Q. In many of the books the Grow-Box width is very different. What is the latest recommendation on the ideal size of Grow-Box width? 1 foot? 18 inches? 4 feet?
A. The need for the question illustrates the fact that Dr. Jacob Mittleider experimented with the different aspects of his growing procedures throughout the many years of his worldwide humanitarian work. He tested and measured the results of everything he did, to determine the very best way to do things.
In 1975, when his second book More Food From Your Garden (later re-printed as Grow-Box Gardens) came out, Jacob was advocating Grow-Boxes of 5′ width, usually with plants growing in rows across the width of the box. He taught and demonstrated growing in that size box for a number of years – always with great success. And even today there are thousands of growers – even commercial growers – who swear by their 5’boxes.
He also sometimes grew in boxes that were only 1′ wide during those years. And some of the boxes shown in the book Let’s Grow Tomatoes are 1′ wide.
Over the years, however, after much experimenting with different sizes, Jacob settled on a height of 8″ and widths of 18″ and 4′ as being ideal for growing vegetables, and those are the sizes we teach, demonstrate, and advocate today.
Eighteen inch-wide boxes or beds are excellent for growing one row, for large and climbing plants, or two rows for other vegetable crops, and usually work best in the family garden situation.
Four foot-wide boxes or beds allow for even more concentrated growing of crops for serious growers. However, when using 4′-wide boxes or beds more careful plant spacing and pruning are necessary to assure plants have adequate light throughout the growing season.
Large crops should only be planted in two rows down the length of the box or bed and on the outside edges. And smaller crops are also planted lengthwise – in four rows one foot apart, starting at the outside edges. This gives only a 2′-wide “aisle” in the center, rather than the 3 1/2′-wide aisle we normally recommend.
It’s that narrow center aisle that saves a foot and a half of space, but it’s also what makes proper plant spacing and more diligent and careful pruning so important.
I recommend you use narrow boxes or beds when starting out, and then perhaps work with some of 4′ width as you gain experience in caring for a high-yield intensive garden.
I have downloaded some pictures of the Model garden we created and grew in Popayan, Colombia in the Pictures section of the free group MittleiderMethodGardening@yahoogroups.com, to show you some 4′-wide “double beds” in action.