Planning Your Garden: Vegetables
Now that spring has officially arrived, we’re dreaming of fresh vegetables from a summer garden in the backyard. Even a small plot of land can grow a bountiful crop of veggies—choosing the right location, prepping your soil, and getting your seeds off to a good start assure that you’ll enjoy fresh produce all season long. We asked our experts for their advice on planning the perfect vegetable garden. Read on for their tips.
Location & Layout
Start by choosing a sunny location, which is key for most vegetables to grow successfully. Also consider proximity to a water source, especially in hot and dry climates. Design your garden with the tallest crops—like beans, pole beans and corn—on the north side; this will prevent them from shading the rest of the plants. Medium-height plants like tomatoes, broccoli, and squash should be placed in the center of the garden, with low-growing crops like lettuce, onions, carrots, and beets on the southernmost end.
When it comes to garden design, there's room for an edible garden that's both functional and decorative. Our experts recommend a combination of ornamental vegetables, a playful layout, and the addition of structures like trellises and towers. You can also mix some ornamentals into annual and perennial beds, or use them in container gardens-- the possibilities are endless! Some of our favorite ornamental edibles include rhubarb, artichoke, red or speckled leaf lettuce, Swiss chard, purple basil and variegated thyme, which all offer beautiful and colorful foliage.
Soil preparation is key for growing vegetables—in fact, it can make or break the success of your garden. Take some time before planting to turn over your soil and amend it with an organic, natural compost.
Seed Starting & Planting
If you’re planning to start your garden from seeds, it’s best to begin indoors. Use a soil optimized for seed starting, provide plenty of light, and make sure the soil doesn't dry out. Each type of seed has its own germination period, so stagger your plantings and start slow-growing seeds at an earlier date. Once the seeds germinate, separate the seedlings into individual pots to continue growing.
Once established, your seeds will be ready for transplanting into the garden. The planting time is determined by the last frost date in your region—after the date has passed, it’s safe to move your seedlings outside. To find the date, consult the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, then look up the last frost date for your zone. At planting time, a dose of general vegetable and tomato fertilizer should be added to the soil to give your seedlings a boost.
If you have only a single space for planting, our experts shared a few groups of vegetables that grow well together. Here are three of their favorite combinations:
Basil, parsley & tomatoes
Beets, bush beans, cabbage, lettuce, radishes & carrots
Melons, corn, pumpkins, radishes & squash
Some herbs and flowers can also have insect-fighting benefits when planted in the vegetable garden. For example:
Plant marigolds to deter beetles
Plant thyme to deter cabbage worms
Plant chives, garlic, or nasturtiums to deter aphids
Stay tuned for more tips next week, when we'll be sharing suggestions for a colorful cutting garden of summer blooms.
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