Vegetable Garden Layout Plans For Your Home Garden

This article is more focused towards beginners in the arena of vegetable gardening. Creating the right layout is fundamental to the success of your vegetable garden. Moreover a proper layout will ensure that you don’t spoil the aesthetic appeal of your garden.

Setting up a vegetable garden can be looked at as a four step process. Any vegetable garden layout should take all these four steps into consideration, they are

  1. Deciding on the planting structure
  2. Creating the optimal environmental conditions
  3. Working out the vegetable garden design

If you are clear in your mind about the significance of each step and work on arriving at the most optimal solution for each step, you are well on your way to reaping a rich harvest of vegetables. Each step is of significance and your planning should not skip on any of it.

We will now take each step and provide suggestions and tips on how you can come up with the most optimal solution depending on your garden conditions. Let’s start,

Deciding on the planting structure

There are four planting structures you can consider:

  1. Flat bed planting
  2. Raised bed planting
  3. Container planting
  4. Vertical planting

Of course you must use a mix match of each type of planting structure in order to make best use of the space available to you. Get creative and think about how to use a space most optimally to increase the produce. For example, you can consider raised bed planting in areas where the soil is not good and use vertical planting methods such as teepee, arbors and trellis to grow cucumbers and beans in order to save space. You can place a few containers of vegetable plants such as tomatoes and peppers on your patio or deck and plant a flat bed of lettuce in the shadier part of your garden.

For now let us look at each planting structure independently and work out the pros and cons involved in each of them. In the section – working out vegetable garden design, we will discuss how to come up with creative designs using a combination of planting structures.

Flat bed planting

Flat Beds For Vegetables
Flat Beds For Vegetables. Credit.

Quite simple this type of planting involves just placing your seeds or transplants on the soil without any added arrangement. The simplest way of planting and requires the least amount of preparation. In the design section of this article you can check out the various ways in which you can improvise your flat bed planting.

This is the most traditional way of planting vegetables is that the plants are placed in rows and columns on a flat bed of soil. Of course you don’t have to restrict yourself to straight rows; you can try curved rows or asymmetrical patterns also.

Traditionally, vegetables are grown in straight rows with each row containing a particular type of veggie. Usually a 2 foot gap is left between each row to facilitate watering and harvesting. You can use a string to ensure that you plant the seeds in a straight line.

The one main disadvantage with traditional flat bed planting using straight rows is that it consumes a lot space, especially due to the gap between rows. Of course if you have a small yard you don’t have to follow the traditional way of planting, you can work on creating an asymmetrical design.

Raised bed planting

Raised Beds For Vegetables
Raised Beds For Vegetables. Credit.

If you have never encountered the term “raised bed garden” take a look at the picture to get an idea of what it’s all about. In effect it’s quite a simple but very effective method of growing plants in your garden. It’s all about creating a raised mound of soil, some 12 inches in depth, and using some wooden planks or concrete to border it. In fact some people don’t even bother with the border, it works fine either ways.

Why should you consider raised bed planting? The benefits are enough to convince anyone that it is a great way to improve your gardening experience and have a better crop. In fact raised beds are very effective in vegetable gardening. Here are a few advantages you can enjoy with a raised bed garden.

  1. You have the option of importing soil to build a raised bed. This way you can get some good quality soil, mix it with compost and use this enriched soil for planting. Especially helpful if your garden soil is not up to the mark.
  2. You get great value for space, raised bed gardens allow you to plant more crops in area available to you, in fact you can use up every inch of soil in the raised bed for planting rather than making lee ways for walking and watering.
  3. Since you won’t be walking on your raised bed, it will ensure that you won’t end up compacting the soil.
  4. If you have pets or small kids around your house, a raised bed will provide a level of protection to your plants.
  5. You will have to contend with less weeds in a raised bed because there will be more plants in less space.
  6. You can create a raised bed on any surface, even the concrete of your porch, this way you can utilize any free space around your house. You can build it on high structure to make it accessible to elderly or handicapped people.

You can check our article on how to build a raised bed vegetable garden.

Container planting

Vegetables In Containers
Vegetables In Containers. Credit.

Even if you have a lot of space around your yard, you should consider container planting because it’s easy to implement and adds to your garden’s beauty. If you are looking to plant vegetables in containers, you should consider the below tips.

  1. Buy the compact variety for the vegetable you intend to grow. Compact varieties not only produce a good yield but are easy to manage in containers.
  2. Consider planting two or more types of vegetables in the same container, for example you can grow lettuce, chives and parsley together. It is not only attractive but helps the soil also.
  3. Carrots, radish, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers can be grow easily in containers and they are highly space efficient (you can consider hanging basket for cucumbers)
  4. You don’t necessarily have to use flower pots as containers. There are several options, for example you can use large food cans, wooden crates, wire baskets, old pails and buckets as well as washtubs as containers. You can put on a coat of paint to make the container look attractive.
  5. Make sure you implant holes in the containers on the sides and bottom to allow for water drainage.
  6. Avoid using dark colored containers since they absorb more heat and tend to damage the tender roots.
  7. Consider using options like peat-based mixes and vermiculite for the container instead of using plain soil from your garden. They are more enriched and doctored for pH balance. You can also mix in generous amounts of compost before planting.
  8. Containers require frequent watering, if you are not careful the plants may wilt away.

There are several varieties of vegetable plants available that are breed specifically for containers. Make sure you check up with your local nursery on the availability of these varieties. For example tomatoes are available in hybrids like patio, tiny tim, spring giant and small fry – these hybrids grow in a compact manner and are ideal for containers. For lettuce you can consider varieties like salad bowl and buttercrunch.

Vertical planting

Pole Beans On Teepee
Pole Beans On Teepee. Credit.

Think vertical if you want to save on space. There are several vegetable plants that have weak stems and branches that twine rather than stay erect. Examples are cucumbers, pumpkins, beans, tomatoes and squash. The best way to grow these plants is to implement vertical planting, not only do you end up saving a lot of space but it is the best way to grows these weak stemmed plants.

You can consider using a wide variety of structures like trellis, nets, arbors, strings, poles, teepees and cages for your vertical planting project. These structures can be fun do-it-yourself projects and its not very time consuming. Using strings, wires, stout wooden or steel poles and some tools you can create your own trellis or teepees.

Keeps these tips in mind while vertical planting your vegetables.

  1. Tomatoes, pole beans, cucumbers and melons are the best candidates for vertical planting
  2. Some of these plants would naturally twine around the pole while some would require to be guided by tying them manually to the structures.
  3. These vertical structures have the tendency to cast shadows, so keep them clear of sun loving vegetable or flower plants in the surrounding.
  4. Twining plants are exposed to sun due to their vertical growth, if watering is not proper they tend to dry out. So be careful about watering them amply.
  5. Twining vegetable plants grow better in well-drained crumbly soil where they can spread their roots deep.

You could grow a row of twining plants and support them using a net structure made out of thick wire and strong poles at the end. Make sure the poles have a strong footing in the soil else the structure would come crashing down once the vegetables weigh heavy on them.

Creating Optimal Environmental Conditions

Growing vegetables is far easier than growing flowers and fruits. They require less maintenance and reach maturity much faster. However the success of your vegetable garden will depend chiefly on three aspects

  1. Soil conditions
  2. Watering and drainage
  3. Availability of sun

We shall now take each aspect and work on how to make them optimal.

Soil Conditions

garden soil
garden soil. Credit.

Your garden could be blessed with the best loam soil or you may have to deal with difficult clay soil. The good news is that no matter what type of soil your garden is naturally endowed with, you can always enhance it to meet the needs of a vegetable garden.

Soil places a critical role in the success of a harvest. Vegetable plants are hungry for soil nutrients and care should be taken to ensure they receive it in the best possible manner. Composting is one of the better ways to improve soil quality and nutrients. You can easily make away with chemical fertilizers if you mix good amount of compost into the soil before planting the vegetables.

You can make compost on your own using the household and yard wastes. It is easy and effective, read our article on building your own compost tumbler for more information. If is also viable to purchase compost, several nurseries and seed stores sell sacks of rich compost. The compost or “organic humus” can be mixed with the garden soil using a rake, just dig up the soil to a depth of a few inches, mix in an appropriate quantity of compost. The amount of compost you mix with the soil would depend upon your soil type, the end result should be that the soil becomes crumbly and it drains water efficiently.

Watering and drainage

It is important to water you vegetable plants regularly but it is also vital to ensure that there is no water logging. Soggy conditions are most detrimental to plant growth. If the soil does not drain water effectively, you will need to mix in more coarse organic compost. Keeping the soil moist is the best way to grow vegetables.

It is best to use a water sprinkler so that you don’t damage the root system of your plants with a jet of water coming from a hose. You can also use mulch around your plants and cut channels in your soil to facilitate watering. The main thing is to avoid harming the root structure while watering.

If possible, avoid spraying the leaves of vegetable plants with water. Moist leaves invite conditions of mildew and other fungi. Keep the leaves as dry as possible.

Availability of sun

It is best to grow a vegetable garden in a spot which receives the maximum benefit of sun. Vegetable plants require a lot of sun for a healthy produce. In the absence of adequate sunshine some vegetable plants would end up reducing the size of the produce or in extreme cases don’t give off any produce at all.

The only vegetables that do well in shade are the ones that are eaten for their leaves. Lettuce and cabbage would be good examples. In fact it is best to plant them in areas where there is partial shade; they don’t do too well in extremely sunny conditions.

Tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, pumpkin, okra, squash and eggplant require 6 hours of direct sun to do well. Tubers such as potatoes, carrots, radishes and yams do better in sunny conditions than in conditions of shade.

It is best to plant a vegetable garden on the northern or southern side of the house so that the plants are not shaded by the house. Planting a vegetable garden in the midst of fruits trees and tall shrubs would create conditions of shade for most of the time resulting in a poor produce.

Make the best use of every bit of your yard, plant green leafy vegetables in areas of shade and other vegetables (grow for their fruit and root) in the sunny areas.

Working Out a Vegetable Garden Design

You can design a highly symmetrical garden with geometrical shapes and structures or use a mix and match of asymmetrical design. The design of your garden would reflect your creativity, so feel free to come up with ideas of your own. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to designing a garden but you might need to keep the below few pointers in mind.

  1. Save up on space as much as possible, try using a combination of the various planting techniques described in the first section of this article
  2. Leave enough room for easy accessibility to the harvest, you don’t want to end up trampling the other plants in order to pick a few lettuce leaves.
  3. Watering should be convenient for you, make sure your garden design does not hinder you from using the hose to water the plants.
  4. Consider growing a “potager garden”, this way you can plant vegetable in your flower beds. Growing marigolds around the vegetable plants helps keep the nematodes away.

Some excellent vegetable garden designs (made using a gardening software) can be found on this squidoo page. A snapshot of the contents on this webpage is given below:

Garden layouts
Garden layouts

If you’ve checked out the above link you would have an idea of how to come up with varied garden designs depending on the structure of your yard. Raised bed and container planting allows for interesting options and designs and they save up on space as well so you should consider inculcating them as a part of your vegetable garden.

You might also want to consider the below two methods of planting vegetables for better harvest.

1. Companion planting

There was a time when the Indians from North America planted corn, pole beans and squash together, the beans were nitrogen-fixers, the corn acted as a support for the bean plants and the squash was like a natural mulch (the spiny vine also prevented raccoons from entering the corn field). This method of planting one or more corps in close vicinity for the purpose of extracting mutual advantage is termed as companion planting.

Certain plants are known to grow well together as they mutually benefit each other. For example legumes being natural nitrogen fixers can be grow in combinations with plants requiring a nitrogen rich soil. There are plants that leech the acidic content of the soil making it helpful for the plants that grow better in less acidic conditions. African marigolds are known to act as natural pest repellants and can be companion planted with vegetable plants like lettuce for the same purpose.

“Intercropping” is similar to companion planting, here two types of plants are grown together because they have huge difference in maturity dates. By the time one plant grows enough to cause a space problem the other plant is ready to be harvested. For example, tomatoes and cabbages can be intercropped using this logic.

If you are interested you can refer to the list here for the various combinations that work well together. This list also mentions the plants that should not be planted together; this information is quite handy for beginners.

2. Succession planting

This might look a bit advanced to beginner vegetable gardener but in reality is quite simple and practical. The advantage of succession planting is that you can harvest through out the spring, summer and fall with just a little planning.

Succession planting is all about harvesting the quick maturity crops or cool-season crops and replacing them with warm-season crops and hence allowing the same space to yield a double harvest.

Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Collard, Kale, Onion, Spinach and shallot are cool-season crops that are very hardy, they can survive well in frost. Certain crops like lettuce, cauliflower, celery, endive and chard can handle cool weather (not high frost) but are intolerant to temperatures crossing 70 F. We can look at all these crops as cool-season crops.

The idea is to plant the cool season crops 3-5 weeks (depending on how hardy the crop is) before the date of the last frost, before the onset of summer these crops can be harvested and be replaced with warm season crops such as squash, tomatoes, sweet corn, eggplant and cucumber. This way you can utilize your garden space efficiently and end up harvesting twice in the planting season.

Be sure to check up with your local cooperative extension, nursery expert or a master gardener in your area regarding the various plants you can try for succession planting in your regions and the dates of seeding.