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Re: Garden plot size (Jason Bailey)

  • Subject: [cg] Re: Garden plot size (Jason Bailey)
  • From: Don Boekelheide <dboekelheide@yahoo.com>
  • Date: Tue, 16 Mar 2004 20:32:44 -0800 (PST)

Hey, doggie! Jason, you asked a good question!

All the answers you got are good ones. Here's my 2
cents worth:

When you do your garden layout, don't forget paths. We
find it best to have a wide path down the middle of
the plots, ideally big enough for a pickup if need be
(8 - 10 feet), but at least as wide as a big garden
cart (4 feet). If you establish major paths first, you
can save a bit since you don't need to amend that area
with compost or manure or whatever organic matter you
prefer. We cover our paths with 4-6 inches of
cheapo/free wood chip mulch from tree companies or the
county. A 4' perimeter path isn't bad either, leaving
2-3 ft along the fenceline for a bed (to grow stuff up
the fence, flowers, whatever).

I also agree strongly that you're best off mapping
your garden and setting aside common areas, especially
a meeting and gathering place, even if it is just a
couple of hay bales or improvised benches in a corner.
I, of course, think a common compost area is a must,
too, with lots of benefits.

If you have space, larger plots allow gardeners to
rest part of the soil with a cover crop. One way or
another, it does help for fertility and disease
management to hold some land out of production. I know
this may be absurd in an high-population urban area.

In our community garden at a former farm, where space
isn't limited, we use 'big plots' that can be split
(20 x 20, but you can get 20x10 (1/2 plot) or 20x30 (1
1/2 plots). 400 sq ft isn't all that much space,
really, for vegetables, especially if you have room
for paths and a bit of air circulation between and
within plots. Portland, OR, uses a similar system, I
think (they have a good website).

There are gardens with smaller plots here in
Charlotte, including one designed by an artist where
plots are less than 10 sq ft (in interesting
non-linear shapes). This works, too, but gets pretty
crowded in the summer. The garden group there is
discussing adding a 'regular' garden for good ol'
square 10 x 10 plots.

NC State used to suggest a 1000 sq ft garden for a
family of 4, but is now saying that 25 ft sq will
provide 'vegetables for a family of 4'. Both
statements are right - 1000 sq ft will provide food
for canning and drying, with area for potatoes, sweet
corn and sprawling squash. In 25 ft sq, you can grow
enough high nutrient crops like collards and greens to
make a significant impact on a family's nutrition.

I second the idea of asking your gardeners (or, if you
don't have any yet, knowledgeable gardeners in your
area) for their suggestion on size, and agree you need
to look at how much gardeners can handle and how much
water and other resources you can muster.

Last, my own veggie beds are usually about 3 ft/1
meter wide, so I can easily step over them and reach
the middle. 4 ft is a bit too wide for me. Roughly, I
do a meter bed, a half meter (20 in) mulched path, a
meter bed, etc. I double dig the beds, then always
walk on the paths.

Good luck!

Don Boekelheide
Charlotte, NC

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