Raised-Bed Kitchen Garden Design: Four-Garden Classic • Gardenary (2024)

Raised-Bed Kitchen Garden Design: Four-Garden Classic • Gardenary (2)

The Four-Garden Classic Is Our Favorite Raised Bed Garden Design

When I first started my kitchen garden design company, Rooted Garden, I thought that designing a kitchen garden meant placing a wooden box in the middle of someone's yard (and if they had lots of room, we'd do two boxes). It didn't take me long to discover that gardens, like homes, can actually come in many different styles, sizes, and layouts.

After designing hundreds of garden spaces, I've narrowed my favorite designs down to the top six that I've found work well in spaces both functionally and aesthetically. These six garden design layouts include: border gardens, twin gardens, garden trios, keyhole gardens, four-garden classics, and formal potagers.

The size and shape of the yard space that you have available will play a big factor in helping to determine which is the best raised bed garden layout for you. Today, we're going to focus on my favorite—the four-garden classic.

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This Garden Bed Layout Works Well in Large, Square Spaces

The four-garden classic requires a space that's square (or nearly square) in shape and at least 15 feet wide. Each of the raised beds in this garden layout are the same size, typically 4 feet, 6 feet, or 8 feet long and 2 to 4 feet wide. We often design raised beds to be rectangular for this classic layout, but we've also had spaces where we felt squares worked best.

(Learn more about the best length, width, and height for raised beds in our complete guide to raised garden beds.)

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We've been able to squeeze this design in well-lit side yards before, so don't think you have to have a huge, flat backyard to make this layout work.

The Best Raised Garden Bed Layout Ideas Appeal to Our Love of Symmetry

There's a reason this layout is tried and true—a classic in the garden design world. The symmetry between the two sides of the garden creates balance, harmony, and order. Aesthetically speaking, four gardens are what I think of as kitchen garden design perfection.

It's easy to create this symmetry by arranging the four raised beds in a grid-style with designated pathways in between. (Learn more about garden pathways.)

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Four Raised Garden Beds Give You Lots of Flexibility When Growing Vegetables

Functionally speaking, four raised beds allow you to grow lots of delicious leafy greens, herbs, root crops, and fruiting plants. You can separate crops and plant methodically (you can even practice easy crop rotation if you're into that). You can have the two halves mirror each other across the middle pathway, or you can have each of the four beds planted the same.

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This Garden Bed Design Is Like an Outdoor Room

Thanks to the four raised beds acting like four walls, the feeling you have when you're standing inside this type of garden is like being in your own magical little oasis. Imagine being able to escape the stressors of life for a bit in your own backyard and snip some herbs for dinner. I have a feeling that a four-garden classic kitchen garden would quickly become your favorite "room" in your home.

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Keep these tips in mind when you're designing your own kitchen garden space.

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Remember Accessibility

Raised beds in this raised-bed garden layout are typically accessible from multiple sides. If you can tend each bed from all sides, you could go as wide as four to five feet with each raised bed. Anything beyond five feet, however, would make it difficult to tend and harvest from plants in the middle of the bed.

If you can only tend from one side (say, for example, one side of your four-garden classic design would need to back up against a fence or wall), I’d recommend staying under two and a half feet, which is probably about as far as your arm can reach.

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When we designed a four-garden classic for our fantastic Rooted Garden client Dawn, we chose to install 3 foot-wide raised beds and increase the ease of moving through the space by laying black star gravel throughout the entire garden area. We added pavers along the central walkway to make stepping along the garden even more comfortable.

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Pair These Four Raised Beds with Garden Trellises

Garden design means using more than just the horizontal space available in your yard. Height is incredibly important too, not just for adding vertical interest but also for maximizing your growing space. With that in mind, each of the four beds in this design can have their own obelisk trellis, or you can connect two raised beds across the center walkway with a pair of arch trellises.

My favorite is to use arch trellises as a sort of grand entrance into the kitchen garden space. Few things are more beautiful or more inviting than an arch trellis covered in tomato vines or another climbing plant. (Explore ourcomplete listof what to grow up garden trellises.)

Dawn's garden features two Nicole trellises, which we're working on selling as easy-to-assemble kits in the Gardenary shop soon!

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Shop Gardenary's Arch Trellises

Don't Overextend Your Garden Space

Dawn is fortunate to have a beautiful and quite large backyard, but she wanted to preserve plenty of lawn for other outdoor activities. You don't have to fill your entire outdoor space with a kitchen garden. Also, keep in mind that the larger you build your garden, the more time you'll need to spend tending the plants growing there.

Dawn has added some extra growing space with pots and an extra tall raised bed in the back of the garden (I call it a bonus bed). Pots or small containers are ideal for growing plants like mint that spread and might take over a garden bed.

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Let Gardenary Help with Your Garden Design

Think of all the good stuff you could harvest from four raised beds in your own backyard! If designing your own garden feels daunting, we've got lots of resources here at Gardenary to help you create a space where you can grow and flourish, including my book, Kitchen Garden Revival, and our online kitchen garden design course, Kitchen Garden Academy.

Thanks for helping us bring back the kitchen garden, whether you're gardening from four small pots or four large raised beds!

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Raised-Bed Kitchen Garden Design: Four-Garden Classic • Gardenary (2024)


What is the best layout for a raised bed garden? ›

Don't make your beds wider than 4 feet, this way you can easily reach to the center. The ideal depth is between 12 and 24 inches. Leave at least an 18-inch path between beds, more if you want wheelbarrow access.

Why are raised gardens usually only 3 to 4 ft wide? ›

Width. One major goal of raised beds is to alleviate the need for gardeners to step into them. This means gardeners should be able to easily access the bed from all sides. Plan raised beds that are 3 feet wide for children and 4 feet wide for adults.

What's the best size for a raised garden bed? ›

The optimum size for raised garden beds is around four feet wide and eight feet long. This size provides a good balance between planting space and ease of access. However, the size of your raised garden bed will ultimately depend on your available space, gardening needs, and budget.

What is the soil mixture for raised beds? ›

A general potting mixture of three parts organic matter (such as garden compost, leafmould or well-rotted manure), two parts sharp sand and seven parts topsoil is sufficient for most raised beds. For alpines, bulbs and herbs, that like good drainage, double the proportion of sand.

What should I put at the bottom of a raised garden bed? ›

Best Soil for Raised Garden Beds

We recommend buying high-quality, nutrient-rich soil in bulk. Or, you can make a soil mix with equal parts topsoil, organic materials (leaves, composted manure, ground bark), and coarse sand.

How far apart should I plant vegetables in a raised bed? ›

The 4-inch spacing is for bush beans and spinach. A 6-inch spacing is needed for Swiss chard, leaf lettuce and parsley. A whole 12-inch square is required for each broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, corn, eggplant, muskmelon and pepper plant.

How deep should raised beds be for tomatoes? ›

Tomatoes should ideally be grown in a raised bed that's at least 15 to 18 inches deep. Many of my clients in Houston are successfully growing tomatoes in 12-inch deep raised garden beds, but their plants tend to be a little stunted compared to plants in deeper beds.

How deep should a raised bed be for cucumbers? ›

Carrots, radishes and peppers thrive with 12 inches or more. Medium-rooting vegetables like kale, cucumbers, and zucchini love at least 18 inches. A 2-foot bed is ideal for these types of vegetables, as well as fruits that grow on bushes like blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries.

What to put between raised garden beds? ›

Two-Layered Mulches

For maximum weed resistance, mulches for vegetable garden pathways should consist of two layers -- a bottom layer that blocks light to weed seeds, and a bulkier top layer that's sturdy underfoot and free of weed seeds.

What vegetables grow well together? ›

Companion Planting Chart
Type of VegetableFriends
CabbageBeets, celery, chard, lettuce, spinach, onions
CarrotsBeans, lettuce, onions, peas, peppers, tomatoes
CornClimbing beans, cucumber, marjoram, peas, pumpkins, squash, sunflowers, zucchini
OnionsCabbage, carrots, chard, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes
12 more rows

How deep should a raised garden bed be for vegetables? ›

Vegetable Beds: On the other hand, when it comes to vegetable beds, the bed must be approximately 12 to 18 inches deep to ensure adequate depth for the roots of your plants. This is especially important if your raised bed is placed on cement or the patio, which will inhibit roots from growing deeper into the ground.

How many bags of soil do I need for a 4x8 raised bed? ›

For a 4x8-foot raised bed with a 6” height, using Mel's Mix: about 5 cubic feet each of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite is needed. It usually takes about two to three bags of purchased fertile mix (1.5 cubic feet each) to cover the bed surface to a depth of 2 inches.

Can you use potting mix in raised beds? ›

Soil taken from your yard or a garden bed is too dense to use in a pot or raised bed. Instead, for containers, you'll want to use potting mix (also called potting soil), a lightweight and fluffy alternative. For raised beds, you'll want to use a blend of potting mix and garden soil.

What is the best soil mix for tomatoes in raised beds? ›

Get enough light topsoil or raised bed soil to fill the estimated depth of the raised bed. Since tomatoes are heavy feeders and prefer a rich, organic soil, mix in two- to three-inch layers of compost or cow manure to the top one-third of the topsoil.

How do you arrange plants in a raised bed? ›

Square-foot gardening (SFG) is a type of raised-bed gardening where you have a raised box divided into squares. With the square-foot gardening method, you plant in 4×4-foot blocks instead of traditional rows. In each square, you plant a different veggie. It's said to save time, money, watering and space.

What is the most efficient garden layout? ›

Square foot gardening is an efficient and space-saving technique that involves dividing your garden into small, manageable squares. Each square is typically one foot by one foot and is planted with a specific number of plants depending on their size.

What is the best placement for a raised bed? ›

A north-south orientation is best for low-growing crops, allowing direct sunlight to reach both sides of the bed. For taller crops such as pole beans, peas and tomatoes an east west orientation works best. Leave enough space in between beds to easily maneuver around.

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