How to Plan a Vegetable Garden

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Planning your vegetable garden is the first step in starting your own garden. It’s also one of the most difficult things for new gardeners to do. 

You have to decide where your garden is going to be. How you are going to plant it and what you are going to plant. 

Read on for helpful tips for all of these common issues for planning your new garden.

Pick a Location

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The first thing to do when planning your new vegetable garden is to pick the location for it. The best location for a garden is one that gets plenty of sunlight and is also not in a poor drainage area.

Most vegetable plants need at least 6 hours of sunlight for optimal growth. You need to look around your yard and find a spot that has at least 6 hours of sun.

Once you’ve found a sunny location you need to consider the drainage. Many yards come with drainage issues in at least one part of the yard. 

You want to keep your garden out of the spots that tend to flood or take a long time to dry out.

My yard has a noticeable slope away from the house. By the time you get to the back property line, it is significantly lower than where the house sits. This leads to water collecting back there. 

Another good way to tell if an area has poor drainage is to look at where the water ponds during the spring snow melt (if you are in an area that gets a lot of snow). Typically the part of the yard that stays the wettest in the spring is somewhere you want to avoid for planting your garden.

Traditional or Square Foot Gardening

Once you’ve decided on a location for your garden, you have to decide if you want to do traditional or square foot gardening. 

Traditional gardening is where you plant your garden in rows, with rows for walking in between the rows of plants. 

Square foot gardening is where you plant your garden in grids, typically in a raised bed. The grids are one foot on each side and you plant your garden based on how many of each plant can be put in each square foot. 

Both traditional and square foot gardening have their pros and cons. I’ve tried both and depending on what I plant, I prefer one over the other. If I’m planting mostly small plants, like peppers, radishes, or carrots, square foot gardening works great. 

Larger plants, like squash, tend to do better in a traditional garden. 

You can read about square foot gardening for beginners, here.

Decide What to Plant

The next thing to do is to decide what you want to plant. There are four things to consider when deciding what to plant.

First, you want to think about what you will eat. Most people start a garden because they want to grow their own food. So start by writing down all the produce you like to eat. 

Next, you need to consider those plants that are easy to grow. Here is a list of some easy to grow vegetables. See what is on both your list of what you like to eat and the list of beginner plants. I would recommend starting with those that are on both lists.

The third thing you need to consider is how much space you have. If you have a small garden you will need to start with fewer plants than someone with a large garden.

You don’t want to plant too much in your garden and have many of your plants die on you. 

Vegetable plants start small, but some get quite large.

Finally, you need to consider how much each plant will produce and how much you will be able to eat.

Plants like zucchini produce a large quantity for each plant. A family of 4 probably only needs one or two zucchini plants. Anything more and you will end up trying to give your extra zucchini to your neighbors. 

Carrots, on the other hand, only produce one carrot per seed. So if you want a decent number of carrots, you need to plant quite a few seeds. 

Every plant is different in how much they will produce and you will need to look at that when deciding how many to start with. 

Start Small

Finally, I recommend starting small. Starting your garden too big can become overwhelming and make you want to quit.

If you start small you can get the hang of what your doing before you expand. It also gives you a chance to see first hand how much time it takes to keep your garden growing well. 

You can then decide if you want to move to a larger garden for the next year. By then you will have an idea of what you can do and how much time you are willing to invest in your garden. 

Hopefully, these tips will help you plan your garden and see for yourself the joy that can be had by growing your own food.

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