You’re excited to grow a vegetable garden. You’ve built your raised bed in a space that gets at least six to eight hours of sunlight a day, and filled it with soil. How do you figure out how much to grow? I thought I would put together a 4×8 raised bed vegetable garden layout to show how much can be planted in a raised bed. I ended up creating a couple because I had fun planting all those virtual veggies!
Deciding what to plant in a small vegetable garden layout
I like to recommend starting with your grocery list. What items show up week after week? For me, that means lettuce and other greens, like spinach, Swiss chard, kale, and baby bok choy, cucumbers, onions, a variety of herbs, peppers (I usually plant at least one hot pepper to make habanero jelly, and a variety of other sweet peppers), the odd root veggie, like beets and carrots. One thing that doesn’t show up often on my grocery list are tomatoes. But that’s not because I don’t like them. They just can’t compare to the ones you grow yourself (or get at the farmers’ market in the summer). So tomatoes are always on my list to plant. And I often grow way more than I need—any extras get frozen for winter meals.
I also recommend planting at least one new-to-you veggie. It’s fun to watch it grow and then give it a taste test at the end of the season. While it’s easy to get carried away and want to grow all the things, you only have room for so much. I always seem to end up with more seedlings and seeds than I have space for. That’s why my raised bed collection and assortment of pots has increased over the years. What to do with any extra seedlings you have? Don’t let them go to waste! Tuck them into a perennial garden or a pot.
Figuring out spacing in a raised bed
Read your seed packets (or plant tags) carefully. They should provide the height and width of mature plants, as well as spacing recommendations. Keep in mind one of the benefits of raised garden beds is you can plant veggies more closely together (this is called intensive planting or gardening), rather than in rows, like a traditional in-ground garden. This also helps keep the weeds down and can reduce the need to water as often. You do want to keep an eye on your garden and thin plants as they grow to maintain air circulation, which helps prevent diseases.
Many gardeners find Mel Bartholomew’s square foot gardening method helpful. In your raised bed, you divide the space into a grid of 1- x 1-foot squares. Then you follow his plan for how many plants or seeds should be added to each square. The density is based on the plant size. So that might mean one tomato or several carrots. It’s a helpful way for beginners to get organized.
Tips for your vegetable garden plan
*Assess which direction the sun comes from and make sure that you don’t plant tall crops in front of shorter ones. I learned this lesson the hard (funny?) way years ago. A packet of Pastel Dreams zinnias seemed like the perfect flowers to plant them along the front of my one raised bed. For some reason I didn’t read how tall they would get. Well the answer is three to four feet tall! Which means they cast a bit of shade on the veggies behind them at certain points throughout the day. I’m very careful about planting shorter varieties now.
*I always plant columnar basil near some of my tomatoes (I included it in my grocery list plan). It grows to be nice and high, doesn’t get lost in the shade of the tomatoes, and makes a LOT of pesto! Of course there are lots of great varieties of basil to discover.
*Choose compact varieties of plants that sprawl. They may have been bred with containers in mind, but they’re also perfect options for raised beds. If you plant, say a winter squash in your raised bed, it could easily take up the entire garden! However, a compact variety won’t be as much of a hog, and if you strategically plant it, it will cascade over the side. You could also plant your squash in front of the peas… once they’re done, the same trellis can be used to train the squash.
*Use tomato cages around bush varieties of cucumbers that will use the structure to climb.
Plan for succession planting
A lot of new green thumbs don’t realize that the veggie planting season doesn’t end when you plant your heat lovers, like tomatoes, cucumbers, and melons. Spaces created in a garden from peas, for example, can be used later in the summer to plant root crops or greens, like Swiss chard and kale, for fall harvests. This is called succession planting.
Also, when you’ve removed, say, your spent pea plants or garlic in the summer, and are getting ready to plant something else, add some compost to the raised bed. This will add some nutrients back into the soil. And now you’re ready to plant more!
I like to plant garlic in one of my raised beds in the fall, but keep in mind you won’t be able to plant in that garlic space until about July.
A 4×8 raised bed vegetable garden layout of my grocery list faves
Okay, let’s get to the layout. There are eight rows in this raised bed. For the rows of onions, greens, and root veggies, the photos don’t represent the exact amount planted. They’re just a placeholder to indicate where they go. Based on my grocery list, I would plant two rows of onions; one row with two tomato plants and a columnar basil; one row with three pepper plants (one hot, one snack, one bell—or all the same); a row of kale, spinach or Swiss chard (from seed); a row with two cucumber plants (patio varieties); and a couple of rows of root veggies (from seed). In the diagram, I included beets and carrots, but you could add turnips or radishes. I also snuck in a couple of herbs a curly parsley and a flat-leaf parsley.
A 4×8 raised bed vegetable garden layout for a family
Here’s another layout idea for a family plot. Sow a double row/band of peas or beans with a trellis on the north end. Then, add two rows of onions, a row with two tomato plants (maybe a cherry variety and an slicing tomato), a row with two pepper plants (one hot and one snack), and one snack cucumber (all three in tomato cages), a row with one winter squash (dwarf to go over the edge) and summer squash (plants or seeds)—I loved Burpee’s Lemon Drop squash—and a double row of carrots (from seed).
More raised bed articles:
- Raised bed designs for gardening
- Planting a raised bed
- Growing in fabric raised beds
- Five tips for growing tomatoes in raised beds
- Niki’s raised bed garden
- Elevated raised bed gardening