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GardenSMART :: Layout Options For The Vegetable Garden

Layout Options For The Vegetable Garden

By Amy Grant, Gardening Know How
Photograph courtesy of Gardening Know How

This is the year; you're going to do it! This year you're going to put in a vegetable garden. The only problem is you have no idea about planning a vegetable garden layout. There are several types, each with different advantages. In this article, we'll take a look at different layout ideas and which plans might work best for you.

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Rows

The most basic garden plan consists of a design with straight, long rows with a north to south orientation. A north to south direction will ensure that the garden gets the best sun exposure and air circulation. A garden that runs east to west tends to get too shaded from the crops growing in the preceding row.

Grow tall items, such as corn or beans, on the north side of the garden to keep them from shading smaller crops. Medium sized plants like tomatoes, squash, and cabbage should be grown in the center. Short crops like carrots, lettuce, and radishes should grow in the southern end of the garden.

Four square

Another vegetable garden layout idea is called a four square garden plan. Imagine the bed divided into four quarters, as if you have a piece of paper and have drawn a square on it and then a cross inside the square. Each square within the larger square represents a different bed. There are four categories of beds based on the amount of nutrients they need.

Heavy feeders like corn and leafy greens need lots of nutrients and will be included in one square bed. Middle feeders, such as tomatoes and peppers, will be in another. Turnips and carrots are light feeders that like potash in the soil and will be grown together accordingly. Soil builders are those veggies that leach nitrogen into the soil, such as peas, and will be grouped together.

This type of garden layout has the advantage of forcing you to practice crop rotation. The layout is generally from top-left and counter clockwise: heavy feeders, middle feeders, light feeders and soil builders. After harvest, plan on rotating each group to the next square the successive year. This crop rotation will help reduce pests and soil diseases.

Square foot

Square foot garden plots are generally set up in grids of 4 x 4 squares with string or wood attached to the frame to divide the bed into equal square-foot sections. One type of vegetable is planted in each section. If vine plants are grown, they're usually placed in the back with a trellis to allow the plant to grow up.

The number of plants per section can be calculated by dividing the lowest number of spacing inches you need into 12 inches, which makes up the individual square-foot plot. For example, the closest spacing for carrots is normally around three inches. Therefore, your calculation would be 12 divided by 3, making the answer 4. This means that you fill the square with four rows of four plants each, or 16 carrot plants.

Block

Another layout plan is called block style. Also called close row or wide row planting, this method increases yields significantly over a traditional row style garden. It also suppresses weeds. The idea is to plant vegetables in rectangular beds or blocks instead of long single rows, similar to that of the square foot but with whatever measurements you need. It eliminates the need for surplus walkways, thus maximizing premium gardening space.

The plants are grouped densely together and therefore need fertile, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. They will need fertilization due to the high density. Try not to overcrowd plants when using this method. This reduces air circulation and can result in disease. The bed should be 3 to 4 feet wide and any length desired. This width makes it easy to reach into the bed to weed, harvest or replant. Walkways should be minimal and about 18-24 inches across. Mulch the walkways with grass clippings, wood chips or another organic mulch.

Plant crops with equal space between adjacent plants in both directions. For instance, space a carrot patch on a 3-inch by 3-inch center – visualize the layout as running rows spaced three inches apart across the bed with thinned carrots within the row to three inches. A 24-foot long traditional garden row of carrots will fit into a 3-foot by 2-foot bed.

Vertical

Growing vegetable gardens vertically is yet another option. These gardens are designed for people having little to no traditional garden space. Rather than planting in a typical garden bed, take advantage of vertical space, growing plants along trellises, hanging baskets or even upside down.

There are even stackable containers available that allow you to grow a number of plants in one area by simply stacking the pots onto one another like a tower. Planting towers are another vertical option and are popular for potatoes.

Raised bed/containers

Again, for those having little space or even inadequate soil, planting veggies in raised beds or containers is a great alternative. With this layout option the sky is the limit, as you have flexibility in moving the garden around and making use of all available space, including vertical areas.

 


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