How to Lay Out a Vegetable Garden

Vegetable Garden Layout

March 20, 2019

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Learn how to lay out a vegetable garden for your space and the plants you want to grow—from super-fresh lettuce to juicy tomatoes. In this video, we discuss the benefits different styles of garden beds. We’ll also demonstrate how to position your vegetables for a better harvest.

Site Selection

Before we get started, let’s consider the location of your garden.

  • Where do you get the most sun? Ideally, choose the sunniest part of the garden for your beds, away from frost pockets. Most vegetables need 6 to 8 hours of direct sun a day! Note that the south, east, and west sides of your home will get more sun than the north.
  • How far away is the water? Make sure you have easy access to a hose or water source!
  • Is there a spot near the house? The ideal garden is one ou can see outside your door or window so it’s easy to water and keep an eye on!
  • Is there a nice clearing? If you have too many shrubs or trees nearby, they may compete with your garden for nutrients and moisture as well as sunlight.
  • How large do you want your garden? It’s better to start small! If you’re new to vegetable gardening, a 10’ x 10’ garden (100 square feet) is a great place to start. 

Which plants do you want to grow?

  • For a beginner, perhaps pick 3 to 5 plants that you would like to grow, and buy 3 to 5 plants of each one. See the most popular vegetables, herbs, and fruit here.
  • Here’s a good article and list of vegetables for the beginner gardener.
  • If you’re growing annual plants (most vegetable seeds need to be planted each year), then look at dedicated vegetable beds.
  • For the perennials (such as asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries), you may want to dedicate a separate space.
  • If you have our Garden Planner, we make it easy to plan where to grow your fruits and vegetables. Select a crop from the plant selection bar and add it to your plan. Use the corner handles to extend the row or expand it out into a block, and the Garden Planner will automatically calculate how many plants can be grown in that space.

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Plan Dedicated Vegetable Beds

Growing in dedicated beds reduces soil compaction, helps to simplify crop rotation, and makes weeding and protecting your crops a snap. A simple bed system in your garden will make it easy to plan, tend and harvest your crops.

You can lay out your beds on paper, but today, we much prefer to lay them out on the computer with the Almanac Garden Planner. It automatically calculates how much space each plant requires, your frost dates, your planting dates, and so much more.

  • Beds can be laid out at soil level or raised, and should be no more than 3 to 4 feet wide to make it easy to reach into the center without stepping on the soil. 
  • The length of your beds should take into account how far you are willing to walk to get around to the other side.
  • A narrow bed also enables you to grow plants in blocks rather than rows, which helps suppress weeds and maximizes the number of plants you can grow in that space.
  • Make each bed the same size to make it simple to move crops, row covers, and cloches from bed to bed as required.

(Note: On the Garden Planner, mark out your beds with the rectangle tool. Switch your tool to Garden Objects to select a particular style of raised bed.)

Design Your Paths

  • Make access paths between beds at least 2 feet wide to enable easy access for weeding and harvesting.
  • Paths can be made of grass if they can be easily mown.
  • Alternatively, lay cardboard and cover it with a mulch of wood chips, or pour a loose material such as gravel over weed-suppressing fabric.
  • For a more permanent path surface, consider using brick or pavers.

If you’re using  our Garden Planner, there are a number of path types to add to your plan. Irregular shapes can be created by selecting a texture from the Palette, then adding solid shapes.

Positioning Vegetables in Beds

1. Tender Plants

Grow tender plants such as tomatoes and peppers in the warmest, sunniest parts of the plot, so add these to your plan these first.

2. Sprawling Plants

Next, consider plants such as squash that need a lot of space. Add these near the edges of beds so they don’t smother neighboring plants.

3. Climbing Crops

Tall-growing climbers such as peas and pole beans should be located where they won’t shade lower-growing vegetables.

You may want to take advantage of potential shade to grow cool-season crops like lettuce and spinach, especially in hot climates.

4. Quick-Access Crops

Plants that are regularly harvested and which don’t need to be included in crop rotation, such as herbs and salad leaves, should be positioned in beds nearest to the kitchen.

5. Pollination and Companion Planting

Consider pollination requirements. Corn, for example, is best grown in blocks rather than rows, as they are wind pollinated.

Include pollinator plants and plenty of flowers such as calendula to attract beneficial insects to your garden and help improve pollination of fruit or pod-bearing crops!

6. Thirsty Plants

Thirsty plants such as salad leaves are likely to need regular watering. Cluster these plants together in a damper part of the garden or where irrigation can easily be supplied.

Finally, if this isn’t your first garden, think about where you planted your veggies last year, then be sure to rotate them to different beds for the coming season to help prevent diseases and avoid plant-hungry pests that overwinter in the soil. Our Garden Planner actually has a crop rotation feature and even warns you when you need to rotate!

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Try Out the Almanac Garden Planner for Free

All the best with your garden plan!

As a courtesy, the online Almanac Garden Planner is free for 7 days. This is plenty of time to play around on your computer and try it out. There are absolutely no strings attached. We are most interested in encouraging folks to try growing a garden of goodness! 

Not only does the Garden Planner help you lay out a garden, but we also provide you with a customized planting calendar so you know when to plant what. Plus, we provide lots of gardening videos and techniques to help you out!

Go here for a free trial of the online Garden Planner!

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Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

Winter Garden

We live in the San Francisco Bay Area which is in zone 9B, so we are going to grow vegetables in raised beds. I also built a small grow box and will start everything from seed. Two weeks ago I seeded snap peas and Broccoli. I also seeded two containers with carrot seeds. For the 2 ft high raised beds I am using Kellog's raised bed and potting soil. Also we have row covers and instead of putting the hoops into the soil I attached 2X4 boards on the inside of the raised beds which are 3 feet wide. I drilled 1/4 inch holes for the hoop wire are the correct spacing. For the peas, I will put them in a 2 ft diameter 1 foot deep metal tub with tomato cages as supports and if we get a frost I plan on protecting them with clear plastic. The Broccoli will go in the raised beds under the row covers. For the peas and Broccoli, I will intersperse with carrot seeds. Currently I am hardening off the peas and broccoli by taking the seedlings outside for an hour or two. We will see how it goes.

your raised beds

The Editors's picture

Sounds terrific, Oliver! Let us know—or better, please—SHOW us all how it goes on Instagram.com/theoldfarmersalmanac! We’re not too old to learn new tricks and would enjoy learning from you! Thanks for sharing!

Gardening

I have to say that even with all of my years of experience, the videos have been so helpful. I love his simple and calm explanations of each topic. I now have more knowledge in my apron to make this year's crops great. Cauliflower and cabbage don't like to grow together. Thanks for sharing these great tips.

Videos

Thank you for your nice comment! We’re very glad to hear that you enjoy our gardening videos.

very useful . . . starting

very useful . . . starting community garden.

Climate

Hi, like the look of this tool. Is it only UK climate? peaceout, Ini

Garden Planner Location

The Editors's picture

Hi there. We have climate data for the UK, US, Canada, most of Western Europe, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. When you type in your location the Garden Planner looks up your nearest weather station to set recommended sowing, planting and harvesting times for your area (we find this to be more accurate than the more general ‘hardiness zone’ system).

Good video...very informative

Good video...very informative and points out lots of things to consider when planting a garden. I'm sure I will reference this video several times as I plan the garden this year. Found the video clear, concise and very on point. Thanks.

when is the best time to

when is the best time to plant ,and pick GARLIC . what is the best GARLIC to plant. THANK YOU , AND MAY GOD BLESS. STEPHEN ADAMCHICK

Hi, Stephen, Garlic can be

The Editors's picture

Hi, Stephen, Garlic can be planted in the spring as soon as the ground can be worked, but fall planting is recommended for most gardeners. Plant in the fall and you'll find that your bulbs are bigger and more flavorful when you harvest the next summer. See our garlic growing page for more information: http://www.almanac.com/plant/g... 

The English accent was too

The English accent was too hard to understand, while at the same time attempting to assimilate/comprehend what he was trying to teach.....sorry

There is indeed a LOT of

There is indeed a LOT of info. Just pause the video as you do with many "how to" videos. The voice is totally clear. The accent wasn't a problem at all for me. Very clearly articulated though quickly moving.

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