Viva La Vegan!

The Kitchen Garden: Design

The month of March can be the beginning of sowing seeds outdoors. Of course this will depend on your location, in the UK where I am located this is the case. Here I will give some basic planning ideas so you can move closer to preparing some space to sow seeds. Specific elements will be re-visited in more depth later as there are many options for gardening systems and for how the aesthetics can look.

How we design our kitchen garden really does depend upon the space we have. We need to think practically of how to use the space most efficiently to create as much growing area as possible. Considering comfortable access to sow, weed, mulch, water and for crop harvesting without damaging neighboring crops or the soil. When you experience fully grow crops you will understand this. All seedlings will be tiny and so the rows of seedlings look easy to access, once they have become more mature bed of vegetables there will be much less space.


              A Raised Bed system with grass pathways                      Large Beds with timber board to stand upon

Basic Guide

A general rule is that a bed needs to be only ever less than twice your arms length to enable easy management.

Planting beds which are easily managed are 1.2 m in width. This dimension is narrow enough to be tended without walking on. For instance 1.2 x 3-4 m is a nice size, the shape can be easily moved around. Of course the length can be much longer to suit your space yet in time very long beds can become a nuisance to walk around by the gardener.

If a bed is wider than 1.2 or maybe 1.5m, depending on how long your arms are, you will need to devise a system to access.  My vegetable beds are larger than the general rule as I chose to maximize the growing space and have a lesser amount of structured pathways. To access through my beds I use long timber planks similar to scaffolding timber which I can walk on. The more structured pathways need to be accessible and practical for the individual gardener and for a wheelbarrow. I find 60cm is a comfortable width between raised beds which is a system we will discuss later. It is possible that less than 60cm would work for you.

Square and rectangular beds are also easy to tend and cultivate, however you may like more decorative shapes. Long term complex shapes are not always the best use of space or can be wasteful due to angled corners. One will often see traditional gardens with box hedging as a frame or edging. If you like the look of this you need to consider permanent edging plants will reduce the available space for food crops. As the plant it`s self will take up valuable room as well as their root span. These design elements will depend upon your garden space.

It is quite possible that you have some set elements already in place which dictate a bed size. You may have paving stones for pathways where the length and width of a bed would be created to fit these avoiding having to cut the stones. Or you may want to construct raised beds and have timber for the edging at a set length such as scaffold boards. In this case the length of the bed could be made the same length as the boards of timber to avoid having to cut the timber.   

A consideration will be what crops you wish to grow especially if you wish to grow large amounts of one crop. For example potatoes, onions, brassicas do take quite a lot of space. In this case you may decide you would like a combination of sized beds to give diversity and options. You can always make changes at a later date.

First steps   

You may be very organized and have already noted the space and any permanent structures to take into consideration. At this point you could sketch out what you think could work for you. Taking into consideration dimensions, the light quality and suns movement, accessibility, your physical flexibility and what crops you may want to grow.

Once you have a sketch, even a rough sketch you can translate this onto the ground where your kitchen garden and growing space will be. What you will need for this is some wooden pegs to push into the ground. Alternatives are bamboo canes, sticks, bricks. These will be used to mark corners. And string which will mark the shape, width and length of the beds running from corner to corner and so on.

This is a great step as it allows you to see how it will look; you can also walk around, and check you can access the centre of the beds. You can evaluate if your first thoughts will use the space wisely, efficiently and practically. The markers can be left for a fresh day and a fresh look before you make final decisions for this season.

I highly recommend this stage, you will find it invaluable. Remember the garden is an evolving element and in time one often finds oneself making modification, creating more space to grow crops. That is the beauty of gardening we can always expand upon our original ideas and requirements.

Sowing & Planting Outdoors:

Asparagus crowns

Broad beans, Peas

Cauliflower summer early

Garlic, Onion & Shallot sets

Chinese Artichokes

Potatoes, Jerusalem Artichokes

Rhubarb sets

Spinach & Oriental greens

Fruit to Plant:

Apple, pear trees, plum, damson, mulberry, fig, cherry.



Raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, cranberry, gooseberry, loganberry & currants

Above is dependent upon your location and may not include everything available.

Of course if you have a warmer location you maybe including peach, nectarine, kiwi, mango, lemon, lime etc the list goes on.

Until next month, happy kitchen gardening.


All Photographs © Laara Copley-Smith at Laara Copley-Smith Garden & Landscape Design. All rights reserved.


Laara Copley-Smith is a professional Garden Designer based in the UK with a passion for Kitchen Gardens and growing organically. Laara has been a vegan for over ten years, is a raw foodist and is a keen photographer. Laara offers an extensive range of bespoke design services and creative consultancy and can be contacted here.

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