vegetables growing in a garden bed

Spring is fast approaching and now is the time to start thinking about designing your vegetable garden. Not sure where to begin? Here are some simple tips to help get you started.

1 Measure the area that you're going to use for your garden. Don't be afraid to think outside the "box" - vegetable gardens can be any shape you want: round, curved, L-shaped, as well as the traditional rectangular plot.

a sketch planning a garden layout

2 Make a simple sketch of your garden on some graph paper. Drawing it to scale will help you figure out how many plants you can actually fit in the space. Start at 1:50, where every inch of paper = 4 ft. of garden space. You can adjust the scale up or down depending on how big your garden is.

3 Make a list of what you'd like to grow and how many of each plant you'd like to have.

4 Calculate how much space the plants will take up. Each plant or seed packet will provide spacing information so you can determine how big they will get. One of the most common problems people experience in vegetable gardening is overcrowding, which diminishes yields and increases the risk of disease. Taking the time to figure out what will actually fit will make your garden more successful.

5 Start drawing vegetables on your garden sketch. Use circles to represent individual plants and rows to represent direct sown items like carrots, beets, and radishes. Remember, it doesn't have to be perfect! The goal is to get a rough idea of how many plants you can actually fit in your garden.

6 Place plants thoughtfully - put taller plants on the north or northwest side of the garden so they won't shade other plants. Medium height plants should go in the middle, and shorter plants should go on the south side of the garden. This will maximize sun exposure and air flow in the garden.

Main Garden Catagories

  • Cole Crops (Cabbage Family) Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale
  • Cucurbits (Cucumber Family) Cucumbers, Gourds, Pumpkins, Squash, Watermelon
  • Solanaceous (Tobacco Family) Egglpant, Peppers, Tomatoes
  • Legumes (Pea Family) Beans, Peas

7 Crop rotation can prevent a buildup of soil-borne pests and diseases specific to one type of crop that can occur when the same type of plants are grown in the same spot year after year. Group plants by their category and rotate where you plant each category in the garden (see right).

8 Place perennial vegetables or herbs (artichoke, asparagus, rhubarb, etc.) in their own bed or in the corner of the garden so they are not disturbed when other vegetables are cultivated.

9 Vining plants like cucumbers and squash can take up a lot of space in the garden. Growing them on trellises or supports not only saves space, but also adds visual interest and makes harvesting easier.

10 Take notes! Keep a record of planting times, harvest times, successes and failures, so planning the garden next year becomes even easier.