Vegetable garden planning - in easy steps
Vegetable Garden Planning Guide
Spring is almost upon us, so it is time to start planning your vegetable garden. Vegetable garden planning may feel like an overwhelming job but it can be made easier by following some easy steps. This page will help you to plan a vegetable garden step by step. After following these suggestions, you may choose to draw your plan on graph or grid paper, but even more easily, you could use some vegetable garden planning software available on-line (used to produce the vegetable garden plan on the left).
As you know, it's much healthier for you to eat freshly picked, home-grown vegetables and that nothing tastes quite as good as vegetables you've grown yourself. A store bought tomato cannot compete with a home-grown, red tomato fresh out of the garden. By growing your own vegetables, you can ensure that your "fresh" food really is fresh - you can harvest it and eat it on the same day. And you can choose, like me, to grow your vegetables organically without any added pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or any other "nasti-cides" for that matter!
So don't be put off. Read this page to get some vegetable garden planning ideas, then grab a measuring tape, a pencil and paper and get started!
The above plan was created using this vegetable garden planning tool.
Draw a Rough Plan of Your Yard
Some measuring involved
Getting your vegetable garden plan on paper or on the computer will give you direction, help keep you focused, and help you to be able to allocate space for all the vegetables you wish to grow. Start by drawing a rough plan of your block showing the outline of your house and any other buildings such as garages, sheds, pergolas etc or any permanent features such as a pool, decking, driveways or trees etc. Now you will need to write measurements on this drawing. You can get this information from your title or measure it yourself using a long tape measure or a piece of string marked off in feet or metres. It's easier to have two people if you need to measure your block - one for each end of the string or tape measure.
Planning the size of your Vegetable Garden
Next you will need to plan how much space in your yard you want to allocate to your vegetable garden. You may wish to leave space for:
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- the children to play
- the dog to run
- the clothes to dry
- picnic table
- views from the house
- compost bin
- rubbish bins
- dog kennel
- sand pit
- chicken coop
- rabbit hutch
- butterfly garden
- . . . .
If you are just starting out, it may be a good idea to start with one small vegetable garden bed and then add more beds at a later date, if you have the room . So even if you start with just one garden bed, remember to allow room for expansion. As your confidence, ability, and love for fresh, home-grown veggies grow, you may wish to add more.
Don't fret if you only have a small space for your vegetable garden. Think vertical. Many vegetables can grow up on a fence, trellis or tepee to make your available space more productive. Up is good. After all, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon are one of the seven wonders of the ancient world!
Draw your vegetable garden beds plan
on paper or on the computer screen
Make a grid of squares on paper or use graph paper. If you have a large garden, each square could represent 5 feet (1.5 metres - or 1 metre). If your garden is small, each square could represent 1 foot (30cm). Transfer your rough plan of your yard onto the grid or graph paper using a ruler to draw your straight lines.
You can now decide where is the best place to put your vegetable garden. Don't think that this needs to be restricted to your backyard. A couple of years ago, I created a vegetable garden, also containing flowers, in my front yard. Bear in mind that you will need to take into account the direction of the prevailing wind and how much sun the position receives.
Do you want to incorporate any other elements into your vegetable garden - a seat for daydreaming, a sundial, a scarecrow, some urns, statues or a pond (resident frogs can help provide insect control)? Once you have made your decisions, draw your vegetable garden beds on the graph paper in your desired veggie garden layout or use the vegetable garden planning software (like I did here) which will make this process even easier.
The Essential Garden Design Workbook
This book goes into much more detail about how to plan your garden (not just your veggies). There are much more detailed instructions on the best way to measure your yard before drawing your plan. You will learn about space, light and proportion. Read about planning an outdoor space, vertical and overhead elements, and the use of different materials.
Planning which vegetables you want in your garden
Now you will need to decide on which vegetables to grow in your garden. If you are new to vegetable gardening, you may like to start with some of the easier to grow vegetables. Easy vegetables to grow include beetroot, swiss chard (silverbeet), broad beans, carrots, lettuce, shallots, peas (including sugar snap and snow peas), green beans, radishes, potatoes and tomatoes. But don't plan to grow a particular type of vegetable in your garden that you don't like and so won't eat.
Picture courtesy of cooee on morguefile.(Why anyone would bother planting broad beans is beyond me....) And don't be afraid to try other vegetables. Read the packet or the punnet information carefully and give them a try.
It is a good idea to make a list of the vegetables and herbs you eat and cook with on a regular basis and maybe even add a few you would like to try. You could look at the seed packets or seedling punnets available at your garden supply centre to get new ideas. Sort this list into columns: "Essential", "Would Like" and "If I have room". If you are a new gardener, try to include some of the easier vegetables to ensure at least some success.
Be sure to check on the back of the seed packet to find the correct season for planting in your area.
If you only have space for a small vegetable garden, you may choose to grow vegetables and herbs which produce a decent harvest in a short amount of time and do not take up much space (such as carrots, radishes, lettuces, chives, parsley, leafy greens, bell peppers, tomatoes and bush snap beans). You may wish to avoid those that take up a lot of room and time only to return a small harvest (such as sweet corn, pumpkins and melons).
When deciding of how many of each plant to grow, you must take into account how much of that vegetable you are likely to eat and also the average yield for that vegetable. Some plants may yield a prolific crop. If you plant too many, you may find your family getting tired of your creative ways of cooking zucchini (boiled zucchini, stir-fried zucchini, scrambled zucchini, broiled zucchini, baked zucchini, poached zucchini, zucchini burgers, zucchini soup, zucchini pancakes, zucchini muffins, ......)
Help with choosing which vegetables to grow
Choosing Which Vegetables To GrowChoosing which vegetables to grow is part of planning your vegetable garden. Your choice will depend on what you like to eat, your level of expertise, where you live, the time of year, the size of your vegetable garden and your reasons for wanting a to grow your own vegetables.
Easy vegetables to grow - Let's see if we can decide which are the all-time easiest vegetables to grow!
Click on the box next to the vegetable you have found the easiest to grow, then click vote (at the bottom)
The garden layout below was produced using an easy-to-use garden planning tool.
Planning where to place the veggies in your garden
Now plan where to plant the vegetables from your list, starting with the "Essential" veggies. (If you are using the same vegetable garden planner tool as I did, this is easy: just select your veggie then drag and drop into position.) Bear in mind the following points:
- Different vegetables have different space requirements. For example, one broccoli plant will require more room than one carrot plant and one pumpkin plant can ramble all over your back yard. Make sure you leave enough space for the mature plant. The gardening software I used makes it easy to see the space needed for the fully mature plant.
- You don't want taller vegetables such as sweet corn and tomatoes blocking the sun from the lower varieties such as lettuces and spinach.
- Some vegetables such as sweet corn do better if they are planted together so they can easily cross-fertilize.
- It is recommended that you practice crop rotation. If you plant the same family of vegetables in the same plot each year, it may encourage the build up of pests and diseases in the soil. Crop rotation will also avoid depleting the soil of nutrients. The main vegetable families for crop rotation include:
- brassicas: cabbages, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflowers, kale, swedes, turnips, radishes, salad rocket, kohl rabi, mustard
- potato: potatoes, eggplants, capsicums, tomatoes
- legume: beans, peas, broad beans
- onion: onions, garlic, shallots, leeks
- carrot: carrots, parsnips, celery, celeriac
- ... for example - don't plant broccoli in a spot one year, then cauliflower in the same spot next year since they are both from the brassica family. The vegetable garden software I used will keep track of where you position each vegetable and will give you a warning in subsequent years if you try to plant something from the same family in that spot. (Check out my
- crop rotation vegetable garden
- It will make cultivation of your soil easier if you separate your perennial crops (which live for three years or more) such as rhubarb, Jerusalem artichokes, globe artichokes, asparagus, oregano, rosemary and sage from your other vegetables which are mostly annual (living for one year or less).
More Helpful Resources
Learn how to create a 24 different small vegetable gardens and how to look after and expand them year by year.
There's so much to learn and get your head around when you start gardening that it can all seem a little overwhelming at times. This book will guide you through the steps and even has a variety of garden plans which you can expand over the years as your knowledge and skills increase.
Sample Garden Plans
Click thumbnails for larger view
Note: not all of these are vegetable gardens, but you can get ideas of garden beds' shapes and layouts which may inspire you.
Some extra help for your vegetable garden planning
Tell us about your plans for your vegetable garden this year