veggie bootcamp : choosing a garden location

learn to grow organic vegetables selecting garden location

So you want to grow veggies! Awesome! Super! Fantastic!

Now what? Where do we start?

First things first. Let’s pick a spot.

There are lots of options now. You can grow veggies

  • in pots on your balcony or windowsill
  • in a plot at a community garden
  • in your front yard
  • in a neighbour’s yard
  • on a green roof
  • in raised beds
  • in an abandoned or vacant lot
  • in a stranger’s yard as part of a yard-share program
  • on borrowed or rented farm land
  • in a school garden
  • in a greenhouse

The list goes on and on. No matter where you garden, you have to keep a few things in mind when choosing a garden location.

Considerations for vegetable garden site location:

Sun:

You need at least 6 hours of sun per day to grow veggies successfully.

Different veg have different requirements. Green, leafy veg often appreciates a bit of shade during the heat of the day. Fruiting plants like tomatoes and peppers want lots of hot sun to produce ripe, tasty fruit.

Ideal situation? A nice spot with full sun and southern exposure.

Soil:

If you’re gardening in containers this isn’t an issue. Get yourself some gorgeous organic potting soil, amend it with some fine compost and worm castings, keep it well fed throughout the growing season and you’ll be good.

For the rest of us – Ideally we want a nice sandy loam soil with beautiful crumb, good drainage, lots of organic matter, a neutral pH and  just crawling with worms.

I know, I know. It’s not an ideal world.

Good news? Our soil when we started was crap. I mean CRAP. Terrible, nasty, lifeless dirt. Not soil at all.

It’s gorgeous, dark, rich soil now . . . the kind that springs back up after you step. A less-than-ideal spot is often fixable, but try to find the best soil you can. It will mean less work for you, and we’re all about less work.

Avoid anything that is contaminated or has been badly abused. It’s not worth the risk to your health.

Water:

Is there water nearby and easily accessible?

Make it easy for yourself to look after your garden and you’ll have better success.

Hand watering might be fine for a tiny spot that you pass by regularly, but if you’re forgetful, you might want to consider something more fool-proof like a drip system on a timer.

Be realistic and consider your crop. A garden of established hardy herbs like rosemary and thyme is going to be a lot more forgiving than delicate greens or thirsty fruiting plants.

Also, be creative – be on the lookout for opportunities to capture rainwater. Every little bit helps.

Wind:

Not too much, not too little.

Your plants need room to breathe – lack of air movement leads to mildews and disease and generally unhappy plants. Too much wind and you will loose precious moisture through increased evaporation.

Hot / Cold Pockets:

Most of us know heat rises. Cold sinks.

Low-lying areas of the garden, or spaces at the bottom of a slope are likely to harbour chilly spots in the garden.

Likewise, that spot out of the wind next to the garden shed might get scorching hot mid-summer.

Having hot or cold pockets doesn’t make a site unusable, you just need to be mindful when it comes to planting what where. We’ll talk about that later. For now, just take note.

Drainage:

What is a thick, lush pasture in summer might be a mud-puddle come spring. Sometimes poor drainage, either too much or too little, is solvable by adding organic matter to the soil. Sometimes it’s not.

Probably best to avoid any spots that become a lake at any point during the year. Just sayin’.

Access:

Gardening is hard enough work as it is. Don’t pick a spot that requires you to lug all your equipment in and out with difficulty.

If the garden is on your own property, put it someplace where you’ll have room to include tool storage and easy access to both the water and the compost.

Whatever you do, don’t plan to put the compost in some tucked away corner of the garden.

You’ll thank me later.

Crop Choices:

If you want to grow tomatoes and peppers, your shady backyard probably isn’t going to cut it.

We grow all our tomatoes where our front lawn used to be. The tomatoes love it. So do all our neighbours who come by summer evenings with pockets full of plastic bags looking for handouts.

If you want to grow delicate herbs or salad greens, a backyard that gets partial shade during the day will probably be fine.

Lifestyle / Gardening Goal

I never understood folks who allow themselves to be run out of their own yard by their veggie garden. If you are gardening at home, for heaven sakes, leave some room for YOU!

If you have dogs, or kids, or chickens, or an ultimate-frisbee addiction, take that into account when choosing your garden space. If you are busy but love to cook, put your garden close to the kitchen door. Maybe all you have time for is herbs on the windowsill. It’s all good.

Again, just be realistic. Choose your garden based on your REAL life, not the life you daydream about in the hammock with a cold one.

Every garden benefits from space to sit down and enjoy a bite of all that beautiful food you’re working so hard to grow. For me, a bit of shade in all that green, a slice of tomato and a bit of salt? Heaven. Absolute heaven.

Then again, maybe you’re running a market garden and are measuring your success by dollar per square foot. If that’s you, that’s ok too, but I still think you should have a space to stop and smell the oregano.

 

Where does your garden grow? What do you love about your garden location? What do you hate?

2 thoughts on “veggie bootcamp : choosing a garden location

    1. The Slow Foods Mama Post author

      You’ll do fine in pots! Sometimes it’s easier, (as long as you remember to water) – you have more control over your soil and have the luxury of moving them around. We grow our peppers in 12″ pots with lots of success. There are lots of varieties out there especially for pots now – you’ll have lots of choice. Have fun!

      Reply

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