Planning Your Vegetable Garden Layout

By into the rustic - 11:49 AM

Before You Start a Garden

Get Organized

1- Where is the Light Hitting?

The first thing is that you have to see where on your property you receive the most light. Make sure that your tallest plants, like your corn or sunflowers, will be planted at the back of the garden so they don't shadow any other vegetables growing nearby. 

Most garden crops require at least 6 hours of steady daylight to grow most effectively, so be sure that you periodically over the course of the day, inspect your land to see what areas are still receiving enough light. 

Make note of any tree branches that could be removed to allow additional light to come in. Do not plan your garden near any trees that shed pine needles, as they are highly acidic and the soil will be extremely difficult to work with.

2- What Viable Seeds Do I Already Have?

Next, make a list of what seeds you have and what you would like to plant this year. Throw out any expired seed packages. Refer to the section of this blog on Buying Seeds for references on good seed catalogs and what to look for before you purchase. 

3- Sketch It Out

After you have organized what you are going to plant, you should draw a small layout of the garden to decide what will be planted where, and next to what. Take reference from the chart below to let you know what vegetables grow best with what other veggies.

Companion Planting

Vegetable Does Well With Does Poorly With
Asparagus Parsley, Tomatoes ---
Beans (bush) Beets, Carrots, Cucumbers, Fennel, Garlic, Onions
Marigolds, Potatoes
Beans (pole) Marigolds, Radishes Garlic, Onions
Cabbage Family Beets, Celery, Corn, Dill, Fennel, Pole Beans, Tomatoes
Nasturtiums, Onions, Sage,
Cantaloupe Corn, Sunflowers Potatoes
Corn Beans, Cucumbers, Peas, ---
Potatoes, Pumpkins, squash
Cucumbers Beans, Cabbage Family, Corn Aromatic Herbs, Potatoes
Peas, Radishes
Eggplant Beans Potatoes (the potato bugs)
Lettuce Carrots, Cucumbers, Onions, ---
Onions Beets, Cabbage Family, ---
Lettuce, Tomatoes
Peas Beans, Carrots, Corn, Garlic, Onions
Cucumbers, Potatoes, Radishes,
Potatoes Beans, Cabbage, Corn, Peas, Sunflowers
Pumpkins Corn Potatoes
Radishes Beets, Carrots, Spinach ---
Rutabagas & Turnips Peas ---
Squash Nasturtiums, Radishes ---
Tomatoes Asparagus, Basil, Garlic, Cabbage Family, Fennel,
Marigolds, Parsley Potatoes

Water Supply

Make sure that your garden is close to a water source, or that at least your hose will be able to reach it with ease. Don’t take any chances, do the measurements and make sure that your length of hose works. 

Doing buckets full of water over and over again will not be fun in the hot summer heat. To know how much water your plants need, figure that the average garden needs about 1” of water by rain or hose a week.

Too much water is a problem too, if you live in an area that is bogged down and does not have good drainage, this will cause problems later on. Try to remedy the issue by putting some pieces of rock on the bottom layer of your garden bed so that water will drain away and your roots will not rot. 

You can also build drainage ditches to help remove the water from your fields or some sort of levee to keep the water out. Or you could just grow cranberries and rice and be just fine.

Erosion Dangers

Don’t plant a garden on sloped ground, make sure that it is in a flat area. There are farmers here in Mexico who plant corn anywhere and everywhere they can, over mountain tops, near sheer drop cliffs, it doesn’t matter to them. 

What they do to prevent erosion is that they make the rows run perpendicular to the slope of the land, so that when the rain comes down, deep gulleys aren’t formed between the rows, carrying away the precious soil and exposing the roots to the elements.

How Large Does My Garden Need To Be?

Plan the size of your garden based on how many mouths you need to feed in your household. Estimate at least 50 sq. feet per person (not including the paths). 

An acre of garden is an ideal amount if you are looking to feed a family, but if you are working with a minimum of space, do what you can. You can save space by planting some things vertically as well, like pole beans, peas, cucumbers, upside-down tomatoes, etc.

Sketch Your Garden Plans Out

The best way to draw your garden plans out is to use graph paper. It helps keep things neat and organized and allows you to have a standard measuring system to show the length and width of your garden plot, plus any reference items like the house or trees nearby. 

It’s a good idea to also show in your drawing where the shadows cast across your garden in the morning and afternoon. Then you can plan better what veggies need steady light from morning to afternoon, and what could go with a little less like some greens such as lettuce, swiss chard, endive, etc.

Making the Most of Your Garden Space

Don’t over-plant herbs- you only need two plants to produce enough for what your family needs. Also avoid too many sprawling vine plants like squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers, etc. because they will overtake your garden. 

These plants can be grown near your corn patch since corn towers straight up in the air. The vine plants will cover the ground beneath them, protecting the corn roots from erosion while using up the wasted space that they occupy.

Try inter-planting so that veggies that produce and mature the fastest use the space up between the slower maturing ones that will spread out later. For example, you can plant radishes or lettuce between your vine plants. These will produce so fast that you can harvest before your vine plants need to have more room to spread out.

Plant mostly continuously bearing crops like tomatoes, kale, broccoli, squash, eggplant, lima beans, cucumbers, peppers, swiss chard, and brussel sprouts. This way you have more fresh veggies coming in throughout the whole growing season, instead of just having one short burst and then having to go to the grocery store again.

Try succession planting, look on your seed packets or books to see how long your crops take to mature for harvest, and plan on planting a replacement crop in place of the ones that mature the earliest. For example, peas, beets, lettuce, radishes, and carrots harvest early enough that if you are quick to harvest you will have time to plant something else in their place.

Water your plants deeply, this way the roots will grow straight down instead of horizontally, allowing you to plant your veggies closer together to maximize on space.

Methods of Planting You Will Use

1.) Row Planting

This is the most common way to plant, and what we are all most used to. This is where there are single rows of individual plants of the same kind, one after the other, adequately spaced to provide ample room to spread out. 

When using this method, you should leave about 1 foot of walking space between your rows, allowing room for you to go into weed, mulch, water, or fertilize.

2.) “Wide” Rows

This is nothing more than a long narrow bed where you plant instead of a single row, a dense planting of a particular variety of veggie, herb, or flower. This makes the most efficient use of limited space. 

Make sure your soil is dug deeply, fertilized well, and that you water deeply too. When you water deep, this will cause the roots to grow straight down, not laterally. This will allow your plants to thrive the most in their close proximities, and not choke each other out of nutrients and water.

3.) Raised Beds

You make sections or beds of a certain length and width in your garden. The raised part of the term comes from when you dig up the soil in your beds and fertilize it. This process nourishes the earth and also adds oxygen to it, causing it to become lighter and fluffier, so when it is finished it looks raised up from the ground. 

Your soil may go up as much as 3-4” in comparison to the rest of your garden soil. Make sure you limit the width of your beds so that from each side of it’s longest side you can reach your hand to the middle of it.

4.) Hill Planting

This is where you make a mound of soil and cluster several plants of the same kind together. If you live in a drier climate, the “hill” should actually be a depression in the soil so that during rains or watering, the water will pool up in this depression and nourish directly to the roots and not trickle off to empty soil. 

This works well for people who live in desert areas. You can use this style of gardening for planting melons, corn, pole beans, squash, and cucumbers. So all vine plants can be planted at the base of corn. 

If you have limited garden space, then this method will not work well for you, since it takes up a lot of room. If you have soil with a lot of clay in it, then this type of planting will really help your garden take off.

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