Planning Your First Vegetable Garden

comments (6) March 5th, 2009

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Ruth Ruth Dobsevage, member
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Heres a garden fence that follows the contours of existing shrubs and trees. Squaring off the layout would have reduced the planting space considerably.Click To Enlarge

Here's a garden fence that follows the contours of existing shrubs and trees. Squaring off the layout would have reduced the planting space considerably.

Photo: Ruth Dobsevage

So you've decided to grow some veggies this year? Welcome to the club. Before you decide on what to grow or pick up a spade, you need to make some basic decisions about your garden’s location, size, and shape. Here are some things to consider.

Walk around your property as you try to decide on a location for your garden-to-be.

Vegetables do best in full sun. You will get decent results with less than that, but in general strive for a site that gets at least six hours a day during the summer. Remember that sun patterns change dramatically with the seasons; a site that looks good in April may be too shady when the leaves come out.

Another factor to consider is proximity to your kitchen. You are more likely to check out your garden frequently if it is close to the house. My garden is maybe 30 feet from the kitchen door. When I need some parsley or mint, or maybe a few more tomatoes for a salad, it’s not a big deal to go out and get them.

If you have a choice, a flat area is better than a hilly one. A gently sloped site can work well, especially one that faces south or west.

What about water? You will most likely want a source close by, be it an outside tap, a rain barrel, or even a stream or pond.

Don’t despair if your lot is is very small. Even if you don’t see a way to create a separate garden area, you can probably tuck a couple of vegetable plants in somewhere: near the house or by the garage, perhaps. Or on the deck in containers.

Size and shape
For a garden of moderate size, aim for 400 square feet (20x20) to 625 square feet (25x25). You’ll have enough space to grow several different crops, but not so much that you’ll be overwhelmed. If even that seems daunting, start small. You can always enlarge the space later.

Gardens are generally square or rectangular, but they don’t have to be. You may want a different configuration to take advantage of sun patterns, to work around boulders, or just for artistic reasons. The plants won’t care if they are arranged in straight lines or curves.



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Comments (6)

naturesman writes: Have you thought about building a fence (woven wire or concrete wire about four feet off the ground) attached securely to T posts running parallel with the ground. Doing container growing...let your tomato vines run over the fencing...which will allow your tomatoes to be picked standing up and utilize the shade produced to have a lettuce bed underneath. This will allow you to have tender lettuce during the hot days of summer and will make it much slower to bolt.

Posted: 4:03 pm on March 14th
doccat5 writes: Continue to hang your tomatoes. Use the space for other things. Good luck. I'm going to try this method this year with a couple of plants. I'm intrigued with the whole idea.
Posted: 11:50 am on March 13th
Victoriap writes: My sister has been planting tomatoes upside down for 10 years now and it is the best way to grow them, I think. There are no stakes to mess with or large containers. I am giving it a try this year as I only have a small herb & shade garden because the rest is made up of deck and pool.
Posted: 5:07 am on March 13th
Kate_Frank writes: I was thinking of growing tomatoes in containers this year because my beds are small, tomatoes need a considerable amount of space, and my full-sun areas are limited. And since tomatoes need to be rotated, that means my space options are even more limited. I don't know if containers are the best solution for my space/rotation dilemma, but that's what I'm thinking of doing right now.

Fine Gardening has an article about growing tomatoes in containers that you might find helpful:
Posted: 10:54 am on March 7th
Ruth writes: Welcome to VegetableGardener, TPS. I've never grown tomatoes in containers, upside-down or otherwise, so I can't help much there. As to location in the garden, get them as much sun as possible. The summer sun is very high in the sky at midday, so planting on the south side may not shade the other plants as much as you think.

There are a lot of tomato articles on the site. Use this link to locate them:

Posted: 2:01 pm on March 6th
TPS writes: For the first time I have a real yard to plant vegetables and herbs. I have been previously restricted to a few pots on an apartment patio. So, I am very excited, but I feel overwhelmed by the backyard and where to start. I have chosen a spot, about 20x20 in my backyard, and decided on raised beds. One remaining question is the visual of the area from my patio and deck. I really like growing my tomatoes upside down in 5 gallon buckets. I get great results and never have had to use pesticides or had any mold, fungus, or other troubles since the tomato vines are off the ground completely.

I am tempted to continue to grow my tomatoes in this manner, should I or is there advantages to growing them in the ground? Either way, I am concerned about the visual effect and should they be planted in the northern, southern, eastern or western section of my garden? I was thinking the west side, to get the most sun and create the least shade for other plants (since these will be the tallest plantings I will have).

Can you help me with tomato questions?
1) to hang or not to hang
2) where to plant them

Thank you!
Posted: 1:02 pm on March 6th
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