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Does your small garden have you at the end of your tether? You’ve come to the right place. Small gardens, tiny terraces and petite patios may require a little more thought than larger spaces, but even the tiniest plot can be transformed into an elegant outdoor retreat.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out all of our garden ideas
Small gardens have lots of advantages – the main one being they’re wonderfully low-maintenance. They’re also great spaces to be creative, as even the smallest additions, from colourful cushions to stylish garden lighting, will have a dramatic effect.
Whether you’re looking to create an impressive balcony garden, want to squeeze in some garden furniture or love to be surrounded by greenery, you’ll find lots of pictures below to inspire you. And if you’re working to a tight budget, we have plenty of budget garden ideas you can try – without spending a fortune.
- 1. Think vertically for planting
- 2. Squeeze in a small dining table
- 3. Zone your layout
- 4. Paint backdrop
- 5. Put out extra seats
- 6. Make the most of space with a multifunctional shed
- 7. Elevate plants to whole new levels
- 8. Use every corner of courtyard space
- 9. Squeeze in a mini greenhouse
- 10. Fix planters under the kitchen window
- 11. Relax in a hammock
- 12. Introduce low walls that double as seating
- 13. Put up some shelves
- 14. Create a living wall
- 15. Paint walls white
- 16. Plant a garden in pots
- 17. Trail plants up a fence
- 18. Brighten with colourful furniture
- 19. Plan a multitasking garden
- 20. Mix your media
- 21. Revive an underused space
- 22. Focus on furniture
- 23. Go tropical
- 24. Aim high
- 25. Try chalet chic
- 26. Make room for little ones
- 27. Build a cool cabana
- 28. Trick the eye
- 29. Rethink seating
- 30. Perfect your look
- 31. Stay in the shade
- 32. Pretty up with soft furnishings
- 33. Play with colour
- Layout Tips for a Successful Vegetable Garden
- Pick a Site
- Think of a Layout Idea
- Prep the Site
- Materials for Raised Garden Beds
- Choose Your Plants
- Basic Vegetable Garden Design Plans and Tips
- Traditional In-Ground Row Garden Layout
- Square Foot Garden Design
- Basic 4 Square Rotation Basic Vegetable Garden Design
- How to Rotate Your Four Square Garden
- Conditioning and Preparing Your Garden Soil
- Watering Your Vegetable Garden
- Things to consider when planning the garden beds:
- How to Map Out The Vegetable Garden Beds:
- Want to learn more about garden layouts?
1. Think vertically for planting
Take inspiration from the elements of a living wall, use vertical wall space to make the most of the space. The simple addition of horizontal fence panels can turn the side of the shed into a decorative living wall.
This could also work on a stretch of bare fence or wall, or the side of a balcony. Any of these small outdoor spaces can be transformed into a vertical garden, for smaller plant pots and baskets.
2. Squeeze in a small dining table
Photo credit: Dunelm
Don’t let limited space stop you from enjoying alfresco dining. Invest in a compact dining solution, such as this half-sized table. The small dining set slots neatly against a wall
3. Zone your layout
Photo credit: The Rug Seller
Create the illusion of space by zoning a garden layout. Put down a decorative outdoor rug to define a seating and dining area. It will act as an anchor point so you can arrange furniture sociably around it.
4. Paint backdrop
Photo credit: Cuprinol
Draw the eye up with a cleverly painted backdrop, creating the illusion of extra height and space. A simple two-tone block colour treatment can jazz up any expanse of garden fencing. Using a dark colour helps to make more of a statement effect, it also compliments green foliage beautifully.
5. Put out extra seats
Photo credit: Argos
Grab extra seats for when needed. Invest in a few oversized floor cushions for when you have guests over. Floor cushions are less imposing than alternative garden chairs. Plus they are easy to pile one on top of the other when not in use, ideal for easy storage.
6. Make the most of space with a multifunctional shed
Make a shed work harder in your small space by making it multifunctional. Use the shed to house garden furniture in the winter, then open out into a bar for garden parties and alfresco sundowners in the summer months.
7. Elevate plants to whole new levels
Image credit: Colin Poole
Make the most of your small space by taking things to different levels, with vertical shelving. This nifty ladder hack creates a planting solution that creates extra space to showcase potted plants and garden accessories. The height allows you to use more space, more effectively.
8. Use every corner of courtyard space
Image credit: Colin Poole
If your small garden space is a courtyard think about how you can use every inch of space to full potential. Often a courtyard area has the potential to feel very enclosed, simply by the nature of looming brick walls. Using clever corner seating will not only use the space most effectively, the high-back sofa design can help to hide a large portion of said imposing walls. This in turn will distract from the walls and create the illusion of space.
9. Squeeze in a mini greenhouse
Image credit: Ikea
Even the most modest outdoor space can include a greenhouse for growing plants. This tall cabinet-style design comes from Ikea – position and fix against a wall in a sun-drenched spot outside.
Buy now: Hindo greenhouse, £80, Ikea
10. Fix planters under the kitchen window
Image credit: Joanna Henderson
Use sleepers to built a simple trough that can be fitted directly under your kitchen window. It’s a great place to grow herbs. Just open the glass and reach out to grab what you need.
11. Relax in a hammock
Image credit: Domu.co.uk
The ultimate in alfresco relaxation, a hammock can be squeezed into the smallest patch. Plus, it will instantly transform your garden or patio into a chilled-out scene to rival any beach bar in Ibiza. Hang under shade for a protected snoozing spot.
12. Introduce low walls that double as seating
Image credit: Amy Cutmore
You might only have room for a chair or two, so what happens when friends come over? By adding raised beds surrounded by walls, not only will your plants be easier to look after, you’ll also create extra places for people to perch. Add some cushions for comfort, in colours to match your plants.
13. Put up some shelves
Image credit: Jamie Mason
Create extra precious surface area for pots and pretty accessories by putting up some shelves. Ideally they should be mounted into brick, as your garden fence might not be able to take the weight.
Old railway sleepers are an inexpensive solution, supported by wrought iron brackets that you can pick up for a few pounds from your nearest DIY store.
14. Create a living wall
Image credit: Dobbies
Living, or green, walls, once the domain of designer installations and pioneering commercial sites, are increasingly making their way into residential gardens, and more importantly, small gardens. These gloriously textured plantings make great use of limited space. To create these vertical gardens, plants are rooted into a structure that is attached to a wall.
A range of herbaceous perennials, grasses, small shrubs, herbs and even fruit and vegetables can be used. Try including scented plants, seasonal flowers and bulbs, but talk to your local garden nursery about plants that will suit the aspect and microclimate of the wall on which they will be grown.
Love this small garden idea? READ: How to make a living plant wall
15. Paint walls white
Image credit: Nick Pope
Think of your exterior like you would an interior. White paint is often used to make the most of a small space because of its brightening and lightening properties, and gardens can benefit from this trick, too. With white painted brickwork and white garden furniture, this is a beautifully summery scheme that has serious style.
16. Plant a garden in pots
Image credit: Keith Henderson
You don’t need a lawn to create a lush garden – and flower beds aren’t necessary either. A low-maintenance ‘flooring’ option such as gravel is great for small gardens. Add lots of pots, filled with everything from the tiniest flowering plants to tall and bushy trees. Finish off with some garden furniture and you’ll have the perfect spot to enjoy a summer’s day.
Get the look
Buy now: similar benches, The Garden Furniture Centre
17. Trail plants up a fence
Image credit: Jamie Mason
Make use of a fence to add colour and greenery. Climbing plants and trellises are a great solution for small gardens, as they lift flowers and foliage up off the ground. A pretty fence will do a lot to detract attention from a teeny plot – after all, if you or your visitors are focusing on beautiful roses or a hot-pink trellis, who’s going to notice a garden’s dimensions?
18. Brighten with colourful furniture
Image credit: David Giles
Even the tiniest terrace can be transformed into something exceptional. If your garden is short on square footage, a planted terrace can be a good solution, combining elegance with low maintenance. Simple paving such as travertine or traditional stone creates a sleek or rustic look, while clever planting will soften and provide privacy.
Just add comfortable seating to create an ideal outside room. Here, it’s the garden furniture paint that makes the space special. Take note, your seating colours don’t have to match – bright hues like the orange and pink here go really well together and an aqua bench would work brilliantly, too, as you can see from the accessories.
19. Plan a multitasking garden
Image credit: Polly Wreford
If space is tight, make sure that what you have is working hard for you. This well-planned garden has a raised flower bed, garden wall and garden seat all rolled into one. Greenery provides shade, privacy and interest up high, while the wall offers a handy ledge for lanterns, plus practical built-in seating. Cushions bring the comfort of indoor living outside and add a lovely hit of colour.
Need outdoor furniture? READ: Garden furniture: our pick of the best
20. Mix your media
Image credit: Annaick Guitteny
Make a small space attractive and ensure a crisp contemporary look with strong landscaped lines. Create interesting interlocking zones with distinctive materials, such as woodstained decking, pale patio slabs and decorative stones or chippings. Then plant up to let lush foliage burst through, filling the space with structural greenery for a controlled finish that’s easy to maintain.
21. Revive an underused space
Image credit: Matthew Williams
Even the smallest of areas can be turned into a decorative outdoor space. Enhance yours with a run of stepped concrete slabs and use a narrow rustic-style table or bench to create a central focal point.
Keep the look chic and low-maintenance with shingle, clipped topiary and flowering plants in orange and yellow. Add elegance with aluminium and stone planters and carefully chosen pieces, such as the oversized lantern and unusual bird sculptures.
22. Focus on furniture
Image credit: Annaick Guitteny
Place objects of interest at the end of your garden and create the illusion that your space is bigger than it is. Choose white garden furniture and position it towards the back of a paved area.
Play hide and seek by strategically planting large shrubs to partially obstruct the view; your mind will think there is more beyond to see. Add interest with plants at all heights and in all areas – with climbers and ramblers, evergreen shrubs, sculptural grasses and ground cover, all enlivened by colour-heavy cottage-garden favourites such as foxglove and delphinium.
23. Go tropical
Image credit: James Merrell
When you have a small internal courtyard or outside space, leave the wow factor to the plants. Look for tropical varieties hardy enough to withstand the vagaries of the British weather and plant up your own jungle oasis.
Add instant drama with towering palms, strappy phormium and cordyline and feather-leaved tree ferns like dicksonia. Be aware that some may need a bit of protection over the winter and add slate chippings to help retain moisture in the summer and make maintenance easier.
Want more patio inspiration? READ: 12 easy patio ideas that will make your summer brighter
24. Aim high
Image credit: James Merrell
Turn a small courtyard into a lush habitat with a tactile and towering living wall. Plant up a natural focal point for a super contemporary way to add interest while keeping much-needed floor space clear for patio slabs and super-sociable seating. Balance the domineering wall with a trio of large pots with small fruit trees and bedding plants.
25. Try chalet chic
Image credit: Mark Luscombe-Whyte
Create a smart decked area with the look of a chalet balcony. Choose pale wood to boost the sense of space and furnish for a chic outdoor living room feel. Position a teak modular sofa centrally and make the space social with complementary Adirondack-style chairs. Connect with nature and frame the balcony with sculptured evergreens in organic box planters.
26. Make room for little ones
Image credit: Annaick Guitteny
Come up with an ingenious small space that will appeal to both the design conscious and the fun conscious. Build a playhouse that blends seamlessly with the garden perimeter – here, contemporary linear fencing.
Finish off the camouflage effect with a sedum roof so the little house blends perfectly into its environment. Store brightly coloured furniture inside so it’s easy to take out for play time and return again when not in use.
27. Build a cool cabana
Image credit: Chris Everard
Create a spot of shade in your small garden with a homemade sun lounger – a few square feet, budget materials and your imagination are all you need. Take two branches, two pallets, and a fabric offcut and assemble them to create a bohemian lounger for two.
Make it comfortable and inviting with a bolster in funky geometric fabric. If your garden is dominated by the overhang of a tree, angle the fabric so that it can also act as a canopy, protecting the area below.
Looking for more easy garden tips? READ: Summer garden ideas to help you get the best from your space
28. Trick the eye
Image credit: David Still
With space at a premium in city areas, create an illusion of space with a contemporary mirror panel. Use it to visually double the amount of space you have and increase light levels in darker corners.
Choose a long sheet mirror to keep the look urban and complement it with contemporary linear fencing. Enhance the sense of privacy with ornamental grasses, potted evergreens and climbing plants.
29. Rethink seating
Image credit: Simon Bevan
Choosing outdoor furniture that folds or stacks when not in use is a great way to save on precious space in a small garden. Mix and match your colours for a bright looking garden scheme.
Want more great small garden ideas? READ: Before and after: making good use of a garden’s dead space
30. Perfect your look
Image credit: Robert Sanderson
Create an outdoor living area for the summer months. Even if you have a small plot with not much natural greenery, you can create the look of a colourful garden with flower-filled pots and planters. Just like indoors, opting for neutral walls and flooring can make a small garden feel lighter and brighter – perfect for a small garden.
31. Stay in the shade
Image credit: Darren Chung
We love this decked garden with an alfresco dining area, which comes complete with shaded seating space and barbecue. Add a bistro dining set for the perfect finishing touch. Trailing flowers and potted plants give it a cosy feel, while the steps leading up to the second level add to the illusion of space.
32. Pretty up with soft furnishings
Image credit: Simon Bevan
Urban gardens require careful planning if you’re going to make to most of a cosy corner. A garden bench is a practical and stylish way to make an impact – if you don’t mind relinquishing some precious floor space – and will be perfect for lounging should the sun make an appearance this summer! Choose a streamlined modern design and give it a colourful makeover with exotic cushions.
Love these small garden ideas? READ: Garden trends 2018 – we predict the key looks for your garden
33. Play with colour
Image credit: Simon Whitmore
Video Of The Week
Us Brits love to get out in the garden rain or shine, but even if your outdoor space is super-small, there’s no reason why you can’t transform it into a vibrant alfresco dining area. Choose a small round table and chairs and a large parasol. Dress the table with colourful pressed glass tableware to brighten up a sheltered spot.
Love your garden? Easy garden ideas – simple updates to transform your outdoor space
We hope our small garden ideas have given you inspiration for your plot. Have you got any other great small garden ideas?
Most of us have what garden writers call a ‘small garden’, but we call it a perfectly sized garden.
If it’s big enough to sit out, big enough for a few plants, big enough to make a lovely view from inside the house, then the garden isn’t small, it’s just right. And if you treat it right it will reward with wows throughout the year.
Generally rules are there to be broken but these 7 will help you get the very best out of your space.
1. Always work on the view from inside the house first. Given our climate, most of the enjoyment of your garden will be from looking out at it, especially if you have a favourite armchair or a washing up spot – that is the vista to prioritise.
2. Go for bold geometric shapes for the patio and the lawn, and if in doubt stick to straight lines – they are easier to get right. It might seem that curves will bring softness to a garden, especially in a town or city garden, but really, outside spaces soften up very quickly and the best designs contrast the softness of the planting against the cleanness and crispness of the edges.
3. Keep it simple and remember the ‘rule of three’ applies to most things in the garden. So use a maximum of three types of flooring materials. For example: grass, sandstone and gravel. This will give a coherence and consistency to your garden which will be the envy of all who walk in there. It’s possible to get a garden to look good with a wider variety of materials but it’s also harder, and why make life harder?
4. The rule of three also applies to the colours you use – for painting the fences, plants, for accessories and for furniture. Limit that palette and your garden is going to look so much better.
5. Lighting really matters. Not just for when you’re out there, but for that all important view from the house. At four o’clock on a winter’s evening your garden needs to look as ‘wow’ as it does at high noon in summer. Try layering the lighting. The first layer is for practicality: light the steps, sitting areas, paths. Next, light any features you have: water features, small trees, interesting wall surfaces. Finally add a really subtle layer of light at ankle level to make the whole place glow. If you have these on three different circuits you can mix and match for different effects.
6. Always think about privacy. It’s unusual to find a smaller garden that’s not overlooked in some way but with a carefully placed shrub or a line of trellis along the top of a fence, it’s possible to minimise the problem. Think also about where you put your sitting area; there might be a corner of the garden that’s completely private.
7. For most people, gardens are mainly for sitting in so give plenty of thought to the furniture. Do you want to sit up at a table and make an outside dining room? Or do you want to lounge around on sofas and make your garden into an outdoor sitting room? If you’re lucky you may have space for both but then it’s worth thinking about where each should be placed – what time of day does each area get sun?
PARC Set of 2 orange metal folding chair, £60, Habitat Habitat
‘Lush but limited’ is the rule for plants in small gardens. Whatever list of plants you want in your garden, halve it and then halve it again. With plants the rules are just like those for the structure – the simpler the better. Have large clusters of a limited variety of plants – not only will this look amazing but it will help with the maintenance as well.
And, if your garden can be seen from inside the house, give priority to winter planting to get that all important view from the house looking top notch all through the darker months. There’s a good saying in gardens: ‘If you can get the garden looking good in December then May and June will take care of themselves.’
1. Winter structure will be key to getting the view right all year round. Go for box bushes or other sturdy, evergreen planting to punctuate the garden and give it shape in winter.
2. But don’t forget the ‘wows’. Look for striking plants which perform over a long period. Lavender is a real winner with flowers in the summer and, if it’s cut back in autumn, it’ll look good throughout the winter too.
3. Winter bulbs like crocus and tulips will provide a sensational show through the winter. The brighter the better with the colours so they’ll stand out against the background.
4. The fences or walls will usually provide an excellent background for climbers. The evergreen Trachelospermum jasminoides (from £14.99, Thompson & Morgan) and Clematis armandii (from £12.99, Thompson & Morgan) will provide year round cover and then think about roses to provide the impact through summer.
5. Roses are really useful for scent as well as colour and it’s always worth thinking about scents in a small garden – smaller gardens are the perfect places for them to be appreciated. Honeysuckles around the back door and windows will waft in scent all through the summer.
Seasonal changes and affordable updates
1.Bulbs are great for bringing in seasonal colour, and not just in spring. So as well as daffodils and tulips, look for summer bulbs like agapanthus or alliums for a real splash in summer. Try planting in big containers or in big bunches to make the most impact.
2.Treat your outdoor room like an indoor room, so bring in bunches of cut flowers, change the cushions or throws. Move the lighting and furniture around to get a new look just as you would in your sitting room.
3.Water features don’t have to be hugely expensive. There are self contained, solar powered ones available for under £50 – just right to give your garden a boost.
4.Get the paint out – paint the fence, wall or a just a bench for an instant freshness to the look of your garden. I’d always go for light colours to bounce the light around and make the garden look cleaner and bigger.
5.Don’t forget a simple clean and tidy up – the amount of clutter that accumulates in gardens is phenomenal. And it’s especially important to clean up through the winter. Keeping paving neat and tidy will make the whole space feel better.
Francois De HeelGetty Images
Keeping the upkeep down
1.A simple layout will help with the upkeep, if you can see where the edges are meant to be, it’s easier to keep them neat.
2.Keep the variety of plants down to keep the work down – if you just have three or four different types of plants you’ll have a much easier job to look after them.
3.Think carefully about the lawn. Grass does require regular cutting through the summer and may need maintenance in the winter as well. If you don’t have the time or will, think about artificial grass or turning the space into a courtyard garden and losing the grass entirely.
4.Storage in the garden is easily overlooked but it’s much easier to tidy up if you have a place to put things.
5.And don’t forget a place to put what they call in the trade ‘arisings’, that’s any dead flowers or pruned off bits of plants and weeds. If there’s an easy place to put all of this your gardening life will be so much easier.
Roberto WestbrookGetty Images
Big mistakes to avoid
1.Over complicating a small garden is probably the most common mistake. Putting in many different materials, lots of areas and loads of different types of plants will lead to a confused look to your space.
2.Be careful about having the same paving inside and out. It sounds like a good idea to let the space flow through but in reality the paving outside will weather much more and will change colour.
3.Watch out for drainage channels and covers around the house, they can be really ugly. There are some very smart solutions now with narrow channels but an alternative is just to get the cover lowered by a couple of centimetres and cover it over with gravel.
4.Pulling up plants instead of weeds or letting weeds take over because they looked like flowers is one of the most common mistakes and really can knock your confidence. It’s another reason to stick to a very limited range of planting. With fewer types of plants you’ll get to know them much quicker and be able to spot a weed at fifty paces.
5.Finally, the biggest mistake is to avoid doing anything about your garden. Gardens can be wonderful spaces to use and give you views to look out on. Even if you’re not a gardener your garden can, and will, give you so much pleasure if you give it a chance.
John Lewis Eden Outdoor Dining Chair, set of two, £350 John Lewis
Seating is always a great luxury investment in your garden. Not only do they look great and add to the design but every time you sit out you’ll thank yourself for splashing out. Rattan sofas and armchairs seem like an awful lot of money but they are so beautiful to look at and comfortable to sit on it might be worth considering.
Related Story The House Beautiful team From the team at House Beautiful
Layout Tips for a Successful Vegetable Garden
Planning a vegetable garden and successfully harvesting your own produce is easier than you might think. The layout of a vegetable garden can make or break its success, so it’s important to do it right. Here are simple tips and ideas to help you get started on your own vegetable garden.
Pick a Site
The more sunlight the better, but you’ll need at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. Make sure the spot you select isn’t shaded during different times of the day by trees, walls, or buildings. In addition, place your site well away from large trees, which can compete for moisture and nutrients. And if you’re just getting started with vegetable gardening, you might want to consider starting with just a small plot or even container gardening.
Think of a Layout Idea
Raised Vegetable Garden Layout Ideas Raised beds—simple rectangular wooden frames 8-10 inches tall—are the preferred way to grow a vegetable garden. Soil in raised beds warms quickly in spring, lengthening the growing season, and can be filled with high quality topsoil. Raised beds should be accessible from all sides and no more than 4 feet wide so all parts of it can be reached from the perimeter. Design your vegetable garden layout so plants get progressively taller from the south edge to the north.
Small Vegetable Garden Layout Ideas
If you’re working with a small space, there are easy plant combinations that you’ll enjoy harvesting. Try these ideas:
- Salad garden: arugula, romaine lettuce, nasturtium
- Salsa garden: chives, cilantro, tomatillos, hot peppers
- Corn salad garden: bell peppers, sweet corn, purple basil
- Veggie pizza garden: tomatoes, oregano, bell peppers
- Pesto garden: spinach, garlic chives, sweet basil
Prep the Site
Raised beds are a good way to get started with a new vegetable garden—they’re simple to build and can be filled with high quality topsoil instead of amending existing soil. Before building a raised bed and filling it with topsoil, make sure any lawn is completely removed and dead. If you live in an area that has rabbits or deer, consider a fence of the appropriate height.
Materials for Raised Garden Beds
Stay on top of weeds—hand pulling or hoeing is best in vegetable gardens. Water regularly so the soil stays consistently moist; don’t let it dry completely before watering again. And fertilize regularly; most vegetables are heavy feeders.
Choose Your Plants
Dependable, easy vegetables to grow in summer include peppers, tomatoes, beans, squash, corn, and cucumbers.
For spring and fall, try lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, and carrots. There are many other options, but these are all good for beginning gardeners.
Best Vegetable Garden Starter Plants
If you’re unsure where to start with your vegetable garden, consider these sure-fire plants that work well together and, with proper tending, produce crops that will convince you of the value of your own home-grown produce. Try:
- Bell peppers: green peppers will turn red, orange, and yellow the longer they spend on the vine; sow seeds when the soil is fully warmed
- Cucumbers: go for a compact version and don’t sow until the soil is fuly warmed
- Green beans: great alongside lettuce, which matures before beans ripen
- Hot peppers: If you don’t have extra space, try a container vegetable garden filled with a few varieties of hot peppers.
- Lettuce: Sow lettuce the first thing in spring and after summer temperatures have cooled for a double harvest.
- Squash: Go for a bush variety to save space
- Sweet corn: The soil should be fully warm before you plant sweet corn; it needs room to plant it alongside low-growing green beans.
- Watermelon: Watermelon must be fully mature in order to be harvested and needs room, so go for a bush variety.
- By Kelly Roberson
Basic Vegetable Garden Design Plans and Tips
Download our basic vegetable garden design and planning worksheets.
Also, we provide free vegetable garden designs and plans to help layout your garden!
Design Your Own Vegetable Garden Layout Using our Free “Vegetable Garden Planner” Software!
Finding a basic garden design that fits your needs is an important first step in planning a garden layout.
If you have a sunny location in your backyard for an in-ground garden, these two types of vegetable garden plans will work for you.
If you don’t have room for an in-ground garden, there are many other options available such as a container, four-square, or raised bed vegetable garden.
Whatever type you choose, growing your own produce can be a great adventure and learning experience!
Traditional In-Ground Row Garden Layout
The traditional basic vegetable garden design has been straight and long rows running from north to south.
- Usually anything growing tall, like corn, beans or peas are planted on the north side of the vegetable garden to keep them from casting shade on the shorter crops.
- Medium growing vegetables like tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, squash and pumpkins are planted in the center, while the southern end of the garden contains the shorter plants, like carrots, beets, lettuce, radishes and onions.
- In general, a vegetable garden design runs from south to north, to make the most of sun exposure and air circulation.
- This very basic vegetable garden design is meant to make cultivation easier, as well as for convenience when weeding and harvesting.
With smaller yards and urban gardens becoming common, the traditional basic vegetable garden design is no longer suitable in some situations.
This article will focus on showing you basic and easy methods of creating your own vegetable garden design.
Square Foot Garden Design
This very simple and easy first garden design is called the square foot garden.
This gardening style was developed by Mel Bartholomew.
Click to download plan and planting instructions.
Basic 4 Square Rotation Basic Vegetable Garden Design
Basic Vegetable Garden Design
Take out a pen and paper and draw a square. Divide the square into four by drawing a cross inside it.
You now have a diagram of four square beds that you’ll use as a plan for your very own vegetable garden design.
The four beds are for the four main groups of vegetable crops.
The plants are divided into four categories based on the amount of nutrients that they need to flourish.
Below is an example of these categories.
- Heavy feeders: These heavy feeders demand a lot of nitrogen. Examples of these are the large leafed plants like lettuce, corn, and even the vine crops like squash.
- Middle Feeders: These middle-of-the-road feeders are the mid sized leafed plants with above-ground fruits like tomatoes and peppers.
- Light Feeders: These feeders include the root crops like turnips and carrots. They like potash in the soil.
- Soil Builders: These types leave more nitrogen in the soil than they take out. Examples of these are the legumes like peas and beans.
How to Rotate Your
Four Square Garden
Four Square Garden Example
Now it’s time to explain the rotation for this most basic of vegetable garden designs!
- Each of the four types mentioned above goes into one of squares that you’ve diagrammed, called beds.
- From top-left and counter-clockwise; Heavy Feeders, Middle Feeders, Light Feeders and the Soil Builders.
- After every harvest and when replanting each season, you rotate each group to the next square, to reduce pests and soil problems.
- Make sure that when you rotate these four types, they always follow the same order given here.
- This means, that when you move the Heavy Feeders, they go to the Soil Builder’s previous position.
- The Middle Feeders move up to the Heavy Feeders’ former position, etc.
Rotate Garden Vegetables Each Year
Try to imagine a baseball game where in your players occupy bases.
Each year you move the location of each plant group by one space, changing the location of your plant types.
Another benefit of this kind of rotation is that the Heavy Feeders will grow better by transferring to the Soil Builder’s former spot which gives them more of the nutrients they require to flourish.
Conditioning and Preparing Your Garden Soil
Add Compost to Garden Each Year
Your garden will grow best in enriched well-conditioned soil.
If you don’t know your soil composition, it is best to find out by taking a sample to your local garden center.
Then you can add compost, sand, humus, fertilizer and any other ingredients as needed to create the best environment for your plants.
In order for your garden to thrive, the soil should also be well-drained.
Watering Your Vegetable Garden
Morning Watering of Vegetable Garden is Best
When planning your basic vegetable garden design, be sure to locate your garden near a convenient source of water.
Especially when the plants are small, they will need to be watered frequently as the root systems are small and will dry out quickly.
After your plants are well-established, less-frequent deep watering is best!Hand-Watering the Vegetable Garden
Plant your garden away from tree and shrub roots that can take moisture away from your plants.
It’s important to know that there are many variations of vegetable garden designs.
These are two of the most basic and easiest garden plans.
You can certainly use what you’ve learned here and design your own garden by basing it on one of these easy methods.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced gardener, finding the right design for your vegetable garden is part of the adventure.
So experiment, and have some fun!
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Mapping your vegetable garden before planting will help you see how many seedlings you need, where they will be planted, and how you can keep each bed producing all through the growing season.
Late winter is the perfect time to plan your vegetable garden. After enduring snowstorms and cold temperatures for months, I begin wondering whether spring will ever come at all.
Thoughts of warmer days and fresh garden harvests encourage me to the next step in planning a vegetable garden: Mapping the Garden Beds.
After organizing your seed box and making a seed list, the next step is to figure out how everything will fit into the garden.
Before sowing a single seed, it is helpful to sketch a map of the garden so you know how many seedlings you will need, where they will be planted, and how you can keep each vegetable garden bed producing all through the growing season.
Things to consider when planning the garden beds:
It is beneficial to rotate plant families from one garden bed to another each growing season. Vegetables that are in the same family use similar nutrients and are vulnerable to the same pests and diseases. Planting different crop families from year to year helps to avoid depleting the soil and prevents crop specific pests and diseases from building up from one season to the next.
In my vegetable garden, I focus on five vegetable plant families for rotation planning purposes:
The plants in each family are grouped together and planted in the same beds, so I can easily move them to a different bed the following year. Other vegetables such as lettuce, corn, carrots, and herbs are worked in where there is room, but I try not to plant them in the same spots two years in a row.
Tall trellised plants such as peas, pole beans, and indeterminate tomatoes are limited to the north end of the garden beds, so they don’t shade other plants.
- See 9 Creative DIY Tomato Trellis Ideas
Even in my Maine Zone 5 garden, I can grow up to three crops in the same garden space if schedule carefully. Quick growing crops such as spinach, lettuce, and other various greens can be planted in spring. Once the warmer weather arrives, spring greens usually turn bitter and bolt. These can be removed, fed to the chickens, and the space used to grow bush beans. Once the bush beans are finished producing, a fall crop of spinach, lettuce, and other cool-season crops are planted.
- More Info: 3 Succession Planting Tips to Maximize Your Harvest.
Winter Storage Inventory:
The inventory of the preserved garden bounty from the previous year also factors into the amount of plants in the plan. I don’t weigh my harvests, but do keep notes on the number of plants grown from year to year. At the end of winter, I inventory what is left in storage and decide if I need to increase or decrease the number of plants grown to provide us with enough preserved food until the following years garden begins to produce.
- More Info: 9 Crops to Grow for Winter Food Storage.
How to Map Out The Vegetable Garden Beds:
Planning begins with a blank garden diagram and the list of plants that you want to grow. The way you approach mapping out your vegetable garden beds will depend on your priorities.
For example, we rely heavily on canned tomato sauce, canned salsa, and frozen tomatoes to use in soups and stews. So tomatoes, peppers, onions, and garlic are considered necessities in the garden and take priority on the garden space. I begin with these crops and plot out where they will be planted for the new season. Then I move on to other crops that will need trellis supports to grow. Finally, I fill in with short seasoned spring crops along with what will be planted once these crops are finished.
Before you begin plotting out your garden layout, review the list of crops you want to grow, decided roughly how many plants of each vegetable you would like to grow, and check the seed package to see how much space each plant will need.
Step 1: First, make a sketch of the garden area showing the dimensions of your garden beds. This can be done on a computer program or simply sketched out on graph paper.
Step 2: Refer to your seed list and begin arranging the crops in the garden map.
Use square foot garden spacing or the recommended space between plants indicated on the back of your seed package to estimate how many plants you can grow in an area.
Step 3: Start plotting your garden with the crops you consider important.
For example, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and garlic are very important in our garden. These are plotted first on my garden map to insure there is plenty of room to grow enough of these crops for preserving.
Step 4: Move on to crops that need trellis supports to grow. Remember tall crops should grow on the north side of your beds, so they don’t shade other plants.
Plan out where you will grow your indeterminate tomatoes, cucumbers, pole beans, peas, and other crops that will benefit growing with supports.
Step 5: Finally, fill in with short seasoned spring crops along with what will be succession planted once these crops are finished.
Mapping the garden beds each year will help give you an idea of what garden will look like. It makes it easy to figure out the amount of seeds and seedlings you will need to fill the space.
In addition, mapping the garden beds provides a record of what was planted in each location from year to year.
The next step in Planning Your Vegetable Garden -> How to make a planting and seed-starting schedule so you know when to sow your seeds.
You May Also Like:
- Vegetable Gardening Tips for Maine Zone 5
- Square Foot Gardening: A Quick and Easy Way to Begin or Expand a Garden
- 10 Steps to Starting Seedlings Indoors
- How to Harden Off Seedlings
One of my favourite things about summer is planting a vegetable garden! It’s far from perfect, but it works for us. Some vegetable gardens are big, and some are small, and some people still manage to grow vegetables on nothing but a balcony. Whatever your space situation is, this list of 15 unusual vegetable garden ideas has you covered and will get your creative juices flowing.
Vertical Vegetable Garden
If you live in the city, you know that sometimes land comes at a premium. So if you are short on space, consider planting up, rather than out. A vertical garden uses a small footprint AND creates a beautiful growing wall.
Vertical vegetable garden via DIY Network
Cinder Block Vertical Vegetable Garden
Create an awesome growing wall in your space by planting your vegetables in cinder blocks. It creates a unique and modern space, the cinderblocks will last indefinitely and weed control will be easy!
Cinderblock Vertical Vegetable Garden via Pam Penick
Dog House with a Green Roof
If you want raised garden beds, why not add some walls for a cozy retreat for your dog? This saves on space and puts the garden at a nice, comfortable height to work in.
Green roof dog house via Savanah Morning News
Retracting Window Garden
This is brilliant for the city! If you don’t have a lawn, or even a balcony, you can make a retracting garden that fastens to your window frame. Lower it down to get some sunshine and pull it up when it’s time to water. Brilliant!
Retracting window garden via Gardinista
Hanging Container Garden
Who says hanging baskets are only for flowers? Plant an assortment of your favourite herbs and small vegetable plants, like tomatoes, and you have a teeny tiny garden that takes next to no effort.
Hanging basket vegetable and herb garden via HGTV
Cedar Raised Garden Beds
I love my homemade garden boxes! But if you don’t want to make it yourself, this tiered garden box will help keep the weeds out, help keep the plants separated and bring them up to a workable height. Plus, you don’t have to dig out a hole in your grass for a garden bed.
Cedar raised garden beds via Amazon
Tin Can Vegetable Garden
Repurpose some of those old tin cans into garden containers! Then hang them on a wall for an awesome looking container garden!
Vertical tin can garden via Ewa in the Garden
Raised Garden with Green House Enclosure
This raised garden bed kit comes with an enclosure that protects from frost and keeps rabbits and squirrels from raiding your garden. The enclosure will allow you to plant your vegetables early in the season or will protect you if there is a late frost.
Raised garden with greenhouse enclosure via Amazon
Make your Own Raised Bed using Re-Purposed Materials
It doesn’t have to be fancy, and you can re-use any number of things you already have. For example the garden beds below were made from soil mixing bins and put on a wooden riser.
Elevated garden bed via Design Sponge
Make a Bean House
Growing beans vertically with a trellis saves room and makes picking them easier, but have you ever considered a bean house? I love this idea and think standing inside the house once the vines are in full bloom would be amazing.
Bean house via Fiskars
Upside Down Tomato Plants
Make your own upside down tomato garden by using heavy duty buckets and hang them from a wooden beam in the garden. Not only will it keep the plants out of reach, but the vines that come down make a beautiful green wall!
Anti-gravity tomato plants via 1001 Gardens
Use an Old Pallet for your Herbs
Pallets are all the rage lately and they do make for a great way to hang a planter on the wall outside, keeping everything well within reach. This idea is great if you can get your hands on a clean (not fumigated) pallet. If you can’t do that then you can buy hanging planters or use a stackable pot that still keeps everything neat and tidy.
Pallet herb garden via Messy Art
Vegetable Garden in a Boat
How cool is this re-purposed boat vegetable garden? If you have an old boat that’s no longer fit for the water, save it! Kids would love this, plus it keeps all your vegetables raised up to a convenient height.
Boat planter via The Gardening Blog
Counter Height Garden Boxes
It gets to be hard on the back when you are constantly bending over your garden. Why not raise them up to counter height to make it easier to take care of everything? You can make your own or you can buy ready-made kits ranging from simple resin beds to wooden beds with storage underneath and even high end self-watering systems.
Counter height garden boxes via Ana White
PVC Pipe Garden
This seems like such a great idea! It keeps everything neat and tidy and with the small holes, you’d never get any weeds! Check out the link below to find out how to make it into a hydroponic garden.
PVC Pipe Garden via U-Gro Hydroponic Garden Systems
I’m personally a big fan of raised garden boxes, but there is certainly nothing wrong with digging out an area of grass in your backyard for a traditional bed. It’s just amazing to see all the options! Save this post so that some day you can come back to these vegetable garden ideas and plan out your own awesome garden!
After visiting a farm to table Airbnb in Washington, we got inspired to put together this article of fabulous ideas for growing a vegetable garden. The wonderful thing about vegetable and herb gardens, is they can be grown anywhere. You can put them in containers on your front porch, patio or balcony or plant them in your backyard. They can be in raised beds or wooden/plastic barrels, in galvanized troughs or a fenced in garden to keep away the bunnies and deer. It is exciting to plant seeds in the soil and watch your vegetables grow. They taste fresh and delicious compared to buying in the grocery store, not to mention the money you save to feed your family.
You can plant vegetables in the spring and in the fall. Tomatoes, peppers, corn and zucchini are just some of the delicious seeds to plant for the spring. Ideal crops to grow in the fall includes spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, carrots, radishes, kale, parsnips, turnips, leeks, fennel, Chinese cabbage and cauliflower. If you live in a warmer-winter climate, vegetables such as Swiss chard may continue to produce into the winter months. Have a look below at our collection of DIY ideas to plan your own vegetable/herb garden, to help create one that is attractive and edible.
Tell Us: Do you have a vegetable garden in your backyard and if so, what do you have planted? Please let us know in the Comments!
1. This lovely garden features cucumber and zucchini in the front right planter plant and yellow squash and onion in the back right. The borders of the beds are made from treated timber, while the walkway is a 3/8″ crushed granite with a dimensional cut Watermark buff flagstone. The pavers are 16″ x 24″ and about 2″ thick. There is a 4″ galvanized green roll top steel edger to contain the gravel. An arbor has string lights for evening ambiance in the garden. (via Watermark Landscapes)
2. Raised garden beds with stone walls is a great way to define your spaces, especially if you are planting varying vegetable seeds. (via Paradise Restored Landscaping & Exterior Design)
3. This particular garden is a “Potager Garden”, which is a traditional garden in the French style that contains fruits, berries, herbs, cutting, and a vegetable garden. To accommodate this varied garden, the size is approximately 90′ by 140′. The image above shows the vegetable portion of the garden. Radiating pathways of brick are just over 3-1/2′ wide with 6′ wide planting spaces. This gives the ability to access the garden from the walkway without stepping into the soil. The edging is made from reclaimed and over-run tumbled concrete retaining wall cap stones with a dimension of 3-1/2″ x 16″ x 12″. (via Staab & Olmsted)
4. A kitchen garden in London features an outdoor pizza oven surrounded by lush landscaping. Flowering gardens are complimented by vegetables and herbs ideal for fresh ingredients on your pizza! (via URBANSCAPING LTD)
5. In an outdoor landscape of a home in Venice California, Cor-ten planter boxes filled with vegetables runs along a bocce ball court. The dimensions are 3’x3′ x 16″ or 18″. These are custom fabricated ($200-$400) by welding the 1/4″ steel into squares — open on top and bottom. (via Huettl Landscape Architecture)
6. This vegetable garden features three cedar raised beds and is part of an overall drought tolerant garden. These boxes are made from untreated cedar. Cedar is high in oil, therefore it is naturally rot and insect resistant. It also will no warp and will weather to a silvery gray after a couple of seasons. Redwood is also a good option for edibles. (via Eden Condensed Garden Design)
7. For those that are living in an apartment or condo or just lack space, a container garden can be a fantastic solution. This balcony garden in Miami, Florida offers a 6′ x 14′ outdoor space. This allows for enough room to have a Meyer lemon and key lime trees, herbs, aloe, succulents and leafy ornamentals. (via Priscilla Torres)
8. A shed garden in Maine features plant markers to keep it organized. This bed is bordered with pressure treated pine, using a combination of stacked 2×6, 2×8 and 2×10 boards. They should be a minimum of 12-13″ deep. (via Atmoscaper Design)
Above: A closer detail from the prior image shows how pennies are being used to keep away the slugs. Garden markers gives the gardener a clear indication of what each of the vegetables/herbs are, especially if they look similar. (via Atmoscaper Design)
9. Simple box containers provides a raised bed for your backyard veggie garden. Each one can be planted with different veggies to keep them organized. By not planting them in the ground, this helps to control the type of soil you are using. (via Shades Of Green Landscape Architecture)
10. The beds and steps of a vegetable garden in Northern California are composed of redwood. To keep the deer out of the garden, hog-wire and cedar posts, cap and fascia were specified, 8-feet high. (via Arterra Landscape Architects)
11. A charming garden shed belonging to Chip and Joanna Gaines from the show Fixer Upper features raised beds of beautiful flowers, herbs and vegetables. Pictured here is an herb garden with rows of rosemary, lavender, oregano and sage to season delicious meals. (via HGTV)
Above: Another detail from the prior image of the raised vegetable gardens from Chip and Joanna Gaines beautiful gardens. (via HGTV)
12. A lovely cottage garden shed features a flagstone pathway leading to raised bed of delicious vegetables. (via Shades Of Green Landscape Architecture)
13. The beautiful summer garden of Chef Rick Bayless offers a mix of fresh vegetables and flowers. (via Chef Rick Bayless)
14. An impressive “Potager Garden” for growing vegetables. Potager is a French term for an ornamental vegetable or kitchen garden. (via Pinterest)
15. A heavy-duty powder-coated steel frame and glass greenhouse is surrounded by raised planter beds full of various fresh growing veggies. (via lothlorienlover.tumblr)
16. A beautiful raised bed garden in Dutchess County, New York offers plenty of inspiration to make your own! (via @yolorenzo)
17. The potting shed of a home in Vermont features raised beds full of fresh growing vegetables. String lights overhead helps to give this space a magical ambiance in the nighttime. (via Sugarhouse Homestead)
18. Another “Potager” garden, this one features fencing to prevent wild animals from devouring the garden. Raised beds and metal troughs contain varying types of vegetables. In the lower image, a stone pathway provides accessibility to the garden without trampling on the plants. (via House + Bloom)
19. Spiral gardens are ideal for those whose properties do not have a lot of space, or just looking for something more unique! Grow your favorite herbs in this smaller garden to add delicious taste to your meals. (via Recycledaw Blog)
20. This organic front yard vegetable garden features raised beds to control the type of soil you would like to grow your veggies in. They also improve drainage and use space more efficiently and increases crop yields. (via @chelsierosetroxel)
21. A pyramid-shaped trellis made of branches helps the tomato plants to be structured. The trellis also helps to keep the ripened fruit in place when it is time for the gardener to harvest. (via Rick Wetherbee for GRIT)
22. Growing your own vegetables can be very rewarding, not to mention delicious. This fabulous garden is set on a long and narrow backyard. A series of raised beds are composed of repurposed cobblestones. Using gravel pathways through the garden creates accessibility to the beds. A galvanized steel tub in the center of the garden features aquatic plants and also makes for a convenient spot to fill a watering can. (via Better Homes & Gardens)
23. Raised planter beds and vertical wire creates a highly-efficient garden. The vertical wire acts as a garden trellis to aid climbing vines. If you have a retaining wall or fence in your backyard, this will help to improve the aesthetics. (via Pinterest)
24. Pallet gardens are a simple DIY, all you need are pallets and a few bags of garden soil to start your project. Buy garden seeds for the vegetables you would like to grow, add some water and watch them grow! You may wish to add plant labels for organization and visual interest. (via Ideacoration)
25. A DIY vertical garden wall is very ideal for those who do not have a lot of space or wish to keep it simple. Four-inch terra cotta pots (35 are pictured here) are affixed to wire netting, which is attached to cedar posts. Plant a variety of culinary herb seeds in each of your pots. Get the full tutorial on the provided link. (via Home Made Lovely)
26. Grow your own vegetables in a raised planter such as this VegTrug. They come in varying sizes and colors to meet your gardening needs and aesthetic. If you are looking for a larger size, have a look at this VegTrug. This one mixes herbs and vegetables together in composting soil. Add etched garden labels for visual organization. (via A Grateful Life)
27. Organize your vegetables in raised planters. Some may need more tending than others, so it helps to make gardening a little more simple. Add colorful signage with garden stakes to help with organization. (via Better World International)
28. Raised garden beds provides a few benefits. Elevating them helps to separate your fertilized soil from the native soil in the ground, allowing you to control your plants nutrients. If you set the wooden planter beds on rocks, they will be able to drain easily and prevent your roots from drowning — the main reason plants die. (via Magnolia Blog)
29. A hanging tiered PVC gutter garden is filled with lettuce, chives and herbs. To DIY this simple garden for small spaces, you will need a set of PVC pipe gutters and chain. You will also need steel rods and bolts to set each of the pipes between the chains. (via The Whoot)
30. This DIY salad garden is ready to harvest, planted in a wine crate — which is ideally portable and perfect for small spaces. If you are looking for some delicious leafy greens, try these Heirloom Organic Seeds. Be sure to drill holes for drainage. If you are setting these on a table, use a thin layer of sheet metal for waterproofing. Crates can be sourced from wineries, liquor stores, grocery stores, hardware stores, arts & crafts stores, home decor stores, eBay and Craigslist. (via Remodelista)
There is nothing that tastes better than home grown vegetables, fresh from your own garden. If you don’t believe us, try growing a small plot of your favorite vegetable. Once you’ve tasted the bountiful harvest, you’ll be convinced that it’s time to start a real garden.
The first step is to look at your land and choose the best place to put a vegetable garden. Most garden plants need sunlight to flourish, so you will need to pick a location that gets a lot of direct sunlight.
While many plants prefer moist soil, you need to be aware that too much water can be a bad thing. Soil that does not drain can cause the roots of your garden plants to rot and this means no vegetables or inferior ones at the very least.
Test your soil by digging a small hole about five or six inches deep. Fill it with water. If the water doesn’t begin to drain from the hole immediately, choose another site.
It may be necessary to water your garden plants in the heat of the summer. Plant your garden near a water source because water is heavy.
Once you’ve chosen the spot for the garden, it’s time to prepare a layout plan. You will need to decide whether you are going to plant the vegetables in rows or raised beds. There are pros and cons to both gardening methods.
Raised beds are ideal for smaller areas where space can be an issue. In raised bed gardening, you plant vegetables closer together and usually work off of a layout of squares. (You may hear the terms “raised beds” and “square foot gardening” interchanged, although square foot gardening is a very specific type of raised bed gardening.) Thus, you might grow a 12-inch square of lettuce rather than a four-foot row.
The good news is that the plants help to shade the ground, making it more difficult for weeds to grow. The bad news is that you will be doing all of the weeding by hand.
It will take more space to grow and garden using the traditional row method of planting. If you plant your rows far enough apart, you can use a motorized tiller to control weeds between rows. You will need to hand weed around the plants.
Proper spacing of plants is very important in both gardening methods. This is where it pays to think BIG! That six-inch tall tomato plant can grow to be several feet tall and it may spread out to cover three to four feet if it is not staked for upright growth. Planting too close together causes overcrowding and shading, thus yielding fewer vegetables.
One of the advantages of having your own garden is that you can choose to grow vegetables organically. An understanding of companion planting can be helpful. This is a concept in which you use plants that are known to repel pests instead of chemicals.
For example, interspersing onions around your cabbage plants can help to repel some insects that feed on cabbage. Marigolds are another good companion plant.
It is important to keep gardening records because it is best to rotate plants in the garden. This means that you don’t plant any one vegetable in the same spot in consecutive years.
Gardening is an ongoing learning experience. Many find it to be a fun ongoing challenge to grow those veggies bigger and better.
Want to learn more about garden layouts?
The University of Illinois Extension has this page about planning your vegetable garden layout, with lots of specific tips for various types of vegetables. They also include a sample garden plan.
Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening web site used to have a good page with layout ideas. But now his site has gone commercial, and his “informational” site doesn’t have the layouts listed anymore that I could find. His book, Square Foot Gardening, is widely available at most bookstores and does have very specific layout plans. If you’ve never had gardening success before, try the Square Foot Gardening method, and you’ll be amazed at how well you do. Using his book completely changed me from an unsuccessful vegetable gardener to a successful one, so it’s worth the cost of the book. Buy it used or borrow it from the library if you are cheap, but get it!
This Squidoo page has several different vegetable garden layout ideas, and a lot of good background information about each type. They are trying to sell garden layout software, but it’s still a good page.
The Colorado State University extension features this terrific garden layout page designed with raised bed gardening in mind, and focusing on gardening in blocks. It also includes suggested spacing for specific vegetables for a kitchen garden.