One of the most important steps of starting a garden is selecting the right location. There are a handful of factors that will determine how successful your garden will be, so it is critical to get them right! Follow our steps below to properly locate your garden.
The best location for a garden will receive at least 8 hours of sun per day, and have loose fertile soil that drains well. It is good to not have any shrubs or trees near your garden too, as they will steal water and nutrients from your vegetables. They may also cause shading issues as the trees grow.
Before you break ground in starting a new vegetable garden, you have to choose the right location! Carefully considering these factors will help guide you to choosing the best spot to grow your vegetables. If you don’t get the location right, your vegetable harvest will suffer!
The key factors that should influence your vegetable garden location are the following:
1 – Maximize the available sunlight
Photosynthesis is how plants get most of their energy. You will need to get at least 6 hours of sunlight per day to make a productive garden. But really we should be trying to maximize sunlight for our vegetable garden as much as we can.
The bottom line is that the more sunlight for your vegetable plants, the more photosynthesis that can happen. In turn this will result in larger plants that produce more vegetables.
Additionally, sunlight can help keep certain diseases and pests at bay. So, maximize the SUN!
2 – Soil that drains well
Soil drainage is how fast water drains through the ground. If water drains too slow you can get root rot, too fast and everything dries out. We’ve written about soil drainage before, and it’s importance to the health of your garden.
If you suspect you have a problem, consider doing a real soil drainage test to know if your location is suitable, or will need a bit of work.
3 – Loose, fertile soil that is loamy
Soil that can be formed into a ball when moistened, but still be crumbly is the best kind for starting a garden. Bonus if it is dark in color and full of organic matter.
There is a really simple test to determine if you have loamy soil that is great for a vegetable garden. It only takes about 5 minutes to perform, and is accurate for mapping your soil type to the USDA soil pyramid. You can read how to perform the Soil Ribbon Test here with our step by step guide.
If your soil is orange or tan, it could mean that you don’t have much organic matter. But don’t worry, you can always amend with compost or leaf mulch to increase the fertility and build a solid foundation of soil.
PS – if you don’t compost yet, you should really start. It just takes a pitch fork and a patch of ground to make some of the best garden fertilizer!
4 – Have a ready water supply nearby
Sooner or later, there will be a drought and your garden will need water. So it is in your interest to have your water source near your garden.
I personally have 75′ of hose to be able to run a sprinkler on my garden. It works well, but it would be nicer if I had a source a bit closer.
5 – Is conveniently located.
The easier it is for you to get to your garden, the more you will tend to is and take care of it. That means more production, more yield, and a more enjoyable experience for you and your family.
Plus, more free vegetables!
6 – No nearby trees or shrubs.
It is best to not have trees near your garden. The roots of trees and shrubs can extend beyond their drip-line. Furthermore, there are suckering trees such as Black Locust and Bradford Pear that can send unwanted seedlings in addition to taking water and nutrients from your vegetable plants.
Generally, as long as the drip line is 20′ away from your garden you should not have any adverse effects. Additionally, you must avoid the Black Walnut Tree. Black Walnut trees produce a toxic chemical known as Juglone that can kill plants. It has been shown to have significant adverse effects on tomatoes.
7 – Has a design that is incorporated into the landscape
If you make your garden fit within your overall landscape. Take into account the present state of any trees, shrubs, and structures. Try to anticipate how much larger or taller trees could grow. Also ask yourself, could someone build a house that will shade my garden in a few years?
Answering these kind of questions can ensure that your garden will stand the test of time, producing high yields.
8 – Is located away from utility lines, water lines.
Call 811 in the USA before digging. Penetrating the electric lines with a spade could result in injury or death. One-call is a free and timely service to prevent you from digging too close to any utility line or sewer/water line.
9 – Has plenty of airflow
A garden that has plenty of airflow will reduce the incidence rate of mold, fungus, and other diseases that depend on moisture.
10 – Is free from pollution and toxins
Although the chances are limited, if your property, or nearby properties had previously been zoned industrial or commercial, there is a chance that your soil could be contaminated by pollution or heavy metals.
Most local agricultural extension offices have free or low-cost soil tests available that not only check nutrient levels & PH, they can also identify any dangerous pollutants.
11 – Is located on flat ground and not on a steep hill.
If your garden is on flat ground, or nearly flat then you will have little to no erosion. If you do need to plant on a slope, make sure your rows go horizontal relative to the slope to minimize erosion, or consider terracing the ground.
12 – Is ok with the Home Owners Association (HOA)
If you live in a subdivision or the suburbs, you may be subject to HOA. HOAs may have requirements for gardens for aesthetics or other regulations. While it may be burdensome, it may be necessary.
13 – Has the possibility to be expanded
As you improve your gardening skills, you may decide to get into preserving your food. If so you may feel the need to expand your garden. While it is true that you could just build a new garden somewhere else, it is far easier to be able to expand an existing garden with water source and convenience built in!
14 – Can be protected!
A nice garden has two enemies – critters and herbicide/pesticides.
Rabbits and deer love to eat vegetable plants. Tomatoes, peas, and many other species are like a giant tasty salad bar to our furry four-legged friends. So, you may find that some form of fencing is required to keep your vegetables safe.
Additionally you may need to dig a fence down a bit to protect from ground hogs or other underground varmints.
And finally, do your neighbors treat their lawns? You should plant on keeping your garden a bit away from the neighbors if the answer is yes. Herbicide or pesticide drift can have an impact on your plants, possibly positioning them or the pollinators that we depend on.
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