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kitchen garden design
Published October 12, 2022 by Nicole Burke

Raised-Bed Kitchen Garden Design: Four-Garden Classic

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raised kitchen garden
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garden bed design for large square or rectangular spaces

The Four-Garden Classic Is Our Favorite Raised Bed Garden Design

When I first started my kitchen garden design company, Rooted Garden, I thought that designing a kitchen garden meant placing a wooden box in the middle of someone's yard (and if they had lots of room, we'd do two boxes). It didn't take me long to discover that gardens, like homes, can actually come in many different styles, sizes, and layouts. 

After designing hundreds of garden spaces, I've narrowed my favorite designs down to the top six that I've found work well in spaces both functionally and aesthetically. These six garden design layouts include: border gardens, twin gardens, garden trios, keyhole gardens, four-garden classics, and formal potagers.

The size and shape of the yard space that you have available will play a big factor in helping to determine which is the best raised bed garden layout for you. Today, we're going to focus on my favorite—the four-garden classic.

four-garden classic garden bed layout

This Garden Bed Layout Works Well in Large, Square Spaces

The four-garden classic requires a space that's square (or nearly square) in shape and at least 15 feet wide. Each of the raised beds in this garden layout are the same size, typically 4 feet, 6 feet, or 8 feet long and 2 to 4 feet wide. We often design raised beds to be rectangular for this classic layout, but we've also had spaces where we felt squares worked best.

(Learn more about the best length, width, and height for raised beds in our complete guide to raised garden beds.)

raised garden bed ideas vegetables

We've been able to squeeze this design in well-lit side yards before, so don't think you have to have a huge, flat backyard to make this layout work.

raised bed garden in sideyard

The Best Raised Garden Bed Layout Ideas Appeal to Our Love of Symmetry

There's a reason this layout is tried and true—a classic in the garden design world. The symmetry between the two sides of the garden creates balance, harmony, and order. Aesthetically speaking, four gardens are what I think of as kitchen garden design perfection.

It's easy to create this symmetry by arranging the four raised beds in a grid-style with designated pathways in between. (Learn more about garden pathways.)

raised garden bed ideas

Four Raised Garden Beds Give You Lots of Flexibility When Growing Vegetables

Functionally speaking, four raised beds allow you to grow lots of delicious leafy greens, herbs, root crops, and fruiting plants. You can separate crops and plant methodically (you can even practice easy crop rotation if you're into that). You can have the two halves mirror each other across the middle pathway, or you can have each of the four beds planted the same.

raised garden bed layout ideas

This Garden Bed Design Is Like an Outdoor Room

Thanks to the four raised beds acting like four walls, the feeling you have when you're standing inside this type of garden is like being in your own magical little oasis. Imagine being able to escape the stressors of life for a bit in your own backyard and snip some herbs for dinner. I have a feeling that a four-garden classic kitchen garden would quickly become your favorite "room" in your home.

raised bed and trellis

Tips to Design Your Own Four-Garden Classic

Keep these tips in mind when you're designing your own kitchen garden space.

kitchen garden walkway

Remember Accessibility

Raised beds in this raised-bed garden layout are typically accessible from multiple sides. If you can tend each bed from all sides, you could go as wide as four to five feet with each raised bed. Anything beyond five feet, however, would make it difficult to tend and harvest from plants in the middle of the bed.

If you can only tend from one side (say, for example, one side of your four-garden classic design would need to back up against a fence or wall), I’d recommend staying under two and a half feet, which is probably about as far as your arm can reach. 

raised garden after

When we designed a four-garden classic for our fantastic Rooted Garden client Dawn, we chose to install 3 foot-wide raised beds and increase the ease of moving through the space by laying black star gravel throughout the entire garden area. We added pavers along the central walkway to make stepping along the garden even more comfortable.

overview of classic garden design

Pair These Four Raised Beds with Garden Trellises

Garden design means using more than just the horizontal space available in your yard. Height is incredibly important too, not just for adding vertical interest but also for maximizing your growing space. With that in mind, each of the four beds in this design can have their own obelisk trellis, or you can connect two raised beds across the center walkway with a pair of arch trellises.

My favorite is to use arch trellises as a sort of grand entrance into the kitchen garden space. Few things are more beautiful or more inviting than an arch trellis covered in tomato vines or another climbing plant. (Explore our complete list of what to grow up garden trellises.)

Dawn's garden features two Nicole trellises, which we're working on selling as easy-to-assemble kits in the Gardenary shop soon!

backyard garden ideas
Shop Gardenary's Arch Trellises

Don't Overextend Your Garden Space

Dawn is fortunate to have a beautiful and quite large backyard, but she wanted to preserve plenty of lawn for other outdoor activities. You don't have to fill your entire outdoor space with a kitchen garden. Also, keep in mind that the larger you build your garden, the more time you'll need to spend tending the plants growing there.

Dawn has added some extra growing space with pots and an extra tall raised bed in the back of the garden (I call it a bonus bed). Pots or small containers are ideal for growing plants like mint that spread and might take over a garden bed.

raised garden beds in backyard

See How Dawn's Four-Garden Classic Is Growing!

Let Gardenary Help with Your Garden Design

Think of all the good stuff you could harvest from four raised beds in your own backyard! If designing your own garden feels daunting, we've got lots of resources here at Gardenary to help you create a space where you can grow and flourish, including my book, Kitchen Garden Revival, and our online kitchen garden design course, Kitchen Garden Academy.

Thanks for helping us bring back the kitchen garden, whether you're gardening from four small pots or four large raised beds!

Raised-Bed Kitchen Garden Design: Four-Garden Classic