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Narrow Bed, Wide Row Vegetable Garden Planting

Garden bed wide row1

A wide garden row in a narrow bed is ideal for growing leaf and small root crops. Wide rows are set across narrow beds. Narrow beds are planting beds that a gardener can reach into to tend crops without stepping on the soil.

Wide rows are set across narrow beds. Wide rows are ideal for very small-seeded vegetables—seeds that are more easily broadcast than sown tiny seed by tiny seed. Unlike single rows, wide rows allow for a greater harvest from less space.

For easy planting and maintenance grow lettuce, spinach, radishes, and carrots in wide rows the width of a standard 15-inch bow rake. A wide row also can be used for medium-sized crops such as cabbages, bush beans, and eggplants are grown two across.

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While plants may not grow in a series of traditional rows with walking or workspace on each side for the gardener, wide rows–about the width of your arm–will allow for intensive planting. Intensive planting or cropping places multiple crops in the same bed; you can grow more crops in one bed saving on space and labor and increasing yield.

Narrow beds for wide row planting.
Narrow beds for wide-row planting.

How to create and care for a wide-row garden bed:

• Instead of creating a narrow mounded single seed row, mound soil up the width of a steel bow rake—12 to 18 inches across. Allow a traditional furrow on either side for deep watering—a wide row is ideal for overhead irrigation as you might water lettuce or spinach.

• Rake flat and smooth the wide row—make sure dirt clods are eliminated. If your wide row is just 4 to 6 inches taller than the surrounding area, the soil will warm quicker in spring, hold solar heat throughout the season, and be well drained. These are ideal conditions for vegetable growing.

• Decide what you are going to plant in your wide bed. It may be one crop; that will make seed or transplant spacing easy—sow seed or set starts so that their leaves are just touching at maturity. If you are growing multiple crops in the wide bed, vary spacing so that each plant is given enough space to reach its mature size.

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• Broadcast—meaning to cast broadly—seed across the top of the bed. You may literally throw seed across the bed (thinning seedlings will follow in a few weeks) or you may systematically sow seed in a grid or pattern across the row. Make sure a thin layer of planting mix covers the seed and gently water the seed in. For best germination, the soil should come in contact with the seed; before watering, some gardeners use a wide board to press the soil covering the seed.

Set transplants or vegetable starts across the bed in a double row or in a 2-1-2 pattern. Consider the size of each plant at maturity, then use plant stakes or small sticks to arrange the planting pattern for the most efficient use of space and increase yield per square foot.

• Interplant quicker-growing crops between slower-growing crops for the most efficient use of space and time. For example, you can grow a lettuce transplant between two cabbage plants. The lettuce will be ready for harvest in 30 to 40 days; the slower-growing cabbages which require 60 or more days to harvest will just be spreading their leaves when the lettuce in between is harvested.

Wide rows across a narrow bed.
Rows of green vegetables grow an urban community garden

Advantages to growing in wide row garden beds:

• Seeds are sown more quickly. Wide beds allow for broadcasting seed rather than sowing seed-by-seed in a single row.

• Plants growing next to each other in a wide row will grow close and their leaves will just touch at maturity. As the plants grow, their leaves shade the bed and weeds are deprived of sunlight—that means little or no weeding.

• Close growing crops shade the soil providing “living mulch”—the shaded soil stays cool and less soil moisture evaporates from the growing bed; watering is reduced.

• Wide beds are easy to maintain; you are within arm’s reach of each crop for weeding, feeding, watering, and harvesting. Make sure the wide row is not so long that it becomes a chore to walk around to the other side.

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• Plants growing close to each other can support each other. Bush beans or peas planted in double rows or a 2-1-2 pattern will support each other as they grow. This will keep pods off the soil and reduce crop loss.

• Quick crop growth; intensively planted crops will compete for nutrients and water and often grow more quickly. Intensively planted crops do not compete with weeds for nutrients and water. Fertilizers and water are more efficiently used and not wasted on single-row growing crops.

• You will harvest more vegetables from less space and if you interplant you will grow and harvest multiple crops in less time.

Wide beds are not right for all crops. Crops that require extra support or extra space to grow are not always the best candidates for wide beds. Potatoes, tomatoes, corn, melons, squash, and cucumbers are best planted in single rows or on mounds. Trellised crops like climbing peas and cucumbers are more easily grown in conventional rows. If your garden is very large and you require the assistance of mechanized equipment, rows may be the best choice.

Related Articles:

Starting Your Organic Vegetable Garden

Estimating Yields of Vegetable Crops–Basics

How Big Should Your Vegetable Garden Be

Narrow Beds, Not Rows, For Planting

Wide Row Vegetable Garden Beds

How to Start A Vegetable Garden

Grow more vegetables: The Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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