Vegetable Garden Planning
The first step in any type of garden planning particularly when planning for a vegetable garden is to look at the existing situation and find the best spot for the garden. There are a number of things to consider when assessing the yard and deciding on the design and location of your new vegetable garden.
- interference with other backyard activities
- sunlight and shade
- competition from tree roots
- protection from pets and wildlife
- ease of access from the kitchen
- climate and micro-climates
- vertical space
- sufficient depth of soil (15 to 30 cm / 6 to 12 inches)
- how much you want to grow
As a generalisation vegetables need at least 6 hours of sun each day, sunlight is particularly important in cool and temperature climates. Without sun, the fruits will not ripen and the plants will be stressed. There are a some crops that can survive in light shade or less sun, such as lettuce and other greens, broccoli and cole crops (that is the cabbage family). And in warmer climates plants don’t need quite as many hours of sunlight.
If you don’t have a spot of full sun then the range of vegetables will be greatly reduced. One option to consider is growing your veggies in pots that can be moved as the angle of the sun changes during the year. Even if you can’t grow a wide range of vegetables, some home grown salad leaves and herbs will still be a delight on the table.
The house block runs east-west, and slopes slightly to the north west, resulting in lots of sun and little shade in the backyard, with no problem trees. Despite the fact that I live in an area of moderately steep hills, the back-yard is almost flat, so the slope will not make gardening difficult, but it does add slightly to the sun exposure. Please don’t get confused if you live in the northern hemisphere, you will need a south facing slope.
I have chickens which produce eggs and manure (well there is only one now, but she will soon have some friends). One of the problems I have had in the past is that the hens would find the veggie garden too tempting and would dig up my crops at the most inconvenient time. Now many people will cage their chickens to allow their vegetables to free-range in the yard. But I have always found that its the hens that get bored, need exercise, and generally benefit from being free-range, where as vegetables don’t mind being in a cage at all.
This garden has a conveniently fenced area that would be a perfect site for my new vegetable patch. I envisage a row of raised vegetable garden beds along the inside of the fence. The fence could be used to support some tall or climbing plants. Perhaps also a passion fruit vine running along part of it. One end does have a couple of bushes and a fence that shade that section of the yard, making it a less appropriate site for the vegetable beds.
The fenced area is also the best place for the chickens, so I am consdiering dividing the area so that the chickens can take advantage of the shade and protection of the bushes, whilst the veggies have the sunny end of the area. Having both the vegetables and the chickens in the fenced off area leaves the other half of the yard for other activities like bar-be-ques, playing children and dogs.
One obstacle of the fenced area is that it contains a large concrete slab, where there was once a garage. The slab is turning out to be even larger than I first thought, but I am not deterred by that. The slab itself can be used for plants in containers, some sort of greenhouse or a work table. Even if I don’t use it for those purposes, a raised bed can work well on a slab as long as there is a system for drainage from the bottom. After all a raised vegetable garden bed is no different to a plant pot with the bottom removed.
The Front Yard
Along the front of the house are some concrete raised beds, that already contain a few herbs and strawberries as a legacy of the previous gardener. There is even a grapevine which grow up the balustrade of the front steps. Between the house and the trees these beds don’t get enough sun for vegetables, but the herbs are doing well. The grapes apparently have not produced decent fruit, so I will see if some t.l.c. will make any difference.