For several years now I’ve written about the value of planting in raised beds. One of the most viewed posts on Growing The Home Garden is my post Designing a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden: 11 Things to Think About. It has 11 design tips that will help your vegetable garden layout achieve its maximum potential. Hopefully you’ll find them useful! I’ve been thinking lately that it may be a time for an update on these design tips. Whether you use raised beds or not the concepts are easily applied to every vegetable garden!
5 Vegetable Garden Design Tips
Plan what you want to plant before you start
Before you start your garden plan what you want to plant, how much you want to plant, and how much garden you have time to maintain. It’s very easy to go overboard on garden in the spring time when the plants are small. You think to yourself “Oh, I can squeeze in these peppers next to the tomatoes…” Then you end up with the tomato monster that ate your jalapenos. Find out how much space is required for the plants and compare it to the space you’ve allotted for your garden. You’ll either be left with two choices expand your garden or reduce your planting. I have overplanted my garden every year so I know that this is very hard to do but plants with proper spacing will grow better and have fewer diseases than those squeezed together too tightly.
Plan for a crop rotation
There are few techniques more useful than crop rotation. So many diseases that damage our plants are present in our soil and will stay there for several years. If diseases effect your plants move them to different soil areas and plant unrelated plants in the effected location in the following year. I’ve found that crop rotation is a tricky task to accomplish if you don’t plan for it so its a good idea to keep a diagram of your garden and mark it each year with the types of plants you planted there. Then you can go back and refer to your diagram when you begin planning each season.
Getting around the garden is extremely important. You want to be able to reach the center of each garden bed so don’t make the bed width larger than you can reach to the center. Any tomato you can’t reach will eventually become a rotten tomato! Pathways should be wide enough for people to comfortably get around the beds. You may want to consider enough space for wheelbarrows and garden carts to fit as well.
How will you design your pathways?
If you’re designing a formal vegetable garden your pathways may be gravel or mulch but if you’re planting in rows you may just prefer to till occasionally throughout the season to keep the weeds down. Maybe you decided to let grass grow between the beds. If that’s the case then you need space for a mower and you’ll need to trim around the beds to keep the grass from encroaching on sacred vegetable garden ground.
Can you get water to your garden? (How would you Irrigate your garden?)
Water is critical for growing vegetables. If you can’t get enough from normal rainfall you will have to irrigate. Planting your garden too far away from a water source will reduce water pressure and will make it more difficult to water. Wouldn’t it be nice if rain occurred every other day and you didn’t have to water? We’re dreaming of course! The weather is always something tricky to plan around. Rain barrels are great for extending the water through drought periods but can have debris in them from asphalt rooftops or bird droppings which you may not want to use in the vegetable garden. To get through drought periods I like to use soaker hoses underneath the mulch in the garden. That keeps the moisture when it belongs – in the soil!
I’ve made mistakes on all of these 5 vegetable garden design tips at some point, but I learned from those errors. I highly recommend a good, efficient plan before you start each season. You may forget something, I always do, but the more you think your garden through the better it will be!