Choosing the most suitable place available for your vegetable garden is a key step in planning a vegetable garden. A vegetable garden located in a place that can provide your vegetable plants with all their requirements will be healthy, productive, and easier to care for and maintain.
Given below are the requirements that the area where you will start your vegetable garden will need to have. Going through this list will help you decide if you have suitable garden space to start an in-ground vegetable garden, in case you’ve not yet figured out the type of vegetable garden that’s best for you.
- An Area that Gets Enough Sunlight
The most important aspect to consider when deciding where to place your vegetable garden is to find a place that gets enough sunlight. Vegetable plants are usually the most productive when they get 6-8 hours of sunlight a day. So ideally, you should first try to mark out an area that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight a day.
If you can’t find a place that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight a day you can make do with areas that get at least 2-4 hours of sun by planting vegetables that are suitable for more shaded areas. Completely shaded areas should be avoided altogether since vegetables have to have some exposure to the sun to be able to photosynthesize and make their own food.
Alternatively, too much sun can also be a bad thing because like us plants can also get sunburned. If the area that you have in mind for your vegetable garden is an area that gets too much sun, you may have to use a shade cloth to protect your plants. In addition, if you live in an area that gets quite warm during the day, the morning sun will be preferable to the afternoon sun.
- Near a Source of Water
After making sure that your vegetable plants will get enough sunlight, their next most important need is to get enough water. Locating your vegetable garden near a water source will help you properly water the vegetable garden.
The easier it is to water your garden the more likely you are to keep watering it properly. Vegetable plants that are watered just enough are more likely to be able to fight pests and diseases than plants that are over-watered or under-watered.
The first in-ground vegetable garden that I had was about 10 feet away from the closest garden tap. At first, I didn’t have a watering hose to use and had to carry water in little buckets, which was all that I could manage. This meant that I had to walk up and down each evening to water my garden, which was exhausting. As I could only bring in a limited amount of water each time, I wasn’t able to deeply water my garden and had to instead water it more frequently. Had I realized how much not having a proper water source would have impacted the health of my garden and the time and energy I had to spend, I would have located my vegetable garden closer to a tap or invested in a watering hose a lot earlier.
- An Area with Proper Air Circulation
Proper air circulation is important for vegetable plants as it helps photosynthesis and prevents diseases.
Photosynthesis is the process that plants use to make their own food. This process requires plants to take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen through openings in the leaves known as stomata. Good air circulation around the plant is needed for both the intake of carbon dioxide and the release of oxygen to take place properly.
In addition, plants release water through stomata, which creates the flow of water needed for plants to take in more water through their roots. Good air circulation can help this process by creating a continuous flow of water through the plant so that the plant gets as much water as needed.
Proper air circulation around the plant can also help excess water on the leaves to dry up faster. This prevents the plant from being affected by bacterial, fungal, and viral diseases that need extra moisture to thrive.
On the other hand, too much wind can dry out the plant and disturb important processes, including the fertilization of flowers in fruiting vegetables, such as tomatoes. Growing plants close together but with enough room for air circulation for each individual plant is helpful. This can also prevent individual plants from being damaged by strong winds and heavy rains.
- Good Drainage
Despite having high water requirements, there are very few vegetables that will grow in waterlogged conditions. This means that you should choose a location that has well-draining soil.
Plant roots need to be able to take in oxygen. Plants get oxygen into their roots from the air that circulates in the tiny spaces between particles of soil. Under waterlogged conditions, water fills these tiny spaces and doesn’t allow air to flow through. Root failure can take place if the soil around the root is continuously waterlogged.
If you have soil on flat ground that doesn’t drain that well, creating a slight slope can make it easier for water to move away from your vegetable garden.
- Level Ground or a Slight Slope
In-ground vegetable gardens should be placed in an area with level ground or ground with just a slight slope. This is because the soil and nutrients are more likely to get washed out from areas with steep slopes. Additionally, the foot of a slope can easily become water-logged or muddy, which isn’t ideal for most vegetable plants.
If you can’t find any level ground or if your garden is on a large slope, you can install raised beds that follow the natural slope of your garden. If raised garden beds would be too expensive to get started with, you can also start with a container vegetable garden in a different place.
- Healthy Living Soil
Fertile and healthy soil is very important to successfully grow a vegetable garden. If you are growing an in-ground vegetable garden, you should choose an area that has the best soil. That being said, I wouldn’t worry too much if you don’t have very good soil because there are some workarounds that you can get away with.
Loamy soil is the best for most vegetables because it retains moisture, drains well, and allows enough air to reach the roots. Importantly loamy soil is also living soil because it contains beneficial soil organisms that will help replenish nutrients and keep your soil healthy. Using only organic methods will keep your soil alive.
Vegetables can even be grown in sandy or clay soil as long as enough compost is added on top or mixed into the topsoil and only organic gardening practices are used. This will allow soil organisms to have enough food, in other terms ‘organic matter’, to feed on and multiply. Eventually, they will be able to colonize the sand or clay and make the soil have a loamy texture.
Alternatively, if you don’t have good soil or if you suspect or know that your soil is contaminated you can install raised beds that aren’t directly connected to the ground or grow your vegetables in containers. You can then use potting soil, compost, cocopeat, and other organic material to grow your vegetables.
- Easy Access to your Vegetable Garden
Even if you provide your plants with the optimum growing conditions, you will still have to visit your vegetable garden for at least a few minutes every day to check on your plants to see if they are doing alright. Identifying issues as early on as possible will make it possible to help your plants before any pest, disease, or nutrient deficiency issues get out of hand. This means that you need to place your vegetable garden in a place that you can easily get to.
I prefered to have a container garden even though I had enough space to place all my plants in an in-ground vegetable garden because I knew that I only had early mornings before work and late evenings after work to spend in my garden during weekdays. I grew vegetable plants that needed extra care, like tomatoes, in containers and only grew plants that didn’t need much care, such as okra and eggplant, directly in the ground.
As you can see, a vegetable garden needs to have enough sunlight, water, air circulation, drainage, level ground or a slight slope, and good soil to be productive. In addition, you have to be able to easily get to your garden to be able to care for and maintain it. Selecting the best location possible for your vegetable garden even before you start will ensure that you will have the most productive garden possible using just the space, time, and effort that you can spare.
This post is part of a series of blog posts on the 7 steps of planning a vegetable garden. You can download the FREE workbook ‘Plan Your Own Vegetable Garden’, which will provide you with more information on each of these 7 steps and help you plan your own vegetable garden.