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Vegetable garden design

Updated on May 31, 2013

Vegetable Garden Design - Where to Start

When deciding on your vegetable garden design, you will need to take a good look at where you are going to situate your garden. Whether your garden will be large or small, it is very important to consider the amount of sunshine the site will receive, the direction of any hot or cold winds, the drainage of the soil, ease of access and the type of soil in the area. You will also need to take the time to decide which vegetables you are planning to grow in your vegetable garden.

Photo credit: my own

This article will help you to determine the best place to start your veggie patch.

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Most important thing in your vegetable garden design

Exposure to sun and wind

The most important thing to consider when planning where to place your vegetable garden is exposure - exposure to sunshine and exposure to chilling wind or hot drying wind.

Picture Credit.

Your vegetable garden needs to have plenty of sun, preferably 8 to 12 hours of sunlight per day especially for the fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, zucchinis, eggplants, cucumbers and squash. Root vegetables such as beets, radishes and carrots can cope with less hours of sun, and leafy veggies such as swiss chard, spinach and lettuce and traditional winter vegetables like turnips and cauliflowers will tolerate the most shade - even as little as 4 hours of sunlight per day.

In your planning phase, watch your yard on a sunny day to see where the sunniest positions are. What a great excuse to sit outside on a chair with your sunglasses, sunhat, sunscreen and a nice cool drink. And you have my permission to watch with your eyes closed for a while - after all, that sun moves so slowly! Don't forget that in Summer the sun will be higher in the sky than in Spring or Autumn (Fall).

You also want your garden to be sheltered from chilling winds, which can stunt growth, and from hot drying winds, which can dry out the soil too quickly. And strong winds can blow your taller plants or your trellises and tepees over. It can also lower the temperature in the garden. So it is wise to ensure there is a fence, building or hedge of low shrubs or young evergreens to shelter the garden in this direction to slow or minimize this wind. (Hint: pack up that chair and go back inside when testing this one.) Bear in mind though that you don't want this hedge to block the sun or to send out roots to compete with your veggies for water or nutrients.

easily accessed parsley
easily accessed parsley

The convenience of your vegetable garden

Ease of access

Another factor to consider in your vegetable garden design is convenience. You will want your garden to be reasonably accessible so that if you do have a few moments to spend in your garden, you will not waste half your time in getting there. And you do not want to be making frequent time-wasting trips from your garden to the house for forgotten tools or seeds. An easily accessible garden will more likely be used when cooking too. If it is too much effort to go out to snip a few leaves of parsley, the cook may just reach for the dried herb rack.

Picture courtesy of farmert on morguefile.

vegetables need good drainage
vegetables need good drainage

Drainage in your vegetable garden design

Look at the drainage in the area you will be situating your vegetable garden

Rice may like being flooded, but your vegetables will not like to be waterlogged. Good drainage is another important factor in your vegetable garden planning. In areas of poor natural drainage, such as heavy clay, the ground can become water-logged, particularly in flat and low lying areas. Continual water-logging can result in restricting oxygen absorption at the roots which will damage your vegetables. Fortunately this can be rectified by building raised garden beds or by installing artificial drainage systems, either surface or underground.

Picture courtesy of chilombiano on morguefile.

A surface drain will remove surface water. This can be achieved by digging drainage channels (e.g. French drain) or shallow trenches between the beds. These channels or trenches may or may not be connected together but must empty into a lower areas of the garden or a stormwater drain. Alternatively the beds can raised, leaving the paths in between to be the surface drains.

An underground drain is more expensive but more effective since it drains the soil in the root zone. The underground drain will need to be constructed 1½ to 2 feet (45-60cm) below the level of the soil so it will not interfer with cultivation. It is best situate these drains under the garden beds, but if this is not possible, under the paths will do.

Fixing drainage problems in your garden

This video talks about drainage for your lawn and flower gardens, but it will also apply to vegetable gardens.

access to water for your vegetable garden
access to water for your vegetable garden

Access to Water

How easy will it be to water your garden?

You will need to make sure you have easy access to water when you design your vegetable garden. Whether you set up a watering system or water by hand, you won't want to be too far from a water source. When my vegetable garden was smaller, I would water with a watering can, so I didn't want my garden beds to be too far from the faucet (tap). And now that my veggie patch is bigger, I use the hose with a spray attachment, so the hose needs to be able to reach all the garden beds.

Picture credit: cohdra on morguefile.

Finally - check out your soil

Good soil is another important factor but it is unlikely that you will find a location anywhere in your yard with ideal soil ready for planting. But don't despair. Most soils can be improved to be a productive vegetable garden. And if all else fails, you could build a raised garden bed in which you can put your own mix of compost and other goodies.

Software to help you design your vegetable garden

Software to help you design your vegetable garden
Software to help you design your vegetable garden

Please share any other advice you have about the best place to position a veggie garden or any other helpful hints.

Share your experiences of your vegetable garden design

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    • BowWowBear profile image

      BowWowBear 4 years ago

      My grandfather was an avid gardener and I watched how he planted up his garden and helped him when I was a boy. He was a very traditional row planter, but I like the methods you show and will use the vegetables he chose, combining the two. Great job interweaving these lenses so that the information comes in an easily-"digestible" form!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Looking at all these gardening Lenses I am getting very excited about summer.

    • GardenIdeasHub LM profile image

      GardenIdeasHub LM 5 years ago

      Great ideas about vegetable garden design. Thanks for the tips!

    • flicker lm profile image

      flicker lm 5 years ago

      Lots of good information here. That software looks very interesting, too.

    • profile image

      GardenFurnitureCentre 6 years ago

      Nice informative lens

    • efriedman profile image

      efriedman 6 years ago

      We live in a sunny place (California) but our gardening is challenged by too much shade from trees ( backdoor neighbors on our south side have a huge redwood, and previous inhabitants planted fast growing fig trees that potentially shade vegetable area. My solution has been to enjoy raising figs :-)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I sure hope to have a place where I can have a vegetable garden again. Very well done with great tips!

    • deckdesign profile image

      deckdesign 6 years ago

      Thanks for creating this Lens. I found it very your tips very useful and I like your idea of using garden design software to plan your garden. This can be something fun to do durng the witner months when it is not warm enough for gardening.

    • jcairney profile image

      jcairney 7 years ago

      organic vegetables! once you've tasted your own there's no going back. Nice lens.