A raised bed vegetable garden is a great growing solution for many people. Ideal for a range of growing environments, planting a 4×8 raised bed vegetable garden provides a good way to grow your own food if your soil is poor.
This growing solution not only enables you to make the most of limited space, it is also versatile enough to be easily accessible for people of all ages and abilities.
However, a 4 x 8 raised bed vegetable garden is not the largest growing space. This means that you have to be aware of the size and spread of your chosen plants as well as the garden’s layout. For example, growing one large, slow to mature plant can take up lots of space preventing you from growing other smaller, more productive crops.
Growing in a smaller space makes correctly organizing the layout and companion planting a 4×8 raised bed vegetable garden an important task.
Companion planting a 4×8 raised bed garden.
If you are uncertain what plants to grow, or where to plant them, this guide to companion planting a 4×8 raised bed vegetable garden layout is filled with useful ideas and tips. Following the ideas laid out below enables you to make the most of your growing space.
Locating and Constructing Your 4×8 Raised Bed Vegetable Garden
Before companion planting or even considering the layout of your 4×8 raised bed vegetable garden there are a few things to consider.
One of the most important elements to consider is the position of your 4×8 raised bed vegetable garden. Ideally, you want to position your 4×8 raised bed vegetable garden in a light, sunny position. A space that gets 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day enables you to grow a wide range of vegetables.
Position your 4×8 raised bed planters in a sunny spot.
Locating your planter in a spot sheltered from cold winds also helps to widen the range of plants that you can grow. A fence or some trellising can help to shelter your growing space. It can also add color, interest or even provide support for taller and vining plants. Raising vining plants off the soil frees up even more vital growing space.
You can make a 4×8 raised bed from a range of materials. Scaffold boards are a popular choice because they are affordable and relatively easy to source. However, they do not enjoy the same lifespan as thicker wooden sleepers.
You can also use breeze blocks, sheet metal or even purchase a kit such as a Lakeside Collection Raised Garden Bed Set.
While this article focuses on companion planting a 4×8 raised bed vegetable garden, as these 4×8 raised bed plans show, you can construct your planter in any shape that you wish. In fact a triangular bed can be ideal for fitting into a corner of the garden while an L-shaped bed is easier to access.
Once you have selected the position of your 4×8 raised bed vegetable garden, the next step is to fill it with the right sort of soil. Our guide to 4×8 raised bed soil is filled with useful advice for anyone looking to cost effectively fill a 4×8 raised bed or planter. In general a balanced, well draining potting soil mixed with compost is ideal for most fruit and vegetable plants.
Growing in good soil enables you to cultivate a range of crops in a 4×8 raised bed.
Selecting Plants For A 4×8 Raised Bed Vegetable Garden
While it can be tempting, don’t just rush out and buy a variety of vegetable plants. Instead sit down and work out what vegetables you use on a weekly basis. This could be leafy greens such as lettuce or kale, root crops such as potatoes or carrots, or even cucumbers, peppers, herbs, tomatoes and onions.
You should also note down anything that you want to try growing. If you are an experienced gardener you may also want to include one new vegetable that you have never grown before. Experimenting with a new plant in your layout is a fun way to keep your interest and broaden your horizons.
After deciding what plants you want to grow in your layout, it is time to do a little bit of research. Seed catalogs and websites are a great way to explore the range of plants that are available and suitable for your layout.
Grow crops that are suitable for the size of your layout.
For example, if you want to grow tomatoes look through the many different types of tomatoes and make a note of any that you like and are suitable for your growing space.
In addition to the name and flavor of the plant, you will also see the spacing recommendations as well as the height and width of the mature plant. This information is useful when working out what fits the layout of your 4×8 raised bed vegetable garden.
For our layout, while the size of the mature plant is important, spacing recommendations are less vital. One of the benefits of companion planting in planters is that you can practice intensive planting. This means growing the vegetables more closely together than if they were in the ground.
As well as maximizing the layout of your growing space this also helps to suppress weed growth. Just make sure not to cram too many plants into a small space, this reduces air flow and can cause diseases such as powdery mildew to form.
Growing sprawling plants close to the edge of the planter encourages them to cascade over the side.
If you want to grow larger or sprawling plants, such as squashes, try selecting compact varieties. These are usually bred with container planting in mind. This makes them a good option for companion planting in a 4×8 raised bed vegetable garden layout.
For example a winter squash can be a large plant. A compact variety takes up less space. Additionally, if you plant your compact squash close to the edge of the planter it is able to cascade over the side, freeing up even more growing room.
Never plant tall crops, such as beans or peas, in front of smaller plants such as lettuce or cabbage. This shades the smaller plants, stunting their growth and impacting negatively on productivity.
Using tomato cages and trellising can also help to encourage vertical growth, freeing up more soil in your layout.
Support taller or trailing plants to free up more growing space in your layout.
Another point to consider when selecting your plants is how much time they need to grow and mature. For example, starting garlic in the fall means that that area of your growing layout won’t be free until June or July the following year.
Finally, try to grow a variety of crops. For example if you are growing pepper plants, try a hot variety and a sweet or snack variety. Tomato plants also come in a range of shapes and sizes, you can grow a cherry variety alongside a plum or large slicing or beef variety.
If you are new to gardening you may not be aware how great succession planting is. Basically, this is the practice of continually planting new crops as soon as space appears.
When done correctly, succession planting extends your harvest and enables you to grow a wider range of crops. This is particularly useful in a smaller 4×8 raised bed layout where space is at a premium. For example, in late summer once your pea plants have finished for the year, they can be dug up and replaced with kale or swiss chard for a fall harvest.
Companion Planting a 4×8 Raised Bed Vegetable Garden Layout
Companion planting is the practice of growing mutually beneficial plants alongside each other. This is a great way to keep your plants healthy, improve productivity and make the most of a small growing space.
Nasturtiums are one of the best companion planting choices.
Among the benefits of companion planting are:
- Improving pollination: flowers such as nasturtiums or marigolds as well as fragrant or showy blooms can attract pollinators. Companion planting these close to your vegetable plants draws pollinators to the area, improving pollination rates and crop sizes.
- Protecting crops: delicate plants often benefit from companion planting alongside hardier plants which may provide shelter from wind, heavy rain or direct sunlight. For example, peas growing up a trellis can help to shelter lettuce plants. While the peas are small the lettuce plants are exposed to lots of sun and warmth, but as the peas and lettuce plants grow, the leafy pea plants provide vital shade during the summer months. This helps to prevent bolt and extend the length of your lettuce harvest.
- Repelling pests: there are a number of plants, including lemongrass, basil and thyme, that emit aromas or substances that naturally repel many common pests. Companion planting these close to your vegetable plants helps to keep your crops safe and healthy without the use of chemical deterrents.
- Trapping and luring pests: you can also use trap plants, these are plants that are planted with the intention of luring pests away from your prized vegetable plants.
- Enriching the soil: some plants introduce essential nutrients into the soil as they break down. For example, growing bean crops helps to fix nitrogen in the soil.
- Improving biodiversity: the more varieties of plants that you grow better mimics the diversity of nature, creating a haven for many different types of beneficial insects.
Growing a wide range of plants improves your garden’s biodiversity.
Companion Planting to Improve Flavor
Many herbs can help to improve the flavor of other plants. For example, borage and thyme can both improve the flavor of strawberries.
Growing chervil close to radish plants helps to improve the spiciness of the latter.
Growing basil or cilantro closeby improves the flavor of tomato plants.
Finally, chamomile can help to boost the flavor of your onion crops.
If you are starting a herb garden, our guide to companion planting for herbs is full of useful combination suggestions.
Combinations to Avoid
While there are many beneficial plant combinations, some combinations can have a detrimental effect on other crops. These should be avoided in a 4×8 layout.
Another detrimental combination, cucumbers dislike growing too closely to fragrant herbs.
Popular Companion Planting Combinations
Some of the best companion planting options that are suitable for growing alongside most vegetable crops are:
Specific crops also have particular companion planting combinations. The following are some commonly grown vegetable plants and the best companion planting options.
Garlic, onions and chives are all good options for repelling tomato plant pests. Growing asparagus closeby can help to repel tomato nematodes. Additionally, cilantro discourages spider mites and borage deters tomato hornworm.
Borage is a good companion planting choice for brassicas.
Borage deters cabbage moth caterpillars. Oregano or cut mint, spread around the plants deters cabbage moth and aphids. Garlic, thanks to its sulfur compounds,deters many different pests. Nasturtiums are a good trap plant, luring pests away from your brassicas.
Calendula flowers produce a sticky substance which attracts and traps aphids, protecting your plants. Marigolds deter cabbage maggots.
Carrots have a few companion planting choices. Basil, lettuce, tansy and nasturtium can all repel carrot rust fly.
Catnip is a good choice for companion planting with potatoes because it repels the Colorado potato beetle.
Asparagus beetles can be repelled by companion planting tansy, tomatoes, parsley, calendula, basil or nasturtium.
Radish plants repel many pests, including squash bugs. Companion planting your gourds alongside sweet corn or beans helps to deter squash vine borers.
Both nasturtiums and onions attract beneficial insects that feast on destructive cucumber beetles, helping to protect your cucumber plants.
Onions can attract beneficial insects to your growing space.
4×8 Raised Bed Vegetable Garden Layout
Once you have selected your plants, it is time to consider the layout of your 4×8 raised bed vegetable garden.
Getting the layout right means not only companion planting, or growing compatible plants together, it also enables you to make the most of your limited growing space.
Spreading out the crops in rows makes maintenance easier.
One of the easiest layouts is to set out 8 rows of different crops. How much of each crop depends on what you are growing and how much you want. For example you could plant up:
- 2 rows of onions,
- 1 row with some tomato plants and columnar basil,
- 1 row of pepper plants,
- 1 row of greens such as kale, swiss chard or spinach,
- 1 row of compact or patio cucumber plants and some herbs or companion plants,
- 1 row of root veg such as beets, carrots, radishes or turnips.
- The final row, and any remaining gaps, can be filled with compact herbs such as parsley or some flowering pollinator friendly companion plants such as marigolds.
Another layout option is to fix a trellis to the north end of the 4×8 raised bed vegetable garden and sow a row of taller plants such as peas or beans.
Then plant up:
- 2 rows of onions,
- 1 row of 2 to 3 tomato plants,
- 1 row of 2 to 3 pepper plants,
- 1 snack or small cucumber plant,
- 1 row with a trailing dwarf squash variety trailing over the edge and summer squash,
- 2 rows of root veg such as carrots.
Don’t feel the need to stick rigidly to the layouts given here. If you use lots of peas and beans and relatively few root vegetables in the kitchen, plant a double row of beans and peas and only one row of root veg. Remember the main aim is to grow crops that you actually want to eat.
Additional Care Tips and Advice
Each plant has its own care requirements. Any general care information is usually printed on the plant label or on the back of the seed packet. In addition to this there are a few factors that you should keep in mind to help keep your 4×8 raised bed as productive as possible.
If you have the room, starting seeds undercover in a greenhouse or a sunny windowsill enables you to get a head start on the growing season. Remember to harden off any seedlings or young plants before transplanting into the garden.
Continually starting seedlings off undercover and transplanting them to your growing area as they grow and other plants are harvested enables you to enjoy a steady supply of fresh food.
4×8 raised beds, planters and pots dry out more quickly than garden soil. This means that you need to water the soil more regularly. Harvesting rainwater is a good way to keep your plants watered and your water usage down.
Installing a Rain Bird Drip Irrigation System is a good low-maintenance way to keep your garden healthy and hydrated.
A slow-release general purpose fertilizer, such as Miracle-Gro Shake ‘N’ Feed All Purpose Fertilizer, applied at the start of the year can help to create a good, fertile soil.
Depending on the plants that you are growing some soils may require a further boost. A balanced liquid feed can be applied once or twice during the growing season.
Before companion planting, make sure that your beds are as full as possible. If you are using your 4×8 raised bed vegetable garden for the first time, allow the soil to settle for a few weeks before you start to plant your layout.
Over time the compost or growing medium naturally compacts. Often this causes the soil around the edges of the planter to become taller than the soil in the center.
Uneven soil levels can shade plants, slowing growth. Regularly topping up the growing medium helps to keep it loose and the beds full.
Finally, 4×8 raised bed covers can help to protect plants from pests or early fall frosts. In some climates they can also be used to extend your growing season well into the fall or winter months.
With the right layout, you can cultivate a small but productive garden.
Working out the layout for companion planting a 4×8 raised bed vegetable garden can be a daunting task. However, it is also a worthwhile process. The correct layout enables you to make the most of a limited growing space.
As well as your planter, don’t be afraid to try growing plants in containers or even herbs on a kitchen windowsill. Making the most of your available space enables you to grow a wide range of fruit and vegetables.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.