Traditional allotment growing is based on single rows of crops at varying distances apart being grown across the area, using the gaps between the rows for access; The bed system separates the growing area into distinct beds, usually 1.2 - 1.5 m wide, middle can be reached from either side, with paths 38/45 cm between and crops being grown in blocks, where the rows are often much closer together as access is from the paths and not from between the plants; The beds can be temporarily marked out each season and the crops grown on flat beds, much as normal. Or permanent raised beds can be created, either by digging up into raised beds or creating a structure.
Bed systems allow for: More flexibility in planning (rotation by vegetable family type) Improved ease of access from the paths (even when the soil is wet) for weeding and harvesting; No soil compaction between plants – beds should never be stepped on; Manure/compost can be used only where crops are to be grown (good if in limited supply); Size of crop can be controlled by their spacing (more medium size vegetables can easily outweigh fewer but bigger vegetables).
(See raised beds for their extra advantages).
Limitations: Cost of building; Possible need for extra topsoil, if imported look out for the quality; Need for extra-irrigation as raised. Seep hose often used on surface in lines (coning effect); If raised by digging giving a domed surface – problems with irrigation and rain running off and uneven growth pattern; Possibly need for more planning.