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Market garden bed/pathway size

 
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I find myself in the situation to have limited choice of size even if i have plenty of space.

I have to set a market garden between rows of trees, these rows ar 10mt away from eachother, i have no real concern about  sunlight since I'm in zone 9, trees are to be kept dwarf/semidwarf size and orientation is N-S

Between 2 rows of trees I can chose to have 5 market garden beds or 7

If i chose to have 7, the space i have allows me to chose a bed/path ratio of 75/50cm or 80/45cm or 85/40cm or 90/35cm

If I go for 5 rows i may have a ratio of 1m/68cm or 90/78 cm. But i feel like I'm wasting space, even if i have a lot...

What is your suggestion? Is 1mt wide too much for a market garden bed? Is 70cm actually wasted for a path?

On the other end is 40cm enough for a wheelbarrow?

Thanks for your opinion
 
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I fear that planting too close to the trees might affect their roots. If you have left 10 meters between tree rows, I would consider that you have roughly 6 m wide for veggies, thus leaving a couple of meters for tree root development.

Now there are two major ways of planting: a wide bed or long rows.
With wide beds you can do some guilds, intensive planting, and such, which is great for gardening. Wide beds require 90 to 120 cm wide, and are to be worked from both sides.
Long rows are used for farming, a monoculture in every row. I think a row can do with just 30 cm. It's easier to work with the hue and if you intend to cut the weeds.

In any case you will need at least 60 cm for the wheelbarrow. But that's the minimum. Your plants will not stay inside the planting area, and some leaves will occupy the pathway. So if you can have slightly wider paths, it's better. Especially since your rows are not straigh.

If you use rows, a row (30cm) with its pathway (70cm) needs 1 m wide. So, in 6 meters you can fit 6 and 1 row, total 7 rows.
If you use wide beds, a bed (120cm) with its pathway (70cm) needs 1,90 m. So, in 6 meters you can fit 4 beds. But a bed holds 2,5 times what you can grow in a row. It would hold roughly the same as 10 rows.
So, I think you can grow a bigger crop using beds, but you will work it easier using rows. Another thing to consider is that the more crops you plant, the more water you will need (costs resources and work time).

Good thing is that anual beds you can modify at will. So you might experiment with both. You might experiment with 1 row in 10 meters, then 3 rows in 10 meters, then 7 rows, and in other places you do the same with beds. You then choose what is more efficient for your resources and your work.

Edit. Wrong math here! 4 beds are 4x120cm = 480cm, plus 3 pathways in between are 3x70cm = 210cm, that's 6,90 m. So no, beds must be thinner, or only 3 beds can fit in.
4 beds of 90 cm takes 5,70 m.
3 beds of 120 cm takes 5,00 m.
I'm not counting the pathways closer to the tree trunks.
 
Amedeo Nofal
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Abraham... May i ask you what is your background or what are you doing and what are your personal choices in your garden

Anyways, i did not consider 120cm beds, they are not very practical imo, especially for farming, even if i like the idea of polycolture and i will try to farm that way as much as possible.

Also I did not consider rows. But i feel that a 80-90cm bed is roughly equal to 3 rows without taking so much space for paths and without being impractical as you work on it.

Remaking beds doesn't sound very practical to me, i don't have a tractor and i should pay a neighbor, if I really have to do it, i will, but i prefer to keep the stratification and the soil quality i worked hard for

So, my personal thoughts are based on the fact that I want to farm and I want to garden... Ideally i want to be doing both at the same time, but let's be practical... what  should i consider first?

Convenience
-i should prefer a wider path, but many market gardeners are using 45cm, i think that it should be ok... If it's not i can easily change the bed-path ratio to 70-55cm where I need

Optimum use of space
-I personally prefer an 85 or 90cm bed, i love this size, i believe that it maximises the use of the space and it's practical as well
 
Abraham Palma
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Abraham... May i ask you what is your background or what are you doing and what are your personal choices in your garden



Sure. I work in an office, and can do some plumbing, licensed gas technician actually. Now I'm doing some gardening in my free time in a communitary garden that has no water at all. This hard limitation is giving me the chance to experiment. With so many people that threw the towel (covid fear and lack of water), I have many abandoned lots that I can use. The other people are a little bit surprised that things can grow without irrigating them, and now they are helping me to build more dryland sunken beds. I still don't think crops will endure summer, but I hope to have some yields the other seasons.
But my grandfather was a farmer, so my uncles, and now my father is married to a woman who has an olive orchard. Not an expert, but learning fast. I've been watching permaculture videos for the last couple of years, and I think I have learned much.
My family did not work like any of that. They did plow the fields, walking over the soil, using the tractor once and again for pretty much everything, and the last time they used organic manure it was thirty years ago. Our land was terraced, and the earth was very good for almost anything. Sadly, it's alloted for industrial use, so they can farm it no longer.
At least my father has learned to not till his wife's orchard, but he still fumigates (no wonder, it's an olive monocrop in the whole county, Jaén) with the tractor.
None of them know about garden beds such as what we see in permaculture. Both of them depended on a well for irrigation. So really their experience is of no help here.


Our garden beds are 120 cm wide and we are planting intensively, trying not to leave gaps between plants. It's hard to get to the middle, especially on the sunken beds, but it's doable. That's the size that Lawton recommends, the bigger the bed, the easier for the food forest to behave like one, also there's more soil you are not passing over. But then I watch farmers videos explaining that this didn't work well for them. While farming they don't want to forage the crops, they just want to come one day and get the harvest and sell it. So for the farmer, a bed or a row with a monocrop works better in terms of work efficiency: they give the exact nutrients the crops need, the right amount of water at the right time, and once the crop is harvested, the bed is cleaned for the next crop. Also, for the farmer it is easier to remove weeds with a hoe when working in lines.
So that's what I learned. For space efficiency and soil formation wide beds are best, but they are less practical for the farmer needs. Rows are the most efficient in terms of resources and work, but the amount of protected soil is less.

By the way, my last garden bed is a sunked triangle. Not practical at all, I can tell you, but it's a nice shape for a garden and hopefully, it will be our champion at holding humidity. It's just 1,5 sq meters per bed, and it's hard to get to the center. Now I want to seed some onions and lettuces on it, but I have to wait until next rain week.

If you think 90 cm will work for you, go forward. As I said, you can try it, observe watering needs, how well you can manage it, and next year you can change it if you must.  Probably your soil will improve with time, and you'll be able to service more beds. If one thing I have learned, is that you learn by doing samples. You can read all the theory you want, ask as many questions as you like, you will not get to understand until you really get your hands dirty. My first bed is not bad, but watching how it performed taught me a lot, so next bed was better. The new one should be even better (maybe not). I know you want a thoroughly plan for your land, but you are not yet in a position to make it. People in this forum usually reccomends a couple of years watching your land and trying things before commiting to a definite plan. Maybe you will want to plant your trees farther away later to let more space for your annuals, but you can't know right now (moving your tree rows is not as easy as moving your market garden beds). And you won't know until you try. Even if you have farming experience, each land is different and takes time to know it.
Yes, 90cm is roughly three lines of crops, but when you consider spacing between plants, you can't plant as much as you think. You can do a test with a planting pattern, that's a round cardboard with the size of the recommended space for your seedling, to see how many seedlings you can fit in a 90cm wide bed.

So, my personal thoughts are based on the fact that I want to farm and I want to garden... Ideally i want to be doing both at the same time, but let's be practical... what  should i consider first?


This comes to preferences, I think I would go first for whatever gives me more immediate benefits. Gardening is excellent for self-consumption, if you are willing to eat what can grow in your land. Farming is best if you know where and how to sell your produce, otherwise you will be another underpaid european farmer. I know I am very bad at selling things, so I'm stuck with gardening  :)
 
Amedeo Nofal
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Thanks for sharing!

Abraham Palma wrote:
If one thing I have learned, is that you learn by doing samples. You can read all the theory you want, ask as many questions as you like, you will not get to understand until you really get your hands dirty. My first bed is not bad, but watching how it performed taught me a lot, so next bed was better. The new one should be even better (maybe not). I know you want a thoroughly plan for your land, but you are not yet in a position to make it. People in this forum usually reccomends a couple of years watching your land and trying things before commiting to a definite plan. Maybe you will want to plant your trees farther away later to let more space for your annuals, but you can't know right now (moving your tree rows is not as easy as moving your market garden beds). And you won't know until you try. Even if you have farming experience, each land is different and takes time to know it.



I absolutely agree with you. Actually I was never a farmer or a gardener, so far i used the "studying" approach, i started 2 years ago and I read/watched material coming from different people and perspective. I also did some internship and visited farms.

You are right about the trees... But mainly i wanted to live in a forest and of a forest... So, planting trees is what i like to do the most and i cannot postpone... I'm also getting some fun making garden beds... And when it comes to wedding it's challenging since i have to face my worst thoughts

What do you exactly mean by foraging coltures? Everybody does that if it's needed...no!? And of course if it's not needed i can take a nap

I wish just not to become another underpaid farmer, i actually aim to being overpaid, let's see if it's possible, at this moment i just aim to start having some crops and experience, than to get some families to serve and get paid. Then point to high income crops.... It's a long way.

With your opinion in mind I'm going toward a 80-45 bed-path design, it makes me happy since the bed is not too narrow and yet not too wide to manage.
7 beds means a dense design and no one inch is wasted, sounds good.
Path is ok but i should find places for some wider pathways.
You are kinda right when you tell me to stay away from trees, it may make sense, and yet it's not mandatory, I'll probably not follow that piece of advise. But a wise person would probably make the larger paths around the tree rows, sorrounding the 7bed veggie plot...


 
Abraham Palma
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What do you exactly mean by foraging coltures?


An example. Take one bed full of lettuces. If you want to sell them, you want them the right size and pretty and you want to collect them at the same time. That's harvesting.
Now, think that you want those lettuces just for self-consumption. Instead of taking one full grown lettuce, you might come and take just a few leaves here and there. Next day you collect another bunch of leaves. Next time you want a salad, you go and collect a few more. Then the lettuces will begin rising and you'll be forced to chopp them or leave them for seeds.
Maybe you have a bed with carrots, and they are not ready yet, but you want to eat a few, so why not? It doesn't matter if they aren't full ripe. Maybe you'll get a smaller yield, but who cares, you will be eating fresh for longer.
Maybe you have figs. Instead of taking all the figs that look edible, why not just take the sweetest and come again tomorrow for more ripe fruit?
I call this way of harvesting, 'foraging'. You are doing the same as you would do when foraging in the wilderness, only you are doing it in your planted veggies. It takes longer to collect your food, you have to search for what's ready and what's not, you have to look what you can leave for no longer or it will decay. I am foraging in our community garden, both wild and planted, and I must say that I'm loving it.

That's why I say that a farmer havests and a gardener forages.
 
Amedeo Nofal
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Ok, then i misunderstood...

Ok, i don't know the exact English meaning... In my opinion that's just another way of harvesting, that depends on how you sell... Since i intend to sell to families, my preferred way of harvest is small quantities, during a long period, of the best quality i can get. You say this is called foraging, it's ok

I don't really care for minimising at all costs time spent harvesting, since i prefer to collect little and constantly, having the way to get what is fully ripe and delicious, in order to get the maximum value when selling fresh veggies. Storing is a cost and it generally lower the value of my produce.

If nature is like an organism, let's say like a fig tree, i come and i forage some, the best I can find, that promotes the energy of life to flow to other fruits/veggies/plants that need energy to ripen their produce. My disturance in the system also help to promote more production... Like when you pick a salad leaf... I can either pick a salad plant, all the plants nearby will have access to more energy and more space
 
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If you're going to be selling more than say 10 boxes a week you'll find it impossible to keep up if you pick slow and steady, that 4 minutes it takes you to walk to the tree every day to check it soon adds up over weeks. now think how long it takes to search through a bed of carrots for only the largest ones, another couple of minutes wasted every day, there is a reason why people harvest whole beds for sale it's so much faster. I do grow some things I have to harvest over several weeks, beans, peas, strawberries.

I have 1500 strawberry plants, to pick half of them every day takes 2 hours, to pick my peas (100m row) takes 40 minutes if they are low peas and around 15 minutes if they are tall peas that I have trellised. 10meters of french beans takes nearly 10 minutes to pick when you go and pick only those that are ready. Do not underestimate how long harvesting and processing takes, one decent rain/wind storm and all my strawberries need washing as they end up covered in sand (they are in plastic with grass in the paths but it still gets there) washing and drying 25 punnets of strawberries takes over an hour. lettuces are horrible to wash, they collect every bit of earth, bugs and tree leaves around! (do not grow lettuces under small leaved trees, you will spend half your time picking leaves out of the lettuces)

When I pick for my market it takes me around 1hour to pick everything (no peas of strawberries) and 2 hours to wash and bunch/bag it. that is for a small market where I sell around 162 euros worth. scale up appropriately.
 
Amedeo Nofal
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Ok... I will start with 80-45 bed-path size and 7 market garden beds between tree rows... As the time goes and trees grow, i will probably eliminate the garden beds close to trees

I will try to keep the light curve in order to follow the flow of the big design, if i find it harder to manage a curvy bed, i will straighten the beds... But i hope it will not be harder to manage
IMG_20210410_120955.jpg
How it will look soon
How it will look soon
Screenshot_20210410_120846.jpg
How it will look later on
How it will look later on
 
Amedeo Nofal
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@skandi rogers

Thank you for your important points, I'm taking those seriously, and mostly you are right, especially when scaling up... Yet I have to say that I worked for a 10acres vegetable farm, providing vegetable for some organic shops, and many times we were harvesting just some part of the bed, sometimes even harvesting in a way that was close to foraging... Doesn't mean anything but it's possible, it depends

I must find the proper way to follow your suggestions
 
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