When Spring time arrives everyone gets very excited for getting their vegetable gardens started. One thing you want to avoid is to overcrowding our gardens with too many plants and in the wrong locations! After you’ve determined your garden location and size, take the time to properly plan your garden to avoid an overcrowded garden!
Plan your garden by drawing the garden borders on graph paper to scale. Sketch walkways of at least 18″-24″. Finally, draw a circle to represent each vegetable plant, with the diameter sized to the recommended plant’s spacing. Keep taller vegetables on the north or west side of the garden to prevent shading on shorter plants.
- Graph paper.
- I prefer ‘engineering paper’ and it is what you will see me using. You can find a link to it on Amazon at our recommended products page. It is really nice, as is a series of joined 5×5 grids, with the outer margin gridlines darker. It just makes it easy to do any sketching and keep your garden scale in mind.
- Pencil & eraser
- Straight Edge
- A list of your vegetables, with their typical heights and spacing
Process to plan your vegetable garden
1 – Sketch out your garden layout. Sketch the entire perimeter, noting a gate if there is one. Draw this to scale, so, if you have a full grid on your paper, it is easy to have each ‘square’ represent 1 foot (30 cm). But, do this for what is practical and logical for your garden.
2 – Next, sketch a compass to note the directions North, South, East, and West. Any tree or building should be sketched in a rough manner. This step helps you visualize and think about if there will be any shading issues.
3 – Sketch walkways, or path ways. This will serve as dividers between your garden rows. Don’t forget to do the pathways!
In general you should have at least 18″-24″ (45-60 cm) between rows in your vegetable garden. This allows you to freely walk and move throughout your garden without damaging plants.
4 – List out the vegetables you would like to grow, and the quantities. Also, note their typical heights and spacing. We have a quick reference guide for typical height and spacing of vegetable plants.
5 – Start drawing in the vegetables, represented as circles on your garden. Draw a circle with the same diameter (distance across) as the spacing.
Then, code the circle how you like. For example, “T” could equal tomato. Also, note the height in feet or cm in the circle. Make sure you don’t have shorter plants on the Northern side of taller plants, or they may get shaded out.
6 – Continue drawing you vegetable plants until you have filled up your garden, or exhausted all of your plants. I often find that I have to use an eraser to make corrections, adjust quantities, etc.
That’s it! You’ve now got a plan for your garden this year. I often find that I have to go through several iterations for my garden. But, when I follow these steps I ensure that I won’t over-plant or overcrowd my garden. Plus, it will help prevent you from buying or growing too many plants. So, it’s a good way to save some money!
Why you should keep shorter plants on the South side of taller plants
When planning your garden and planning rows, you need to keep shorter vegetables to the South of taller vegetables. This is very important, as short pepper plants behind tall tomato plants will not receive much sunlight. If this is not possible for some reason, then place taller plants straight west of shorter plants.
Less sunlight will mean less photosynthesis, and less food for your plant. Less food for your plant, means less size and vegetable yield.
Should the garden rows go East to West, or North to South?
If you are gardening on a slope, you should have your rows run perpendicular to the slope, no matter what. This will help reduce any erosion from rainfall, walking, etc.
But in general, it doesn’t matter whether you have the rows run North to South, or East to West. The key thing is not to have taller plants shade out smaller plants.
How densely can you plant a vegetable garden?
How densely you can plant a garden depends on your soil and conditions. If you have fertile soil and are planting in full sun, then you should space your plants to the maximum range specified by the seed packet, or plant tag. Plants that are too densely planted can result in overcrowding and reduced yields.
Roots of vegetables like to spread out, often several times the size of the plant. Crowding plants will increase your competition within your garden.
If you are just starting out though, or maybe aren’t confident in your soil’s fertility, then plant at the lesser range. But, if you take steps to improve your soil fertility by using Compost and Leaf Mulch, you may need to adjust your vegetable spacing to accommodate larger plants.
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