Planning a Vegetable Garden

Gardening can be one of the most rewarding activities you will ever do. It can also be the most time consuming. It doesn’t matter if your garden is big or small, or if you plant it raised beds or in plant pots – you have to start with a plan.

Now that you have an idea of how climate, space, and native plants affect your garden, it is time to start planning. Before starting your garden, you should have an idea of what you want to plant and how big your garden is going to be. It is also important to take into consideration the topography of your garden when you decide to plant. Some issues with the topography may have to be dealt with first before you can start planting, especially if you will be gardening in a space that isn’t leveled.

vegetable garden

The following section will discuss the factors that you need to consider when planning a garden.

Size

Several factors determine the size of your garden. These factors include the following: the existing area of your lot, the time you can devote to your garden, and your budget.

The area that you have to work with is the most important factor that determines the size of your garden. A little resourcefulness is needed if you’re working with a small yard or an indoor garden. If this is the case, you can always use containers such as pots or portable planters. You can also utilize vertical space by elevating plant containers, either by hanging them on the ceiling or stacking them on shelves. Trellises can also come in especially handy if you’re working with crawling plants.

plenty of vegetables

Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that a big space is easier to plan for. Since you’ll be planting in a larger area, you need to factor in how you can water it efficiently with minimum waste. If you want to plant different varieties of vegetables next to each other, you need to do a bit of research about companion planting.

Your gardening time is another criterion you have to consider when evaluating the garden size that best suits your home. If you do not have much time to spare, keep a smaller garden. Remember that the bigger your garden is, the more time you will have to spend taking care of it, and the more it usually costs.

Topography

Most houses in urban and suburban areas usually have a flat yard ideal for laying out planting beds. In some cases, however, gardeners would find themselves with a hilly or a sloping topography.

It is much easier to plant on level surfaces than it is to plant on a bumpy or hilly surface. An unleveled garden can also result in areas of poor drainage. For hilly surfaces, you have the option of leveling it out by filling out depressions and by flattening out any bumps. In this process, you should refrain from compacting the ground extensively as it can affect the soil’s ability to drain water later on.

For sloping areas, you can work with them as you would a flat surface. Just ensure that the depressions and bumps are addressed accordingly. Sloping areas also require special considerations when it comes to irrigation. Always water from the top of the slope and make sure that any accumulated water at the bottom drains properly.

The Size of Your Garden

Several factors determine the size of your garden. These factors include the following: the existing area of your lot, the time you can devote to your garden, and your budget.

The area that you have to work with is the most important factor that determines the size of your garden. A little resourcefulness is needed if you’re working with a small yard or an indoor garden. If this is the case, you can always use containers such as pots or portable planters. You can also utilize vertical space by elevating plant containers, either by hanging them on the ceiling or stacking them on shelves. Trellises can also come in especially handy if you’re working with crawling plants.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that a big space is easier to plan for. Since you’ll be planting in a larger area, you need to factor in how you can water it efficiently with minimum waste. If you want to plant different varieties of vegetables next to each other, you need to do a bit of research about companion planting.

Your gardening time is another criterion you have to consider when evaluating the garden size that best suits your home. If you do not have much time to spare, keep a smaller garden. Remember that the bigger your garden is, the more time you will have to spend taking care of it, and the more it usually costs.

Garden Topography

Most houses in urban and suburban areas usually have a flat yard ideal for laying out planting beds. In some cases, however, gardeners would find themselves with a hilly or a sloping topography.

Urban Garden Raised Bed

It is much easier to plant on level surfaces than it is to plant on a bumpy or hilly surface. An unleveled garden can also result in areas of poor drainage. For hilly surfaces, you have the option of leveling it out by filling out depressions and by flattening out any bumps. In this process, you should refrain from compacting the ground extensively as it can affect the soil’s ability to drain water later on.

For sloping areas, you can work with them as you would a flat surface. Just ensure that the depressions and bumps are addressed accordingly. Sloping areas also require special considerations when it comes to irrigation. Always water from the top of the slope and make sure that any accumulated water at the bottom drains properly.

Plotting Your Garden

When you’re plotting out your garden, you also have to consider the type of plant containers or beds you’re going to use. Raised beds are one of the easiest types to work with. For raised beds, instead of planting directly onto the ground soil, you can create a raised platform for your soil and plants.

Alternatively, you can also choose to plant in containers, especially if you do not have enough space for traditional beds. See the chapter “Tools You’ll Need” if you want to find tips on how to select the best containers for your vegetable garden.

Now, people always ask me why I often have containers in mind when talking about planning a garden. “My father taught me how to plant in rows on the soil, it’s how we’ve always done it!” they’d say.

Just because that’s what’s been done for hundreds of years, it doesn’t mean it’s the most efficient way. More and more people, especially suburban and urban gardeners, have been reaping the benefits of container gardening. Let me list them for you:

  • You can create and use your own soil mix rather than stick with the soil you have on the ground, no matter how poor it is. Using your own mix can prevent your plants from catching soil-borne diseases. It also allows for better water drainage. (More about this later.)
  • Since you aren’t stepping on your soil, there’s less compaction. Containers allow the roots of your plants to get a bit of air.
  • Tending to contained gardens is easier. Gardening used to be such back-breaking work for me when I planted in rows on the ground. Why? Because you have to spend hours crouching down to reach your plants. If you place your containers or raise your plant beds high enough, you can tend to your plants without hurting yourself in the long run.
  • You can be more efficient at maintaining your garden. You can space your plants closer together on containers than on rows, maximizing your space and allowing you to water and remove weeds more efficiently. It’s also easier to do crop rotation, since you’ll only be replacing the crop on a smaller, more specific area, rather than a long, wide row.

Sure, you can grow your vegetable garden in long rows on the soil. I won’t stop you. But I won’t recommend it, either. The benefits listed above are just too important to ignore.

With that in mind, remember that some crops will thrive best with the help of hilling. This is a technique where you pile up soil at the base of the plant (see photo to the right). For most root crops such as potatoes, hilling encourages the growth of extra tubers. Leafy crops such as chives or leeks will also benefit from hilling, as it also promotes stem growth and stability. Be aware of any hilling you have to do before computing the proper height for your raised beds, as well as the amount of soil you’ll need.

When plotting out your garden, keep the tallest plants and those that will need trellises, at the north or northeast side your garden. This will help ensure that the taller vegetables do not shade the other plants as they continue to grow.

If the only space you have is a small triangular or circular patch of land, use it the best way you can. The important thing is that the size of your beds are contained enough that so that you can still tend to it as well as you would regular shaped beds.

Just remember: do not be afraid to think outside the box, literally. Remember that gardens don’t necessarily have to be square or rectangular. Your garden can be any shape you want. If you stick to the traditional garden shapes, you can end up compromising space and practicality for aesthetics.

Indoor Gardening

Indoor gardening is a great option for those who don’t have enough planting space outside their homes. There are, however, a few things to consider when it comes to indoor gardening.

Light

Unlike an outside garden, your indoor plants may not get as much sunlight as they require. To remedy the problem of light supply, place your plants near a window or in an open area where sunlight can reach them. Avoid sticking plants in dark corners or below tables and desks. Doing so can deprive them of the light they need to produce energy. If you do not have adequate windows, artificial light (i.e. light bulbs and fluorescent lamps) can help augment the lack of natural light.

In the case of fruit-bearing plants, prolonged exposure to artificial light with no adequate dark periods can cause the illusion of longer days. Long days can prevent plants from flowering and produce less or no crop at all. You can use a timer to help you determine the number of hours you need to keep your pants lighted. Afterwards, you can turn off the lights or move the more delicate plants to darker areas in your home.

Some plants, such as tomatoes, require a lot of light at high intensities in order to bear fruit successfully. The degree of light required by these plants may be difficult to achieve indoors, but a cherry tomato plant in a hanging pot can survive pretty well when placed in a window that receives a lot of sunlight during the day.

Moisture and Temperature

Soil in containers that are elevated from the ground or placed on a concrete surface dries up more easily. For this reason, you may have to increase your plant’s water intake to make up for the loss of moisture. Check the dryness of the soil as often as you can and water regularly. Give your potted plants additional water when the weather has been exceptionally hot.

With that said, don’t overdo the watering because it can leak from the containers and cause a mess indoors. To avoid this, give your plants only enough water to moisten the soil but not flood it. As a precaution, you may also place old rags at the bottom of heavy pots and containers. These will not only help soak up excess water, but it can also help protect your floor. In the case of small hanging pots and baskets, you can take them out of the house when watering them to avoid drips and messes.

Temperature changes affect plants in pots and containers easier than it does plants in the ground. It is, however, possible to use this situation to your advantage and plant earlier in the season than you most likely would if you gardened outdoors. If temperature in your house varies from room to room, keep your plants in an area that has more or less has the same temperature throughout the day.

Space and Size

Logically, it will be very difficult for you to plant Brussels sprouts and other big plants indoors when you do not have enough space. Even if you think you can accommodate the plants, remember that bigger plants also require bigger pots and containers to accommodate their root system. If you absolutely want a particular type of large plant indoors, you can opt to use smaller or dwarf varieties of that plant.

veggie garden space

Remember that root crops such as radishes and carrots will grow in boxes that are at least 10 inches deep. Root vegetables with more substantial surface leaves and deeper root systems that grow deeper are less suitable for indoor planting.

On the other hand, herbs are one of the best plants to cultivate indoors. They can be contained in a small pot, placed on a windowsill and not take up much space at all. They also survive on little water and you only have to water them periodically. But not all herbs are created alike. The easiest herbs to grow indoors are parsley, bay leaf, chives, mint, and lemon grass. The most difficult are basil, sage, and cilantro.

If you have a basement or an attic that you do not use often, you can place your indoor garden there. With adequate lighting, temperature and moisture, your plants can grow successfully in those areas.

Deciding What to Grow

Perhaps the biggest challenge of vegetable gardening is figuring out what to grow. There are so many kinds of vegetables out there that’s its very easy to get tempted and plant almost anything you can think of. Apart from the other factors I’ve mentioned in the first chapter – climate, space, and native plants – you also need to consider your personal preferences. Ask yourself the following questions:

What does your family like to eat?
Broccoli might be an interesting crop to grow, but is it something that you and your family enjoy eating? Personally, I love broccoli so it’d be something that’s on my list, but I can imagine that not too many people would want to grow it. If you don’t like eating a particular vegetable, do you think you’ll like spending your time and energy growing it? Probably not.

What fruits and vegetables would you like to add to your diet?
A secondary question you should think about is the list of fruits and vegetables that you need in your diet but you don’t usually get to buy. Sometimes we choose our diets based on what kind of food is available in the nearby markets and groceries. If you decide to grow hard-to-find produce, you’re on your way to getting the diet you need and want rather than a diet of convenience.

How much does your family eat?
I know how exciting it feels to try gardening for the first time, but do not get carried away at this point. Plant in moderation, because if you plant more than what you actually need, you will only be wasting your crop, plus the time and resources you spent growing them.

What grows easily in your area?
Those who are new to gardening should seriously consider this factor. Some vegetables will require more time and care as opposed to other varieties. If you are new to gardening, you may not yet have the skills necessary to take care of difficult vegetables.

Keeping a Frugal Garden

Now we’re coming to a very timely part of the book – how to keep your gardening costs low. Contrary to what it looks like, gardening does not have to be expensive. There are many ways to keep your garden without spending too much money. I’ve been gardening for most of my life, even when I was earning a very meager income. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way:.

Group plants with the same needs together.
Grouping plants that have the same water, sunlight and fertilizing needs can save you money and effort. By keeping them near each other, you can maximize the use of water and fertilizers because very little will be wasted or left unused. Planting vegetables with the similar needs together may also save space.

Maximize your water use.
If you’re new to gardening, the rising cost of your water bill can be steep, especially if you have a sizable garden with vegetables that require as much moisture as they can get. There are certain ways of planting a garden that’ll help maximize your use of water. You’ll learn more about them in Chapter 7.

Facilitate proper drainage.
Another way that you can save water and keep nutrients in is by ensuring that your garden drains properly. Poor water drainage can cause water to log and become problem for your plants. It can also contribute to diseases and waste your money. Plot your garden so that water drains easily.

Use rain water.
To augment your water costs, you can use rain barrel or tanks to collect rain water. You can then use this water to maintain your garden. Remember, though, to keep the water tank covered with a lid or a fine screen to keep animals from falling in and to prevent insects from using it as a breeding ground.

Remember: even if you are using rain water to water your vegetables, you should refrain from doing the same with gray water. Gray water is water the water that you have either bathed in or washed your clothes and dishes. The detergent found in gray water may be absorbed by the vegetables and can be toxic for humans. Gray water, however, may be used for watering lawns and non-consumable plants.

Check Also

water gardening

Water Gardening – An Exciting Way To Beautify Your Yard

Water gardening like several other gardening practices came out of Egypt around 4800 years ago. …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *