If you're wanting fresh vegetables this year, you might be wondering how to layout a vegetable garden. Oh, certainly, you could go the traditional route and create tidy rows, but that isn't your only option. Realistically, you can get very creative with your plans and make anything from a raised bed and container gardens, to a full formal looking effort that just happens to yield vegetables instead of flowers!
By the way, some gardeners have begun mixing vegetables into flower gardens too. For one thing, many blossoms are edible (roses, violets, nasturtium, etc.). For another, mixing flowers with vegetables is good for your soil. Each plant consumes different nutrients and by changing things up, you help keep your soil's overall balance for the next growing season.
Simple and Sublime
A traditional plan for your vegetable garden begins with rows. Each one of the rows is dedicated to a specific vegetable. If possible, try to layout the rows from south to north. This gives your produce as much sunlight as possible. Note that it helps to till the soil, and make a level area where you can easily reach into the rows for weeding and overall plant care. If you're planning a large garden, then consider creating walkways for yourself so you don't step on growing vegetation while you tend the soil. If you have to place your rows on a slope, make sure they run across it, not up and down. This protects your seeds from washing out and also helps stabilize root growth.
One very important factor in the traditional vegetable garden: review how much space each seedling needs. Spring tends to be damp, which can cause various molds, mildew and fungus. If you plant vegetables too closely together, one infected seedling can spread the issue very quickly. Additionally pest infestations can also spread out more easily in a confined space.
Lift It up!
In considering how to lay out your vegetable garden, a wonderful alternative to traditional row gardening is a raised vegetable bed. In this system, you plant in blocks, which also saves space. With the garden up off the native soil, you can better mediate the overall condition of plants, and it's certainly a little easier on the knees and back! If you have some cinder blocks, old bricks or even left over timber, you've got the foundation for building a raised bed.
Ideally, the bed should be at least 12" deep. Because the bed is up off the ground, the soil warms up sooner, which helps kick start your growing season.
A Little Flair
For those gardeners who want a little more visual appeal, you can consider what's customarily called a Kitchen Garden. As the name implies, this integrates vegetables and herbs and typically lies close to the kitchen if practicable. What makes the Kitchen Garden a little prettier is that the herbs and vegetables are patterned into various geometric designs between which bricks or stones create paths. Some Kitchen gardens have small, well-tended hedges that surround. Consider that some lettuce has bright red hues, and there's curly parsley - set this against a backdrop of lattice work covered with beans and peas. Drop in a few companion flowers like marigold that deters bugs, and you have something truly whimsical without losing functionality.
Yet More Options
There are many options on how to layout your vegetable garden, and truly that flexibility is the beauty of it all. You need to think about your space, your lifestyle, and how much time you want to invest in the whole process. Other patterns to consider for your garden include a four square system (typically rectangular with some type of central statue or focal point) and an asymmetrical garden (no real "rules" on this one).
Helps and Hints
No matter your choice, keep a sketch of your garden every year. Your perennials, like asparagus or herbs, remain in one spot so put them where you won't have to disturb their growth. Other annual vegetables should be rotated regularly to encourage healthy soil. Remember to be patient with yourself. It takes time to get to know your growing season and each vegetable's needs. Make a diary for yourself, noting things like sprouting times or pest issues and how you resolve them. This garden journal will come in handy every year and can actually become a keepsake for your family.
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