Beds / Paths

The inherent planting efficiency of a bed garden can be enhanced if you plan for low maintenance right from the beginning. Consider permanent sides to the beds, using whatever local materials are available. Stone is one of the best materials if you have it available, but brick, concrete, and some naturally rot-resistant woods native to your area would also make good choices.

Mulch the main access paths with a thick layer of bark, sand, or cinders—whatever is suitable, local, cheap, and environmentally responsible. Some gardeners, like my grandfather, simply plant grass and maintain sod paths. Be forewarned, though, that sod paths will be constantly migrating into the garden and will require regular attention.

Make the beds modular. That is, even if they are not exactly the same size, try to keep at least one dimension (usually the width) the same. That way, if you want to extend the growing season with shade cloth or row covers that protect the plants from the heat and cold, you’ll be able to use them on more than one bed without having to reconstruct them each time they’re moved.

Length of the beds is less important, but anything more than about 16 ft increases the amount of walking you have to do. You can also frame the paths, rather than the beds and then subdivide the space between the paths into temporary raked up bed. You will find more about this on the pages about intensive planting and soil preparation.

Here is a short presentation showing the process of building “boxed path” garden step-by-step:

ShepherdBeds / Paths

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