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Placing a Vegetable Patch

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 21 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Vegetable Patch Vegetables Landscape

Placement of a vegetable patch is probably the most important element in ensuring a successful crop year on year. But many people won't have much of a choice because household gardens in the United Kingdom have got smaller in recent years as developers chase higher profits and we turned to gardens as leisure facilities rather than essential food producing tools.

Compromise is Common

Placing a vegetable patch was touched on in our article on designing a landscape to cater for such a plot and in this article we'll go into it in more depth. We also touched on the need for compromise.

As many gardens simply won't have nice south-facing plots sheltered by walls with lovely loamy soil, decisions will have to be made as to how much you prioritise food production and how the vegetable patch fits in with the any other uses of the garden, be they ornamental, practical or entertaining.

Look at Where the Sun Shines

The plot needs to have access to sun for as much of the year as possible and shelter from the worst of the wind and rain. Ideally it will be south facing and have a wall or a fence along at least one side. A corner is ideal. As the vast majority of people won't have a south-facing garden the compromise is likely to be about placing the vegetable patch in the most southerly aspect.

It's not the end of the world if the garden faces due north because unless you're really unlucky there'll be a plot at the end that will get sun for most of the year. If it's in shade for the autumn and winter then that might lead you to choose different crops for that period, more tubers and fewer leafy crops.

Line Up Your Rows

Regardless of the orientation of the garden, you should make sure that your rows of crops go along a north-south axis. This will enable the slanting sun's rays to reach as many of the vegetables as possible and prevent one row from taking sun from the next.

The impact of this from a landscape point of view is that you need paths or stepping stones between the rows so that you can access all the crops without accidentally treading on their neighbours. So put these into the equation when you're making drawings and planning layouts and areas.

Arrange Plants Carefully

The planting plan should also take into account plant heights and the nature of their growth, long and straggly or dense and bushy. If you put a row of shrub-like herbs at the back of the vegetable patch and plant pumpkins or squashes in front of them then you'll never see the herbs again. The pumpkins will sprawl all over them, taking over and stealing all the light with their huge umbrella-like leaves.

Similarly vegetables that climb, like tomatoes, beans and peas, should be at the back on structures that will support their growth. This is one reason why it’s good to have walls or fences at the edge of the plot. As well as providing shelter the supports for climbing fruit and vegetables can be fixed to them.

Suck it and See

Don't be too concerned about the placement of a vegetable patch. If the worst comes to the worst and you get no worthwhile growth at all you can always dig it over the following year, cut up the turf in a new spot and lay it over the old vegetable patch.

Gardening is not an exact science and trial and error is all part of the process.

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