PLANNING A vegetable garden and successfully harvesting your own produce is easier than you might think.
The layout of a vegetable garden can make or break its success, so it’s important to do it right. Here are simple tips and ideas to help you get started on your own vegetable garden.
PICK A SITE
The more sunlight the better, but you’ll need at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.
Make sure the spot you select isn’t shaded during different times of the day by trees, walls, or buildings.
In addition, place your site well away from large trees, which can compete for moisture and nutrients. And if you’re just getting started with vegetable gardening, you might want to consider starting with just a small plot or even container gardening.
PLAN YOUR LAYOUT
Raised beds—simple rectangular wooden frames 8-10 inches tall—are the preferred way to grow a vegetable garden. Soil in raised beds warms quickly in spring, lengthening the growing season, and can be filled with high quality topsoil.
Raised beds should be accessible from all sides and no more than 4 feet wide so all parts of it can be reached from the perimeter. Design your vegetable garden layout so plants get progressively taller from the south edge to the north.
If you’re working with a small space, there are easy plant combinations that you’ll enjoy harvesting. Try these ideas:
Salad garden: rocket, romaine lettuce, nasturtium
Salsa garden: chives, coriander, tomatillos, hot peppers
Corn salad garden: bell peppers, sweet corn, purple basil
Veggie pizza garden: tomatoes, oregano, bell peppers
Pesto garden: spinach, garlic, chives, sweet basil
PREPARE YOUR SITE
Raised beds are a good way to get started with a new vegetable garden—they’re simple to build and can be filled with high quality topsoil instead of amending existing soil.
Before building a raised bed and filling it with topsoil, make sure any lawn is completely removed and dead. If you live in an area that has rabbits or deer, consider a fence of the appropriate height.
TEND TO YOUR GARDEN
Stay on top of weeds—hand pulling or hoeing is best in vegetable gardens. Water regularly so the soil stays consistently moist; don’t let it dry completely before watering again. And fertilize regularly; most vegetables are heavy feeders.
CHOOSE YOUR PLANTS
Dependable, easy vegetables to grow in summer include peppers, tomatoes, beans, squash, corn, and cucumbers.
For spring and Autumn, try lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, and carrots. There are many other options, but these are all good for beginning gardeners.
If you’re unsure where to start with your vegetable garden, consider these sure-fire plants that work well together and, with proper tending, produce crops that will convince you of the value of your own home-grown produce.
Bell peppers: green peppers will turn red, orange, and yellow the longer they spend on the vine; sow seeds when the soil is fully warmed
Cucumbers: go for a compact version and don’t sow until the soil is fully warmed
Green beans: great alongside lettuce, which matures before beans ripen
Hot peppers: If you don’t have extra space, try a container vegetable garden filled with a few varieties of hot peppers.
Lettuce: Sow lettuce the first thing in spring and after summer temperatures have cooled for a double harvest.
Squash: Go for a bush variety to save space
Sweet corn: The soil should be fully warm before you plant sweet corn; it needs room to plant it alongside low-growing green beans.
Watermelon: Watermelon must be fully mature in order to be harvested and needs room, so go for a bush variety.