- Soil – what kind of soil do you have? Is it loose, level, well drained? Is it sandy or hard clay? Plants will not grow in either of these soil types unless lots of organic matter like well-rotted compost is added.
- Sunlight – how much sun does that spot have during the day? You need at least 10 plus hours of sunlight per day for high quality vegetables.
- Shrubs and Trees – they will compete with the sunlight if they are near your garden. Monitor where the shade pattern is during the day and place your garden outside of the shaded area. In addition, their roots tend to choke out tender vegetable plants, so the further away they are the better.
- Water – How close is the water supply to your garden? Gardens require frequent watering during the growing season. If you must carry water to your garden or haul a long hose, place your garden nearer to the water supply.
- Location, location, location – garden placement is the most critical piece to growing. If your garden is too far away, chances are it will be neglected. Gardens need to be cared for daily, which means, planting, weeding, pruning, watering and harvesting (which is the best part of all). If your garden is on the “back forty”, chances are you will never reap the full rewards of your hard work.
- Size / Cost – How big is your garden going to be? Obviously, the available space you have will dictate the size. Remember there are upfront costs to consider when starting a garden and the bigger your garden is the more it’s going to cost.
- Vegetable Location – Are you planning an entire row with one vegetable or are you planting half with one thing and half with something else? Are you planting in the ground or in raised beds?
- Row Length - This is important to determine how much seed to buy. How many plants can you plant per row? The answer to that question will be in the seed description.
- Inter-Row & Inter-Plant Space - A foot wide path between rows is a good rule of thumb. You don’t want your rows too narrow as weeding becomes very difficult. Conversely, you don’t want your rows too wide as this wastes space and requires more weeding. Ick!
- Planting Dates – You need to figure out the approximate date of the last frost in your area. I start turning over my soil and prepping as soon as the ground is defrosted and warmed up. It could be a few weeks before or after the general frost date for my area.
- Succession Planting - What plants will follow when each vegetable is harvested? This is a space saving technique but you need to plan for it to work.
Small gardens (less than 1000 sq. ft.) - think about plants with a high yield per plant, which include the following vegetables:
- Bush Beans
- Leafy greens
- Peppers (hot and sweet)
- Squash (bush variety)
- Mustard Greens
- Collard Greens
- Beets, Peas
- Large Gardens (1000 sq. ft. or more) – larger gardens can obviously grow a larger variety of vegetables (including those that take up more space) but remember the bigger the garden the more work required and the higher resulting yield. If there are only two of you and unless you want to be super gardeners or love to be outside puttering around, I’d recommend downsizing to a small plot:
- All the vegetables listed above
- Melons (vining varieties)
- Squash (vining varieties)
- Sweet Corn
Thanks Michele! I love sunflowers! I grow them as micro greens for salads. The baby shoots that are about 5 – 10 days old are wonderful! They have a great nutty flavor.
Thanks Lesli – add a little lettuce or kale to your shade garden -it should do well in the shade all summer and not bolt.
Thank you for providing such great information, and so detailed! One thing I love to do is companion planting…it’s so fun to tuck some marigolds and nasturtiums in with my veggies here and there. And I couldn’t be without my sunflowers…they just make the garden such a happy, sunny place. :)
I miss veggie gardening! We have 2 acres, nearly all shady, so I grow a few hardy herbs, and the occasional container tomato.
There is something so relaxing and exciting about planning the garden from picking the varieties to making it look pretty on paper – all in neat rows and boxes. Especially in winter. in SD