Design a Vegetable Garden Layout

Most sunny spots with freely draining soil can be turned into a vegetable garden, and a well-designed veggie patch helps reduce chores and pest problems over the long term. Designing a vegetable garden involves creating narrow rows, wide rows or blocks for growing vegetables, as well as planning a crop rotation schedule. Vegetable gardening is an art, not a science, and opinions differ on some design points. Design your vegetable garden according to your own preferences, and be prepared to experiment and change your design as your experience grows.

Selecting a Vegetable Patch

Vegetables grow best in sunny spots and deep, moist, organically rich, freely draining soil. The amount of sun your veggie patch receives determines what will grow successfully there.

Fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) and cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) need at least eight hours of direct sunlight every day to grow well. Carrots (Daucus carota var. sativus), turnips (Brassica rapa Rapifera Group) and other root vegetables grow best when they receive at least five to six hours of direct sunlight. Leafy vegetables including spinach (Spinacia oleracea) and lettuce (Lactuca sativa) grow well receiving four to five hours of sunlight per day.

Warning !!!
Don't grow vegetables in soil that doesn't drain. Waterlogged soil causes root rots.
Planning the Layout

You can grow vegetables in single rows, wide rows or blocks, and the rows or blocks can run north to south or east to west. Single rows are about 1 foot wide, and they allow close access to the vegetables but require plenty of ground for paths between the rows. Wide rows or blocks avoid the need to step on the soil near where the vegetables are growing, which reduces soil compaction and allows vegetable roots to grow well. Wide rows might be 2 to 3 feet wide, and blocks 3 to 4 feet wide and 8 to 16 feet long. Some vegetables, such as maize (Zea mays) produce the best crops when grown in blocks.

The University of Florida IFAS Extension advises orienting rows or blocks north to south, so that all the plants receive the same amount of sunlight. But Jennifer Schultz Nelson at the University of Illinois Extension says when rows or blocks run east-west, plants only shade other plants in that row or block.

Rotating Crops

Designing a vegetable garden doesn't stop at planning the rows or blocks. To reduce the buildup of pests and diseases, you must also plan a crop rotation. Vegetables are grouped into families of related plants, and plant families often attract the same insects or suffer from the same diseases. Growing plant families on different patches of ground each year discourages populations of pests and disease-causing organisms from increasing.

Grow related plants together, and plan ahead so that plant families move to another part of the vegetable garden each year. Plant families include brassicas such as cabbage (Brassica oleracea Capitata Group) and cauliflower (Brassica oleracea Botrytis Group) and squashes such as pumpkins (Cucurbita maxima) and zucchini (Cucurbita pepo var. cylindrica).

Grow asparagus (Asparagus officianalis) and other perennial vegetables at one side of the vegetable garden so that they don't interfere with the crop rotation. Asparagus is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 through 8.


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