7 Plant Spacing Tips for Optimal Growth in Raised Beds

As an experienced organic farmer, Jenna Rich brings her knowledge to the table. Whether you're a novice or a seasoned gardener, her seven spacing tips for raised beds will help you achieve bountiful harvests.

A close-up of vibrant green plants growing in nutrient-rich brown soil within a raised bed, nestled in a lush green garden.


The choice of raised beds is personal, with various options to suit your garden’s aesthetics. However, arranging your plants within these beds is the key to a successful harvest. Consider proper plant spacing, as it impacts your crops’ overall health and yields, ensuring they have enough room to grow and access sunlight.  

The recommended spacing for each crop can be found online or on each seed packet. However, space constraints, sunlight access, and the height of your raised bed are a few aspects to consider before finalizing your garden plot plans. 

In this article, I’ll discuss general spacing rules for popular vegetables and what should be considered for each when growing them in a raised bed. Let’s dive in. 

Plot Out Your Garden Before Planting 

A close-up of an urban backyard garden featuring square raised planting beds filled with brown soil, some mulched with wood, hosting a variety of green plants.
Adjust spacing based on crops’ needs.

Once you’ve ordered your seeds, create a sowing schedule and draw out your garden plot. To start, create a grid of one foot by one foot squares that equal the size of your raised bed. Plot bed space using the chart below and the spacing requirements for other crops you’ll be growing to determine how many seeds you should sow. 

Plug in crops where they may fit based on their spacing needs. A fun way to play around with the arrangement is to use scraps of Post-it notes and shift them around the page. Planning this way will help you avoid transplanting crops without a plan, run out of space, or end up planting bad neighbors near one another, like brassicas with tomatoes, both heavy feeders. 

Consider succession planting if you plan to grow radishes, spinach, and other quick greens blends. Succession planting will provide continuous supplies of your favorite summer veggies, such as cucumbers, basil, carrots, and bush beans.

Pro tip: Insect netting will help keep pests from taking over and destroying future successions. 

Consider the Crop Type and Variety 

A close-up of neatly arranged rows of carrot greens in raised beds, covered with straw mulch.
Compare outcomes of dense planting versus leaving bare soil.

Find the balance between dense spacing to decrease weed pressure and providing enough space for each crop to receive proper nutrients. For example, carrots densely sown without thinning will compete for water and nutrients, leading to stunted, misshapen, or diseased fruits.

It can take up to three weeks for seeds to germinate, and seedlings may perform poorly when competing with heavy weeds. Another, when tomatoes are packed in too tightly, they may contract fungal diseases from neighboring plants and experience unnecessary stress. 

The chart below contains commonly grown vegetables and a range of spacing recommended for each. 

Commonly Grown Vegetable  Recommended Spacing 
Broccoli* 18 to 24 inches, 2 to 3 feet between rows
Carrots Thinned to 2 to 4 inches, 12 to 18 inches between rows
Garlic 8 to 12 inches, 1 to 2 feet between rows
Herbs – chervil and parsley 6 to 12 inches
Herbs – basil, dill, coriander, sage 6 to 18 inches
Kale* 12 to 18 inches, 2 feet between rows
Lettuce heads 6 to 18 inches, 12 to 18 inches between rows
Scallions 1/2 inch to 3 inches, 6 inches between rows
Snap peas 1 to 3 inches, 4 to six inches between rows
Spinach 6 inches, 12 inches between rows
Peppers* 12 to 18 inches, 18 to 24 inches between rows
Radishes 1 to 2 inches, 12 inches between rows
Squash – summer and winter 18 to 36 inches with 3 to 4 feet between rows
Tomatoes* 12 to 36 inches, variety dependent, with 3 to 4 feet between rows

*Variety dependent

While it may be tempting to pack your raised bed full of diversity, pushing the limits may result in underwhelming results. 

If you don’t provide plants enough space:

  • Yields may decrease
  • Diseases may spread quickly
  • Airflow will not be adequate
  • Sunlight may not reach all crops
  • Overall performance may decrease

If you give plants too much space:

  • Increased weed pressure
  • There is little to no support for crops like pole beans or tomatoes
  • Moisture will quickly evaporate from the soil
  • Under-utilized space could have produced additional food

Pay attention to any special instructions or spacing recommendations for new varieties, such as sprouting broccoli or a tomato cultivar that requires more space to branch out. Note any differences when you space plants more densely versus leaving bare soil between each. 

Consider Companion Planting 

A close-up of a garden plot featuring young green plants in brown soil, with a vibrant orange-blooming plant standing out in the center.
Planting strong-scented alliums confuses pests.

Companion planting studies show the right combinations help ward off pests and may improve flavors and soil quality. When growing in a raised bed, adding vegetables, herbs, and flowers of various heights and fertility needs helps growers take full advantage of their growing space and provides the soil with diverse root systems. 

Companion planting:

  • Confuses pests by planting strong-scented alliums, herbs, or French marigolds and throws them off their game
  • Improves soil conditions–for example, leafy greens planted after legumes will benefit greatly
  • Biodiversity results in plant resilience, allowing them to thrive in inclement weather, pest pressure, and disease.
  • Complementary root systems lead to natural soil aeration and an enhancement of healthy bacteria below the soil surface.
  • Planting tall companions with shade-loving shorties like radishes or head lettuce will benefit from the sun protection.

If you’ve never attempted the three sisters plantings, here’s your push to try it in your raised bed. Planting corn, squash, and beans together utilizes the same square footage for several symbiotic crops. Corn provides a trellis for climbing beans, the shade created by the squash leaves helps the soil maintain moisture and suppress weeds, and the beans add nitrogen to the soil. Corn and squash, in turn, use it as nitrates. 

Remember that one of the most beneficial outcomes of companion planting is attracting beneficial insects to your plot while deterring damaging pests like Japanese beetles and aphids

Popular proven combinations:

  • Tomatoes and basil
  • Cucumbers and dill
  • French marigolds and kale
  • Sage and strawberries
  • Sweet Alyssum with just about anything!
YouTube video

Do Your Crops Require Trellising? 

A close-up of a large, wooden A-Frame trellis on a raised garden bed with houses in the background.
Begin your garden planning by prioritizing crops needing trellising.

Crops that need trellising will affect the spacing as you consider shade your support system may cast on neighboring plants. Warmer region growers may place trellises on the northern border of the raised bed, so the whole bed receives sunlight. Alternatively, add the trellis to the southern border so vining crops provide dappled sunlight to radishes and lettuce mix sown nearby. 

While tomato cages used to be the most common trellising option, today, there are many, and each allows you to get creative with the look and functionality. Strings, arches, ladders, and the Florida weave with t-posts are just a few straightforward options. 

Pro tip: When plotting out your grid, start with crops that require trellising and work around them. 

Mulch Between Plants 

A close-up of a hand in gardening gloves carefully placing dry grass mulch around garlic plants in a garden.
Densely planting crops can conserve water.

If you’re experimenting with spacing and still have exposed soil, I recommend mulching with woodchips, mulched leaves, or organic straw between plants to help conserve moisture. Leaving soil bare will cause moisture to evaporate and weeds to germinate more quickly. Overall, soil health will improve, and the organic matter will add fertility to the soil as it breaks down. 

Pro tip: Growers can challenge the seed packaging space recommendations more in raised beds than in strict rows in the ground. The more intensively you plant, the better, as long as you’re not overcrowding.  

It seems counterintuitive that planting crops densely conserves water as you’d think plants would compete. However, imagine the canopy plants create over the soil surface, blocking harsh UV rays and allowing moisture to remain longer, making less competition for plants! 

Pair Crops with Similar Soil, Water, and Sunlight Requirements 

A close-up of a small raised bed filled with various types of vibrant vegetable greens, featuring large, glossy leaves under the sunlight.
Check crop water needs weekly for fussiness or drought tolerance.

Planting like-minded crops near each other makes perfect sense. You’ll thank yourself later when completing garden tasks like trellising, fertilizing, and irrigating, as you can treat crops in certain areas the same without worrying about negative consequences. 

Requirements to pay close attention to: 

  • Are there pH requirements, or can they be flexible?
  • Do crops require full sun, partial shade, afternoon shade, etc?
  • Can crops survive in poor, rocky soil or require rich, well-draining compost to perform well?
  • Are your crops drought-tolerant, require shade cloth to prevent bolting, or are they fussy about weekly water amounts?

Once you’ve answered these questions, pair those with similar answers together. 

Experiment with Keyhole Gardening 

A close-up of a Keyhole garden with plants climbing a wooden trellis, surrounded by lush greenery and blooming flowers in a serene garden setting.
Recycling food scraps into nutrient-rich compost enhances soil fertility.

Keyhole gardening involves adding an in-ground composting system or bin to the center of a raised bed, most commonly a round bed. The shape resembles a keyhole, hence the name. Plant crops around the center composter so that each can take advantage of the benefits of breaking down food scraps and earthworms aerating the soil. 

Food scraps turning into food creates a full circle in your gardening cycle. Ensure you can adequately water and turn the contents of the composting area so the scraps will break down into compost rather than rotting and becoming an area that attracts critters and pests. 

This unique type of gardening allows you to repurpose food scraps into food for life in your soil that will eventually feed you. How cool is that? 

Final Thoughts 

Growing in raised beds allows you to control your soil health better, extend your growing season, decrease bending over while gardening, create a lovely backyard vibe, reduce weeds, and more! But before throwing seedings into your beds without thought, plan out your garden, considering sunlight, fertility, water needs, trellis options, and companion planting. 

Possibilities for raised bed designs are endless, so have fun and experiment. 

A cluster of green and brown tomatoes dangle from a vine, surrounded by leaves in the blurred background.


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