VEGETABLE GARDEN LAYOUT
If you have never had a vegetable garden before, this may be the year to devote a part of your garden to vegetables. It's hard to beat the fresh flavor and high nutritional value of vegetables harvested directly from your own garden. As well, with World conditions the way they are, it's probably wise to have a few fresh vegetables handy.
Take a little time in planning, before you decide where you are going to locate your vegetable garden. Then once you have decided on a spot, it is important to select which crops you want to grow. Next, you need to decide where they fit best in the garden layout. By proper planning, followed by wise planting at the beginning of the season, you are more apt to have a bountiful harvest this summer and fall. So here are a few ideas on how to get started.
Choose the sunniest, brightest spot in the whole yard. . If there's not such a spot, choose the next sunniest spot, avoiding any areas that are too shady, as leaf-crops are about the only thing that will grow in limited sun. If you are limited for space or do not have a bright, sunny spot in the yard, then you can grow some vegetables in containers on a sunny patio, deck or lanai. In fact, you'll be amazed at how many vegetables you can grow in a really limited space, such as a container. A few years ago my neighbor, who had a very small yard, grew all his vegetables in the sunny part of his garden, amongst his summer flowering annuals. Being a Montana farm boy, knowing what he was doing, he harvested a fine crop. Of course, in such situations one would not use harsh chemicals or pesticides.
METHOD OF GROWING
Are you going to plant in open soil or plant in raised beds? I prefer raised beds, because the soil warms quicker, remains warm longer, and this method provides better drainage. You can accomplished a raised bed vegetable garden by simply mounding the soil or by actually enclosing the soil in wood frames, decorative stones, or concrete, etc. When you design the raised beds I recommend that they be only 3 to 4 feet wide. (Actually, the national average is 21 inches.) We grow all our vegetables, even in our test garden, in raised beds. Why, because the soil warms quicker, you can plant earlier in the season, and the soil remains warmer, bringing the crop to earlier maturity. Either way, the depth of the raised soil should be 8 to 12 inches above ground level.
Another of the key factors in successfully growing vegetables is proper soil preparation. To your existing soil add generous amounts of organic humus. Compost, peat moss, well rotted manure or processed manure (the bagged stuff) are all good forms of organic humus. I would suggest avoiding the use of fresh manure, unless it is applied in the fall, as some tend to burn and the gases of a few can actually stunt crops. Mix the organic humus thoroughly with your existing soil. Then you are almost ready to begin planting. By the way, if you bring in topsoil to enrich or add to the existing soil, be certain to add organic humus to it too.
CHOOSING THE CROPS AND AMOUNTS TO GROW
It's important to base the types of vegetables, and number of plants, on the eating habit of your family. You want to utilize every inch of space by growing the crops that meet the desires and needs of your family. Next, you want to choose varieties that grow, mature and yield in this region. If you are in doubt as to which variety to grow, consult a gardening neighbor, you're local 'Certified Nursery-person', 'Master Gardener', or County Extension Service. Or, buy your seeds and plants from local or regional companies.
If you are wondering how many vegetables to grow for the average family four, here is a general outline of a few of the most popular ones:
Asparagus 30 to 40 plants Beans, a row 15 to 25 feet long
Beets a row 10 to 15 feet long Broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage 10 to 15 plants each Carrots a row 20 to 30 feet long Corn a row 20 to30 feet long
Lettuce a row 10 to 15 feet long Peas a row 30 to 40 feet long
Pumpkins/Squash 1 to 3 plants Radishes a row 4 feet long
Rhubarb 1 to 3 plants Spinach a row 10 to 20 feet long
Tomatoes 10 to 15 plants
Needless to say, these are very general suggestions of a few of the most popular vegetables. The important thing is you need to adjust the lengths of each row depending upon your family's likes and dislikes. See Also: Vegetable Planting Chart
Now that you have decided on the location, which crops and how many plants you are going to grow, it's time decide where they best fit in the garden. The tall crops such as peas, beans and corn, should be planted on the north side of the vegetable garden. In this way they will not shade the rest of the vegetable crops.
In the center of the vegetable garden area, plant the medium sized crops such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, squash, pumpkins and other mediums sized crops.
Then at the very southern end of the garden is where the low growing crops like radishes, carrots, beets, lettuce, onions and other low growing ones are planted.
Whenever possible, I think the rows in the vegetable garden should run north and south, for best sun exposure and air circulation. If the rows run east and west the first row tends to shade the second row, the second row the third and so forth...
By taking a little time in planning the layout of your vegetable garden now, before planting, your chances of harvesting a more bountiful yield this summer and fall are greatly increased. .