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Planning Beds and Plots 

How to plan your garden beds and allotment plots

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In the individual growing pages, we have set out the general heights of plants, bushes and trees to help you decide exactly the best position for each of the crops you will be growing. Those pages also contain information about crop yields per plant so you know how much to expect to harvest. However, this page sets out general hints and tips on how to plan the space you have available. 

Firstly, if you haven't already done so,  we suggest you plan where you will be growing your crops and choose the crops before starting on your bed plans.  Remember, only grow fruit, vegetables and herbs which you like to eat. You can find help and advice on how to do both in our Getting Started section.

Graph PaperOnce you have the basic outline and measurements of your plot, you can decide where to grow your individual crops within the allocated space or beds. This is made much more simple if you use graph paper. You can buy single sheets or books of graph paper, but to help you out, here is a free downloadable A4 sheet which has squares already marked out which you can print off as many times as you like.

Bed OutlineClick here to download or print the free blank graph paper.

Next draw a scaled outline of the bed or plot and put in the measurements to serve as a reminder. Because many plants are spaced either 15cm/6 inches or 30cm/12 inches or  60cm/2 feet apart, you'll probably find it easier if you allow say, one large square to equal 2 square feet or similar.

List of Crops to GrowNow you are ready to start deciding where to grow the plants but before you start marking up your plan, make a list of the vegetables you want to grow together with their spacings and heights for ease of reference.

Our first plan below shows vegetables however the same spacing principles apply to all crops. We've allowed 1 large square to equal an area of 60sq.cm/2sq ft.



Small Veg Bed PlanBecause this example is of a relatively small bed, we've decided to use a combination of mainly broadcast sowing and a little row sowing. For small areas, sowing in blocks or broadcast enables more crops to be grown closer together. However, if you have a very large plot or allotment, you may find it easier to grow in rows. You can find out more about the different methods and how to sow seed by visiting our Resources page.

When planning where to grow each vegetable, don't forget to make allowances for the height as well as the spread of each variety. For example, if you have a bed which is in the centre of your garden or plot with no high boundaries on any of the sides,  it would probably be better to plant the tallest crops in the centre with the shortest crops around the edges to avoid the large plants casting  shadows over the small plants for most of the day. Or, if you have a bed which is against a fence, it's best to plant the tallest plants towards the back.

You'll also notice we've put in some Marigolds next to the carrots. Whilst you can eat marigold petals, the main reason for having them there is as a "companion" plant.  Companion planting is the practise of growing various plants next to others to repel pests such as aphids or cabbage butterflies.  In this particular instance, we could just as well have planted some chives which are good companion plants for carrots as they repel the carrot root fly. You can find out more about companion planting and a list of  companion plants on our Resources page.

Crop Rotation Yr1The diagram on the right is an example of a mixture of row planting and block planting on a larger plot. Notice the walking spaces of about 30cm/1 ft around or between the rows which must be left for easy access during the season and at harvesting time.

The carrots, parsnips and potatoes have been planted in several shorter rows within their allotted spaces and  the sweetcorn has been sown in a block to aid pollination.

The plot has also be divided and planted up "by vegetable type" so that crop rotation can be practised in subsequent years. 

Crop Rotation year 1In fact, even with small gardens, it's as well to practice crop rotation from season to season  if you are going to grow vegetables from the three major groups i.e. roots, brassicas and others so divide your beds accordingly or, better still, make three separate beds. The latter is also a good idea because it means there will be walking space between the beds so you won't be walking on the part growing your crops.

To find out more about vegetable groups and crop rotation visit the Resources page.


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