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Raised Beds: SFG vs. Rows

 
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I am a total newbie gardener.  I started with my first raised beds last fall.  Added two more raised beds this Spring.  I now have six 4' x 4' x 17" tall raised beds.

I have a copy of Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholemew and have gotten a lot of good ideas from it.  I have been using his method for planting in the beds in squares, but I'm starting to think maybe rows within the raised bed might be better?  Still high intensity of course.

I am thinking rows running from north to south.   E.g. I sowed some daikon radish in two square feet on the south end of the bed, and well the leaves are constantly shading the arugula and even the kale.  The kale takes much longer to grow and the daikon has just gone nuts!

If I had planted the daikon radish in rows from north to south then they wouldn't really shade the arugula if I had planted the arugula in adjacent row.  They would get lots of direct sun in the middle of the day without any shade.

What do you think about SFG method versus rows within a raised bed?   I am thinking it'd be quicker to sow rows as well.. just drag a stick and make a trough and drop the seeds in and wipe the dirt back over them.  

What are the pros / cons of each method for those who have done both and why did ya switch?

Thanks from the newb!
 
pollinator
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My own opinion is that you should give plants as much room as you have room for.  If you don't have a lot of planting room, you are forced to put things close together, but then you need more inputs as well.  More fertilizer or compost and much more water are needed to grow things really closely.  Personally, I spread things out as much as I can.
 
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You'll get many differing opinions because each climate and gardener are unique. I find you can plant tomatoes closer if you run them up over a trellis. I use a piece of welded wire tied to metal stakes. My vines get up to 14' long. I just keep training them through the wire. I do put a basil on one side and a marigold on the other. I also prune so there is plenty of air flow. I use tomato cages to support my Romas because there are between 50 and 60 tomatoes per planst by the time they start to blush orange. I top dress with compost often and weave a drip hose between the plants. I plant around 50 tomato plants a season because I put up at least 60 quarts of sauce. LOL I'm Italian. We feel punished if we don't have pasta at least once a week. You'll find what works for you and your climate.
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AngelinaBianna Maffeo wrote:

You'll get many differing opinions because each climate and gardener are unique.

Totally! Jennifer, it would help if you gave us some ideas about your general climate and how hot and sunny your garden is.

Yes, daikon can grow big fast, but in my garden, arugula tends to bolt so fast that the protection would be welcome. Many plants like to be groupies on a small scale (ie, planting a square foot block is good, planting an acre, not so much!) so if I'm planting "rows" they're usually 3 rows of a kind with the plants in a diamond pattern. West sun tends to be harder on plants than east sun, so in my climate (Southern BC, Canada - far enough north that we get *very* long summer sun and short winter days) in a 4x4 bed I would plant heat tolerant and taller plants to the west if the rest of the bed would be things that would produce better a little cooler such as lettuce. If my goal was to trap some of that heat, I'd plant pole beans to the east and heat-loving plants to the west of them.

It's been a while since I read the SFG book, but what I liked was that he was encouraging people through his system to plant more variety in a smaller space. I just planted a 4' by 4' strawberry bed with the transplants on a regular grid - 16 plants. I sprinkled carrot seeds between the rows, but the seed was old and the bed didn't get the attention it needed for good germination, but there does appear to be a few that came up and may survive. I'm hoping to get parsley growing in the front corners, and will consider a few beans on the north edge if I get that far. So the bed is "sort of rows" but also "sort of SFG" - if something's only 4' long, it's hard to quibble!

I have been doing some sort of gardening for decades, so I can understand that in the beginning there's just so much to learn that the decisions seem much bigger and harder. When I was new to it, I used graph paper to outline what I was planning and planting. I'd count the number of seeds/seedlings I'd need, and I'd keep track of what I did for future years (although not nearly as well as I should have - a garden journal if you're good at that, paper or electronic - has merit if I could just follow through!). Last year, I wanted to experiment with a "3 sisters bed", so I went back to that same approach - graph paper and the recommended spacings of one of the books I had. If you can do that electronically, how about you make up a plan and post it here? If you don't mind us then giving you ideas of what we think would work in the space you have with the plants you've chosen, we can try, so long as you accept that Mother Nature usually has the last word. She decided to plant a melon in my compost last year and despite the deer efforts to prune it, and eventually my effort to give it a little protections from those voracious nibblers, I got two edible melons and I'd more or less given up on growing such things in my climate.
 
pollinator
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4ft by 4ft is slightly bigger than a stove. At such a tiny scale you dont need rows or clearance for a tractor. But if you like rows, then I say you should do rows. Infact I highly recommend doing A/B testing. Do half the beds as rows and the other half as SFG. maybe even do a 1/3 as a hybrid.


To me a row is 100ft long and 4ft wide, with a 1.5 to 2ft wide walkway. So in that sense your entire bed wouldn't even count as a bed, it would be closer to a big pot. It all depends on the scale, which is different for everyone




 
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I don't know why though I always make my row from east to west.  

I live where there is lots of sun so I plant by height. Again, I don't know why, I put the tallest plants on the south side of the bed.  The reason might be so the tall plants will shade the shorter plants in the afternoon.

The first year we moved here I did my rows north to south, then on the south end I turned and went west to east.  What I plant east to west worked. Maybe that is why?
 
pollinator
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Many opinions, many right answers.
Just to add an option, you can look up Jeavin and grow biodynamic.  He was raised beds, companion planting, but bigger than square foot blocks-like the whole bed planted the same.  Diamond pattern, staggered rows to get max plants per bed and space between plants.
 
gardener
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My obsessive-compulsive brain tends to do better with some sort of organization, so I plant in blocks, but the blocks are made up of rows. The block, itself, is a polyculture, though the rows within the block tend to be one crop in each row, which makes it easier for me to harvest.
While I prefer the organization of the symmetrical block; realistically, I struggle with the ability to make a straight line, so there always seems to be spots where my rows are slightly crooked and I get a gap of open space. When these spots become evident as the crops grow, I will usually stick a seed or transplant in the openings. Typically something like a basil, marigold, or other herb/flower that is a good companion plant. Also crops like bush cukes or squash/zucchini, as it seems to help hide them from the squash bugs for a short while.

This year I did experiment with planting some plots without the order of rows. I just have to remind myself that I shouldn't over stock the plot, because it looks so sparse at first, but will fill in as the plants get bigger. I also have to put markers where the plants are, or else I'm likely to forget where I put something whenever I chop weeds in the field and bring them in the gardens for mulch. I've already smothered some ground cherries, baby peppers, and a couple of eggplants because I didn't mark them, and threw a bunch of ragweed I cut on top of them when I mulched the bed with it (oops).

But I completely agree with those who said it depends on the gardener and his/her environment. The above is what had historically worked for me in my environment; but I also keep an open mind about new potential options. I'm always trying new things I read about in these threads because I may find something that works even better.
 
Jay Angler
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Anne Miller wrote:I don't know why though I always make my row from east to west.  

I live where there is lots of sun so I plant by height. Again, I don't know why, I put the tallest plants on the south side of the bed.  The reason might be so the tall plants will shade the shorter plants in the afternoon.

The first year we moved here I did my rows north to south, then on the south end I turned and went west to east.  What I plant east to west worked. Maybe that is why?

I suspect that with your listed zone being 8a, you're right about your observations. Where I live, they recommend north/south rows for the airflow. I tried east/west when I first got here as my garden was on a slope, but everyone pushed for north/south, and now I've ended up with more of a block pattern which proves even more that there isn't one right way - just lots of ways to try.
 
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