It may be fall now, but spring will be here before we know it! Now is the perfect time to start planning next year’s garden. Tim over at YardandGardenGuru.com is guest posting this week, giving us tips and information on planning your vegetable garden. Be sure to check out his website for more helpful lawn and gardening advice!
How to Plan Your Vegetable Garden
Before you even purchase any seeds or touch your soil each spring, it’s important to remember that you will have more success in gardening if you PLAN your garden beforehand. Knowing how to start a vegetable garden is easy with proper planning. Planning allows you to consider not only what you want to plant, but will force you to consider the needs of your vegetables and how they will affect each other.
For any keen gardener, the best time to plan your vegetable garden is when the weather still forces you to stay inside. As the last snows or frosts are showing signs of thawing, this can be a great time to design your plot.
One of the principal things to think about when planning, is how much space you have. It is no use having a grand plan to create a huge garden when you have insufficient space to create it. The good news is there are ways around this space limitation, allowing you to still garden with ease. You can garden in the earth, within a raised bed, in a container, or even try vertical gardening. The possibilities are endless!
Gardening a Plot of Earth
Once you are ready to measure your available space, you can decide on the size of your beds. The ideal space allocation you are looking for is 16 feet X 10 feet. This should include the longest edge facing north to south. Planting in this manner will allow you to get full use of the sun since vegetables need 6-8 hours of sun per day. If you do not have this much space available, you can still garden with raised beds, containers, and vertical spaces (see below). When you plant, the rows should be 18 inches apart, giving not only plenty of growing space for the plants, but also ample room for you to access the garden.
Once you have your area marked, it’s time to prepare your soil. You will need to till the earth as well as mix in some good quality compost and fertilizer. Be sure to work backwards through the garden so you’ll not flatten the earth. Once dug, you can rake the soil level and give it a proper watering. Leave standing for two days before you touch the soil again and start any planting.
Gardening in Raised Beds
If you do not have room for a 16 feet X 10 feet plot of earth, a raised bed can be a viable option for you. Raised beds can still grow more than enough vegetables to suit your needs. To make a raised bed, you need two pieces of wood 8 feet long and two 4 feet long pieces. The height of the wood should be 10-12 inches. Also, be sure to build your raised bed large enough to ensure proper plant spacing and access for yourself to garden. Make sure to use untreated wood for all of your garden’s building materials.
To make a raised bed, fasten the four corners of the wood and use something suitable as a support on the outside. One of the most common supports is rebar, which is knocked into the earth and acts as a support.
Before you fill your vegetable garden with soil, cover the ground with old newspapers and soak with plenty of water. Once you’re ready to fill, you can use soil from your area or you can purchase quality topsoil. Aim for 60% topsoil mixed with 40% of good compost or organic fertilizer. Mix the soil, fertilizer, and/or compost well.
Anything that gives a proper 12 inches of depth can be used for container gardening. Examples include pots, old drums, wheelbarrows or even old bath tubs! If you choose to make a container garden, put a layer of gravel on the bottom to aid in drainage, before adding your soil. After filling your pots with soil, try planting peppers, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, or even onions. All of these vegetables grow well in containers with the right potting mix. Be sure to fertilize regularly, since potted plants need to replenish their supply of nutrients and minerals.
When done right, vertical planting can give you the same amount of crops in a fraction of the space. This kind of planting simply uses vertical space to grow plants; a simple hanging basket falls into this category. Choosing the right vegetables can give you more than enough variety and make your gardening easier. Try vertical planting with strawberries, lettuce, or herbs. You can find plenty of ideas online for creative vertical gardening: attach a long planter to a balcony or porch railing; build a trellis for climbing vegetables to grow upwards; or even try growing plants upside down, like tomatoes. Use good quality potting mix and fertilize regularly.
When Ready to Plant
For plot of earth gardens and raised beds:
- Diagram and plan your garden layout.
- Be sure to group crops together that are within the same families, as it makes crop rotation easier in your second season.
- Be sure to plant tall climbing plants on the north side of your garden. This ensures proper sunlight for the other plants, since climbing plants will block the sun.
- To maximize your growing season, plant vegetables with quick growing times. You can harvest these crops, prepare the soil, and then plant another crop. Some examples are lettuce, carrots, and spinach; these grow well in the spring. After summer arrives and your spring vegetables are harvested, you can grow bush beans. After the peak of summer and the beans have been harvested, re-plant fall crops such as spinach, lettuce, and other cool season vegetables. With a little effort and research, you can have a three season garden!
- Onions, garlic, and peppers are usually high priority plants and will require the best areas in the garden.
- Since tomatoes are a popular plant found in most vegetable gardens, try planting bush type varieties within hanging baskets or in upside down containers/vertical beds. This will free up room in the garden for plants that require more space.
For all gardens:
- Read seed packets to find out the optimal growing distances between plants, as well as when to plant, and how to care for your vegetables.
- Be sure to use the right type of soil (garden soil vs. potting soil) to ensure a proper growing environment.
- Fertilize regularly.
- Try composting your waste materials. Old leaves, dead plants, and other organic material will become prime fertilizer in just months with a proper wet to dry ratio, proper aeration, hydration.
BIO: Tim Graham writes at YardandGardenGuru.com. He is passionate about gardening, yard care, and tools. Outside of writing Tim usually finds himself knee-deep in lawn clippings, weeds, and grandchildren.
Good luck planning your vegetable garden. Let us know how you plan out yours in the comments!