When planning a vegetable garden the first step is always finding the ideal spot. Most vegetables require lots of sun so choose a location with a southern exposure. Ideally, the sunlight is distributed as evenly as possible for the longest period of time. Southern exposure is perfect since the sun shines evenly on each side. North facing shady gardens are fine for ferns and other woodland plants but they are generally not suitable for vegetables and some flowers.
Its always best to design a garden on paper before planting as the spacing and planting depth of each variety of seed vary. If you know before hand the size of your garden you’ll be able to determine the number of seeds needed and can plan accordingly. Alternately, if you already have your seed and know the spacing requirements, you will be able calculate the appropriate size garden.
Often, new gardens are created within an existing lawn. If the vegetable garden you’re planning is large you can simply till the area and turn the sod under. In small gardens, however, you should remove the sod. To do this cut the edges of the garden with the spade. Then cut narrow strips approximately 1 or 2 feet wide. Sod cut in this way can easily be removed.
Compost the Sod
Don’t throw the sod away, rather sift through the newly tilled garden, pick out the pieces of sod, shake them well and add them to the compost pile. Compost is the ideal soil conditioner for a vegetable garden so throughout the growing season add your garden clippings to the pile. As you remove the sod, break up the big clumps of soil which are left behind. The garden must be tilled well in order to create suitable conditions for planting seed. A seed planted in chunks of soil will rarely survive. Use a grading rake to smooth out the soil once the ground is properly tilled. Once ground is level and smooth, the garden is ready to be planted.
Some spaces may be too rocky to be useful as a vegetable garden. In this case raised beds are necessary. Building raised beds can extend the growing season since the soil is able warm up sooner than the rest of the garden. They also offer better drainage and deep topsoil with little compaction. If you add compost to your garden each year a raised bed may occur naturally. Raised beds are easy to care for and they are protected from the encroaching grass and weeds of its surrounding environment.
Planting Your Rows
In gardens which receive southern exposure vegetables and flowers should be planted in rows which run north and south so the plants are able to receive the sun’s rays during the morning on the eastern side, and during the afternoon on the western side. Planted this way, your vegetable will grow more evenly. In order to get the best distribution of sunlight in a garden facing southeast run the rows northwest and southeast. Thoughtful planning and proper planting techniques will result in a successful, productive vegetable garden as well as a very satisfying endeavor for the gardener.