Vegetable Garden Basics: Part 1 – Where to locate your garden.
Awhile back I wrote a post on how we started out on our family vegetable garden journey…in hopes of motivating others to do the same. And essentially I concluded by saying…
Don’t over-think it…just do it! All you really need is a plant, a sunny spot, some dirt, and some water…and you’ll be good to go.
And all that still holds true. However, I realize that some of you want more…well, because you’ve said so.
So on this post…the first of a 4-part series on Vegetable Garden Basics, I’ll try to answer the first question you should answer when starting your own vegetable garden…where should I put it?
And make sure to check back in over the next few weeks where I’ll answer your other top asked questions.
Where should I put my family vegetable garden?
Location, location, location…shouldn’t just be the mantra of real estate agents, but of vegetable gardeners too. Where you locate your vegetable garden is critical to your success and your level of enjoyment.
The 3 Basics…Soil, Water, and SUN!
You basically need 3 things to have a fruitful harvest: 1. good soil; 2. lots of water; and 3. full sun. So if you have a spot with all 3, that’s where you should put your vegetable garden. Done.
Unfortunately, not everyone has all 3. And if you don’t have any of the 3, you’ll really struggle trying to squeeze blood from the proverbial turnip…or even growing said turnip. But the good thing is…for at least the soil and water, you can very easily do some things that will get you where you need to be:
- If you don’t have good soil, simply till up what you have and amend in some good organic matter and nutrients. Here’s a great post on Growing a Greener World about soil prep. (That is if you want to take the “no till” approach … but that’s for another day.)
- If you live in an arid part of the country or don’t have easy access to water…buy a longer hose or a watering pail.
The biggest challenge, however, is finding a spot with full sun…essentially 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. Sure, you could cut down some trees, but that’s often too pricey or too drastic of a measure for some to take.
But the reality still remains…the more sun you have, the more flowers you’ll get…and with more flowers comes more veggies. So if you don’t have much sun, you won’t get many veggies. Believe me, I speak from experience…the bad kind!
Other Options…If You Don’t Have Full Sun
Now…if you don’t have enough sun for a full-fledged vegetable garden, you still have a few options.
1. Choose other vegetables: If you don’t have a spot that gets full sun, be okay with not growing cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers or squash…among others. I know that this may seem limiting, but there are still a number of vegetables that grow well in some degree of shade:
- Partial sun: Carrots, beets, garlic, potatoes, parsnips…basically, your root vegetables…all grow well in partial sun/shade (at least a ½ day of sun).
- Shade tolerant: Chard, lettuce, spinach, kale…your leafy greens…tolerate more shade than most other veggies.
2. Try container gardening: Although growing veggies in containers doesn’t paint the same bucolic picture that growing rows and rows of vegetables does, you can still have a successful gardening experience by using containers.
- There are some advantages to growing veggies in containers:
- You don’t have to find a large sunny spot in your yard…so it opens up your location options.
- And these locations are often closer to your home…like a patio, deck, or driveway…so access to your garden is easier and likely water as well.
- With the right potting soil, there’s little to no soil prep or weeding required.
- Containers are portable…so if you must, you can move them around with the sun. To make that chore easier, put your container on casters.
- Using colorful containers in your landscape can add a much needed pop to an otherwise uninteresting spot.
- Besides the limited amount of space, one disadvantage of using containers is…they dry out very easily, so you’ll need to make sure to keep them well watered.
- Quite a few vegetables grow well in containers, for example: tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, eggplant, herbs, and leafy greens.
- Here are some links that you might find helpful if you want to try your hand at container gardening:
- There are some advantages to growing veggies in containers:
3. Use a Tower Garden®: I’ve written a couple of posts on my experience with using a Tower Garden®, so I’ll let you check those out for yourself…rather than re-write what I’ve already written. But suffice it to say, I really think it’s another great option to consider if you’re wanting to grow your own veggies. Here are my posts:
4. Consider a community garden: I realize that it’s less convenient (i.e., like…not outside your back door!), but if you don’t have much sun at home and you really want to grow your own food in the ground (vs. in a container or Tower Garden®)…you should consider going to a community garden.
- Not only will you be able to grow your own food, you’ll be building community too…which is a good thing. And while building community, you’ll increase the chances of learning gardening tips from someone else. Bonus!
- The American Community Gardening Association has a great website on all things community gardening. It’s full of great resources and even has a community garden finder to help you locate a community garden near you.
Other Considerations When Locating Your Vegetable Garden
Okay, before I close there are two other points I want to make about where to locate your vegetable garden.
1. Easy Access: Given that you’ll need get out and get your hands dirty in your garden fairly often, you’ll want to locate it somewhere that you’ll have easy access to your home, tools, and supplies. Believe me…doing so will make your veggie gardening experience much more enjoyable…and therefore, more sustainable. And if you locate it closer to your home, you’ll more likely be closer to a water source…and if not, see my snarky comment above about buying a longer hose.
2. Architectural Interest: Fearing that when in-season their veggie garden will look too unwieldy or when out-of-season it will look like a barren wasteland, some people want to hide their veggie garden out of sight. I don’t agree. Not only would that likely smack up against the points I made above about easy access…with the right design, your veggie garden can really provide some great architectural interest for your outdoor spaces.
One of the most enjoyable places to hang out in my back yard…year-round…is in and around my veggie garden. That’s because I was very intentional about its structural design, flow with the rest of my backyard, and surrounding plant material.
Alright…I’ll end there…for now. I hope this was helpful.
But make sure to check back in over the next couple of weeks as I try to answer a few more of your other questions…like:
- Should I build raised beds…or just plant directly into the ground?
- What should I plant?
- How big should my vegetable garden be?
- How much will my garden produce?
- Is there any rhyme or reason as to where certain plants go relative to one another?
- Should I plant seeds or starter plants?
- When should I get started?
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