How to Lay Out a Vegetable Garden

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There is nothing more satisfying or delicious than growing and eating your own food. From the soft asparagus tips to tasty homegrown tomatoes, having a garden full of beautiful and productive plants brings an exceptional sense of accomplishment. To grow and enjoy such an amazing harvest, however, it is important that you plan the best garden layout based on your space and the plants you want to grow.

There are several ways to layout a vegetable garden. This totally depends on what you intend to grow and personal preferences. For instance, besides the produce, do you also care much about aesthetics? Are you also cautious about getting the more quantity produce from your garden? There are many reasons that prompt gardening enthusiast to lay out their gardens.

That said, follow the steps below on how to layout a vegetable garden, including several garden layout ideas you can put to practice.

1.    Select the Garden Site

Selecting where you want your garden placed is the first and most important factor. Your selection criteria should be based on a number of factors. Some of the questions to guide your selection include;

  • Where does most sun shine? – Vegetables require at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day to grow healthy. Regardless of where you live, the east, south, and west parts receive more sunlight than the north. Therefore, you might consider situating your garden in sites facing these directions.
  • Perfect spot – placing your garden on your backyard may not be a good idea. Laying out your garden along the entrance is much better since you will be watching it unconsciously as you pass by. This way, you will easily notice when watering is needed, when pests invade or when pruning is required.
  • Is there any vegetation around? If your backyard is full of shrubs and trees, they will compete with your garden vegetables not only for moisture in the soil but also nutrients and sunlight. Some shrubs, also such as walnut trees, produce toxins that may harm the vegetables.
  • How far is your source of water? You should ensure that the area selected for your gardening activities isn’t far from water sources. This will make it easy to water the garden all around.
  • How much space do you need? Whereas having a big garden is a great idea, it might be overwhelming, especially for new gardeners. Therefore, it is wise to start small with a few raised beds and containers and scale up as years pass by.

2.    Outline What You Like

Once you have settled the prerequisites of the first step, the next step involves listing the vegetables you’d like to have in your garden. Culinary masters, for instance, will have tomatoes as their top priority hoping to make fabulous meals afterward. Before setting out to purchase any of the seedlings, have a full list of what you’d love to plant and allocate sufficient space for each.

When doing this, it is wise to have space-saving trellises that can support vining plants such as peas and cucumbers. If you want perennial plants such as strawberries and asparagus in food list, ensure that you settle on a permanent plot.

3.    Lay Out the Garden on Paper

The idea of drawing on a paper may give most gardeners the flashbacks of geometry classes with graph papers. Well, they are among the essential tools when planning a garden layout. Putting your garden on paper before lifting a shovel is important as it saves on time and gardeners avoid unnecessary mistakes.

To have the garden on paper, measure the approximate length, width, and use the ratio of 1 graph box representing 1 foot on the graph paper to draw. Sketch the containers and beds if you intend to use them, leaving enough space for various gardening activities. Make sure that you limit the garden width to approximately 3 feet so that you can reach across the bed without having to step on the soil while planting, weeding, or harvesting.

4.    Add the Plants

The final step is adding the vegetables you want to grow in the garden to the planner on paper. When doing this, ensure that you leave enough space between each. That said, you should identify the various space requirements for each plant. Check out various planting guides for various plants to ease your planning.

Also, keep in mind that planting crowded plants isn’t prudent as they will compete for sunlight, nutrients, and water, which may hinder their productivity. As a rule of the thumb, grow tall vegetables at the back of the bed, mid-sized plants at the middle and small plants in front.

Make sure that you blend the vegetables with pollinator plants that attract beneficial insects to your garden. The insects will not only help you get a better harvest but also prey on damaging garden pests.

If this isn’t your first time growing the garden, avoid growing the same vegetables in the same beds. Rotate the plants this coming season to prevent soil pests and diseases from preying on the plants. Learn more about crop rotation to help you harvest more.

Best Vegetable Garden Layout Options

For those starting out on gardening, there are various things to consider before planning a vegetable garden layout. Most plants thrive well in well-draining and nutrient-rich soil. Therefore, it is a good idea if you take a sample of your garden soil for a soil test to find out its composition. From this, you can identify what your soil has, lacks, and needs.

Below are some of the best vegetable garden layout options you can try out in your backyard.

ü  Rows

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Rows are probably the most common and basic vegetable garden plan. As the name suggests, it consists of straight, long rows that run from north to south of the garden. The reason behind the north-south orientation is to ensure that vegetables get sufficient sun exposure and good air circulation. Setting up a vegetable garden in an east-west orientation minimizes on sun exposure.

You should also grow tall plants such as beans and corn towards the north side so that they don’t shade the small plants. Grow medium-sized plants such as squash, cabbage, and tomatoes at the centre and short crops like radishes, carrots, and lettuce at the southern end.

ü  The Four Square Layout

Nearly all these vegetable garden layout ideas are defined by their names. This plan, just like the name suggests, requires that gardeners divide the garden into four squares. This results in four categories of beds, all composed differently depending on the nutritional requirements of the plants to be grown.

Heavy feeder crops such as leafy greens and corns that require a lot of nutrients should be planted in one square bed. Mid-feeder crops such as peppers and tomatoes should be put in a separate bed as turnips and carrots, which are light feeders grown in another bed. Similarly, soil builders that leach nitrogen into the soil such as peas should be grouped together.

The main advantage of this garden layout is that gardeners will practice effective crop rotation. For easy reference, start from the top-left moving in the clockwise direction. Have the heavy feeders, middle feeders, light feeders, and finally soil builders in that order. After harvesting, rotate the crops to the next successive bed. This helps reduce soil diseases and pests.

ü  The Square Foot Layout

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In this layout, vegetable plots are set up in 4X4 squares with wood or strings attached to divide the beds into equal square-foot parts. Unlike the four-square layout, only one type of plant is planted in each section. If vines are planted, they are planted at the back end with a trellis to help the plants grow up.

For the plants to grow in healthily, the number of plants planted in each section is determined by dividing the size of the space by the number of spacing inches required per plant. For instance, carrots require at least 3 inches to grow well. For a garden square of 12 inches, you will have 4 carrots per row. Therefore, you will have a maximum of 16 carrot plants that can be grown.

ü  Block Layout

Better known as the close row or wide row layout, growing plants in this layout significantly increase yields compared to the traditional row layout. It also helps in suppressing yields. The idea behind revolves planting vegetables in rectangular blocks or beds in contrast to the long single rows. This eliminates the need of having surplus walkways, thus maximizing gardening space.

Vegetables in this layout are grouped together, thus require fertile and well-drained organic soil. They will also require frequent fertilization to supplement the available nutrients. A common issue with this model is gardeners tend to overcrowd the plants which may reduce air circulation and bring up diseases.

ü  Vertical Layout

Growing your garden in a vertical way is another viable option. This is a good option for gardeners with limited farming space. Due to this, instead of planting the garden in typical beds, take advantage of the vertical space, which involves growing plants in hanging baskets, upside down or along a trellis. Stackable containers can also be used to allow gardeners to grow several plants in one space by stacking pots on top of another.


The guide above is a one-stop-shop for those having doubts on how to layout their gardens. This is a common dilemma for gardeners every season. It is important to find a suitable garden layout based on the crops you intend to grow. Besides, explore widely on how best you can utilize the minimal gardening space for more harvests.

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