Tiered vegetable garden designs

Written by debra rigas
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Tiered vegetable garden designs
Growing your own vegetables can lead to abundant harvests. (Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Those who choose to grow their own vegetables know they'll enjoy a rich bounty at harvest time and that their grocery store bill will diminish. Taking the time to make the best use of your garden space pays off in the long run. Tiered vegetable gardens can be designed on hills or slopes, or from building raised beds at different levels. Take into account the various pros and cons of each type, and talk to your local nursery staff or master gardener about what vegetables are ideal in your area; some are suitable for tiers, while others are not.

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Cut the Hill

If you have sweeping lands that are hilly or only one somewhat steep hill, you can cut tiers into it for growing vegetables. The more room you have to lay out long and wide tiers, the better. Some people opt to hire heavy machinery operators to do the cutting, and then will finish creating the levels by walling them with timber or rocks. Allow room for pathways and easy access to each level so you can reach the plants. Leave at least 2 feet of depth per tier, as many vegetables will perform better when they're given plenty of room for their roots. Installing a self-watering system can help, too.

Plant on Moderate Slopes

You can take the idea from Section 1 and minimise it, keeping the pathway and access concepts. Plant smaller vegetables that won't crowd out or shade lower tiers. This plan is a bit easier to achieve and can have a quite beautiful appearance. The beds need not be very large --- soil depth is the main issue, especially for growing asparagus. Many smaller vegetables, such as onions, bush beans, patio tomatoes, radishes, lettuces, broccoli and beets, do well in tiered vegetable gardens. If you have plenty of room, cucumbers, squash and zucchini can work, too.

Stack Raised Beds

Another design option is to make wood-framed stacked beds that serve as tiers from the ground up. You can plant quite a few of the smaller plants in these, along with many different herbs. You can build them extra wide and long, or create smaller 6-foot by 6-foot, 4-foot by 4-foot and 2-foot by 2-foot boxes. The main concern is being able to reach all the veggies so you can weed and care for them. In addition, you'll want to be able to harvest without pulling your back muscles. Look at various diagrams and drawings of raised garden beds for further details.

Concerns

Tiered gardens have both their pros and cons. On the con side, raised beds will drain much more quickly, so they'll need ample and regular watering, and you'll have to keep a close eye on crop performance. As for the pros, the beds above ground will warm more quickly, which can lead to earlier growth and earlier harvesting. Creating tiers or raised beds maximises use of space, so you can achieve more by building upward. Pumpkins and long runner plants can take up a lot of space, but if you have room, plant them at the edges and let them run to the sides of tiered slopes. They can overrun raised beds, so stick to the smaller, more contained plants.

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