Sample 3: April 15th – Plant broccoli; July 1st – Plant summer squash or early maturing melons
Sample 4: April 1st – Plant spinach (large amount for freezing); June 1st – Plant sweet potatoes (to store in home over winter)
Sample 5: April 15th – Plant early potatoes, to harvest in July and store in refrigerator and use until main potato crop is harvested; August 1st – Plant late storage cabbage
When you are planning multiple crops, it is very important to make sure that each crop has enough time to mature. Allow extra time for your fall crops to mature in the shorter daylight hours of autumn, and double-check the days to maturity for both crops. Sometimes selecting an early variety that matures just 2 weeks sooner will allow you to fit in multiple crops that wouldn’t work when using a long-season variety.
It’s important to find out if the days-to-maturity refer to using transplants or direct seeding the crop. If they refer to transplants, be sure to allow the extra time to start your seedlings for transplants (if you don’t buy them). You can start transplants either in flats (indoors or outdoors) or directly in a spare cold frame to transplant into another garden bed later.
Because transplants need time to establish roots into the soil, it usually takes 1-2 weeks longer to grow crops from transplants than to directly plant the seeds in the garden bed. But one advantage of using transplants is that the crop spends less time taking up space in the garden beds.
Example: A crop that might spend 6 weeks growing in a flat to a healthy size seedling and then getting its roots established when transplanted into the garden might only need 4 weeks to reach the same size when the seed is planted directly in the garden. But when I am growing multiple crops in my garden beds, saving those few weeks often allows me to grow more crops in each bed per year, thus maximizing my harvests from my small garden space.
3) Use a Combination of Interplanting, Vertical Gardening, Succession Planting, Row Covers or Cold Frames, and Extra-Early Varieties to Really Maximize Your Yields
While succession planting is growing one crop after another, interplanting involves growing small, fast-growing crops (often lettuce, spinach, baby turnips, etc) in between larger, slower-growing crops (like peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, squash, etc).
Growing plants up vertically is another great way to increase your yields in small garden beds. Always use the tall indeterminate tomato plants on trellises, not the bushy determinate varieties. When growing melons or small watermelons on trellises, always support the growing melons with slings – you can use old nylons, mesh onion bags, or other flexible material. Smaller winter squash, like butternut, won’t need any extra support at all.
If you are planning to grow three crops per year in a bed, focus on selecting extra-early varieties of plants. It’s not too hard to grow three crops or more of small, quick-growing salad plants, but it’s more challenging to do this with larger, summer vegetables like peppers, squash, and melons.
If you are new to intensive bed gardening, don’t try to use all of these techniques in your first year or two. It will take practice to learn how to garden well in your particular climate and soil. As you become more experienced, you will be able to combine many of these methods (and more!) to maximize your garden harvest. To see more sample layouts, download this file:
Three Crops Using Multiple Methods (PDF file)
If you’d like to learn more about spacing your vegetables, see:
With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to harvest abundant fresh organic food 12 months a year from small raised garden beds – no matter what your climate is!
Next Page: Preserving Your Harvest