Planning your vegetable garden might not sound like the funnest part of the process, and you’d be right to think so. At this stage you don’t even get your hands dirty. There are considerations of space and logistics which need to be considered, and these can be pretty boring to figure out. But by planning your garden properly, you will be equipped with all the knowledge you need to have in order to understand exactly what conditions your plants are growing in. Just because it is boring, it doesn’t mean it has to be hard. This chapter is split into two separate parts; all of this process will be covered in the first part.
The second part will be where the planning actually gets pretty fun. Once you understand the factors of the first half, it is time to start picking and choosing which vegetables you are going to grow. We’ll highlight a handful of veggies during this part and cover some basic planning tips. By the end of this chapter, you’ll know what seeds you are getting and where they’ll be growing.
Deciding Where to Plant Your Garden
If we are going to be starting a vegetable garden, then the very first thing that we need to do is pick a location for our vegetable garden. It’s easy enough to look out your window at your backyard and say you’ve got it figured out, but it really isn’t that simple. In your backyard, there are dozens of places in which you could plant your garden depending on how you space it or position it, and also the size of your backyard. Each possibility is technically in your backyard but locations aren’t all made the same. Some are better than others and some are downright unsuitable for gardening.
In this stage of your planning, you should take a moment to consider each of the following environmental attributes. Some of these you can tell just by looking at your yard but others will require a little bit of data gathering. These steps are included where necessary. You can get by with growing in a location that is a little less than ideal for some of these attributes, but spots which fail on multiple fronts are best avoided.
This one can usually be done through eyesight alone. Looking at the space you are thinking about planting your vegetables, is it elevated? Is it on an incline? Is it at the bottom of an incline? Is it rather flat? Depending on which of these questions is the most accurate, you are going to have a unique relationship to watering your plants. Generalized advice on watering your plants assumes that they are in a flat space. Plants that are on an incline will act flat. Plants on the bottom of an incline are going to need less water. Those planted on an elevated surface will require more water than normal.
Plants need a certain amount of sunlight a day. Some species prefer this light to be direct, others prefer it to be indirect, in the shade. Some want as much sun as possible, while others need relatively little direct sunlight. If you are going to be growing vegetables, then you are going to need to know two things. You are going to need to research the species of plant to see how much sunlight it needs, and you are going to need to know how much sun your chosen space gets. Keep an eye on the space throughout a day and see how much time it is in the sun and in the shade. Finding this out will let you know which vegetables will do best in this particular space. If you are looking to plant some veggies that want a lot of sun and some that don’t want much, then remember that you don’t need to grow everything in the same bed. It is better to grow multiple beds than try to force a plant out of its comfort zone.
How much foliage or coverage from rain and wind does the space have? Are plants going to be safe from high winds where you plant them? Are they going to be able to get enough water when it rains or is the foliage going to misdirect it? Flipside, is the foliage going to help to prevent drier plants from drowning? Coverage isn’t necessary when it comes to vegetable gardening but many gardeners have no choice but to work with it because of having trees in their backyards or limited space.
How safe are your vegetables? Vegetable farming doesn’t tend to bring out thieves the same way that cannabis or fruit farming does. Well, at least not human thieves. Vegetable farming does bring out mice, rabbits, deer and other herbivores. While seeing a deer eating your vegetables is a good sign (after all, it means they must be pretty tasty), it also means that you now have a half ruined crop. If there is easy access to your backyard or growing space then you should consider how you can add some security to prevent unwanted visitors. This can be as easy as adding a knee level plastic fence around the garden but if you can offer security in one direction (such as when growing next to a house) then you can save money by using less fencing and limiting critters from approaching.
Ease of Access
This is the one factor that causes the most problems, but new gardeners don’t realize it until it is too late. When you are first planning out your garden, it is easy to forget about the fact that you are going to need to be able to maneuver through it. Maintaining your crops requires you to water each plant and inspect it for signs of problems. If you plant your crops in such a way that you can’t get easy access to some of them, then you are going to end up neglecting those plants and they will reflect this in their yield. Most gardeners get a pack of vegetable seeds and then plant them too close together. When the plant you are growing is so tiny to begin with, it is easy to forget what size they are going to be growing to. This is the reason that crops are most often planted in rows. Try to keep size in mind and ensure that there is enough space for you not only to get at every plant but to be able to get down and inspect each one.
Ground or Container
The majority of this book is written under the assumption that you are growing your plants in the ground itself. That said, we will briefly address potting plants in chapter three. At this stage, it is important to note that, while there are some general differences between these two methods, there are also many similarities. Whether you are growing containers that are above ground or below ground, they tend to need to be watered more often than plants grown outside of a container. Beyond this main difference, they will still require as much sunlight, security and ease of access as any other garden bed you plant.
Putting It All Together
Once you have considered each of these attributes of the space, you can decide if it will be a good fit for your plants or not, as determined by their needs. Figuring out each of these attributes will take time and make it a longer wait before you are ready to plant your vegetables, but it can save you from some nasty surprises that could lead to weak veggies and poor yield. A spot that looks perfect at first glance might not get enough sunlight or shade for the plants you were looking to put there. Knowing this ahead of time allows you to match your garden to the local conditions so you can have the most productive vegetable vegetable garden possible.