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The home page in this series on building raised bed gardens is Raised Beds Jim’s Way.
All the beds in your garden should probably be the same dimensions. It just makes the math easier. However, it’s not required, nor is the gap between the beds required to be a fixed size. But, after doing a few, I just find it easier, so my example will assume beds will be the same size. The rows between beds and the clearance around the outside are also all the same width.
The paragraph just below will be used on any page where I use any part of the dimensions calculated here. You will want to translate this to whatever size you choose for your bed(s):
For my example throughout these pages, I’ll be “building” two side-by-side beds 3′ 6″ (3 feet 6 inches) by 12′ (inside dimensions). I’ll have a single 3′ walking path between them. There will be a 4′ walking path all the way around the outside as well. Finally, the beds will be made out of 2″x12″ treated lumber1. So, the length of the garden will be the length of the planks plus 8′. The width of the garden will be the total width of the beds (7′) plus 4′ for each of the two outside walkways, and another 3′ between each bed. That adds up to 7′ + 8′ + 3′ = 18′ for our width. The length of the garden is 12′ plus the two 4′ paths around the outside, or 20′ total.
The length and width of the bed should be chosen to fit your yard and your own physical size. I’m pretty short (5′ 7″) and my wife is the same height. We found a 4′ (outside dimensions) bed to be a tad wide compared to our ability to reach across halfway (without having to constantly lean over). I’m told that taller people can handle beds up to 4′ wide or even wider. You’ll have to judge that for yourself. My example uses 3′ 6″ as the width to the inside of the long planks.
For the length, pretty much any multiple of 4′ would work fine. I say multiple of 4′ because that’s the lengths planks come in2.
For the depth, I recommend 12″, which would mean buying 2″x12″ planks. These can get expensive, though. So, if you are on a limited budget, you can drop to smaller-width planks (2″x10″, 2″x8″, or even 2″x6″). I don’t recommend anything less than 8″ deep, but it’s up to you.
The rows between beds and the clearance around the outside of the bed(s) I chose as 3′. This width comfortably allows you to roll a wheelbarrow or garden cart between and around the beds, as well as allowing clearance for planting, weeding, pruning, and harvesting.
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