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The Five Golden Rules of Planning a Vegetable Garden | Almanac.com

The Five Golden Rules of Planning a Vegetable Garden

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5 things you should do to prepare a good veggie garden

The “5 Golden Rules of Garden Planning” remains one of our most popular articles and videos. Perhaps this is because these five rules are both simple and incredibly effective at improving results and yields.

Planning a vegetable garden can feel overwhelming because there are so many options to consider.  It needn’t be tricky, though. We’ll share with you the rules of garden planning to help you avoid some of the pitfalls and grow your most productive garden yet!

If you love growing your own food, why not take a look at our online Garden Planner, which is available from several major websites and seed suppliers:

Rule 1: Provide the right growing environment.

Success with vegetables starts with picking the right location to grow them in. Most vegetables prefer full sun, encouraging strong growth and resilience to pests and diseases. If you haven’t got anywhere in full sun, then grow crops that can cope with shade, such as leafy salads and greens. Cool-season crops like peas will benefit from summer shade in hot climates.

Good soil is the foundation of any successful garden, so make sure that the ground your vegetables grow in is fertile and moisture-retentive yet well-drained. You can improve any soil type by adding well-rotted compost, which can be dug in or left on the soil surface between your crops.

Rule 2: Grow what you like!

It may seem obvious, but there’s little point in growing what you don’t like! Concentrate on those fruits and vegetables you enjoy eating, and you’ll be motivated to keep your crops in good condition and see them through to harvest. By growing your own, you can also emphasize flavor, choosing varieties that promise exceptional taste and quality.

Rule 3: Make the most of the space you have.

Where space is at a premium, consider directing your growing ambitions towards those vegetables that are hard to find in the grocery store – heritage tomatoes or unusual colors of carrots, for example. It also makes sense to grow crops that are expensive to buy, including most herbs, fruit, leeks, zucchini, and pole beans.

Many types and varieties of fruits and vegetables are well-suited to growing in containers. Miniature varieties of vegetables, naturally compact salads, and tree fruits grown on dwarfing rootstocks can all turn an empty terrace or balcony into a produce-packed paradise, as long as they’re kept well watered in summer.

You can use our Garden Planner to maximize the use of your garden space. The Planner will show you exactly how many of each vegetable or fruit you can grow within the space available to you without overcrowding them. Selecting a crop couldn’t be easier. Simply scroll through the selection bar, then click to pick up a crop. Move the cursor to your plan, then click and drag it to place. The software automatically calculates how many plants can be grown in that area. Click on the accompanying plant list to see the exact numbers of plants required for each crop, making sowing and planting accurate and predictable.

Rule 4: Make gardening easy.

Don’t let your kitchen garden get ahead of you. Some vegetables require more work than others, so if you haven’t got much time, choose vegetables that are easy to grow. For instance, perennial herbs require little maintenance once they’re established and can be picked just when needed.

Pay attention to the descriptions of varieties, and opt for those that are suited to your growing conditions and the time and resources you have available. Pest and disease resistance is worth seeking out if you’re after an easier time!

Rule 5: Timing is of the essence.

Locating your vegetable garden near the house will make it easier to tend and harvest, while pots of regularly used herbs can be positioned right outside the back door. Most crops need watering in dry weather, so ensure there’s a water source near your garden. Install additional water barrels to collect rainwater from the greenhouse or shed roofs.

Paths between beds should be wide enough for a wheelbarrow, while beds should be of the right proportions for easy maintenance and crop rotation.

The Garden Planner can help you lay out your garden like a professional. Lay out the position of paths, beds, and containers, include vital garden objects such as compost bins and water barrels, and mark the location of growing aids, for example, irrigation lines and plant supports.

Stagger your harvests and enjoy more home-grown produce for longer. Quick-growing crops such as radishes can be sown little and often to spread harvests out. Prolific croppers such as pole beans, chard, and zucchini should be picked little and often to encourage more produce to follow. With a little careful planning, one crop can be followed immediately with another so that the ground is continuously occupied and achieves its full potential.

The Garden Planner is a powerful tool to help plan this type of succession cropping. By viewing your plan in a particular month, you can see where and when gaps appear. You can then click the custom filter button to show only crops that can be sown or planted in that same month and choose from the filtered crop choices to fill in the gaps in your plan.

Ready to become a better gardener this year? Here’s more info about the Garden Planner!

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

2023 Gardening Club

sandie blackford (not verified)

3 years 3 months ago

One of my garden rules is to never leave my garden soil bare. Always try to have extra plants ready to pop into empty spaces. If that isn't possible I always have some kind of mulch handy to cover the bare soil. In the Fall I like to use a mixture of chopped leaves and grass cuttings to provide a winter mulch cover. This helps to protect the growing beds and add nutrients to the soil as they decay and provide food for the earth worms. In the Spring it is easy to just pull the mulch to one side to sow seeds or pop your plant starts in the ground. Also, a good mulch or plant cover will prevent the soil from getting hard and compacted in the heat of the summer. I have many other "rules" in my garden but I think this is my main one.

Sherry (not verified)

5 years 3 months ago

Ok! I moved to west TX from Ky. The dirt is mostly sand, weeds I don’t even recognize, so how do I recognize weeds to get what I need to get rid of them, how do I get dirt to grow things in?

Paul (not verified)

5 years 3 months ago

Every fall I till into our garden beds bags of leaves. It makes for rich soil and a bountiful harvest. I use about 2 garbage bags full for each 4x12 garden bed.

Cindy (not verified)

7 years 3 months ago

Your video is so helpful. I will start all over this year. I have been doing a few things wrong.