Looking for some amazing backyard vegetable garden design ideas? There are a lot of different options for backyard vegetable garden design, but I have broken down the basic elements so that it’s easy to put together what will work for you. If the basic elements are there, the setup for the backyard garden can vary widely.
There doesn’t have be a massive agricultural setup for the garden to supply the kitchen and save quite a bit of money. While some people do take advantage of having extra land to get a large agricultural operation, the more common backyard garden is not going to have massive greenhouses and intricate irrigation systems. That does not mean that a backyard vegetable garden can’t have a significant impact on the grocery budget. Every little bit helps, and a properly maintained vegetable garden can produce a surprisingly large harvest.
The best vegetable garden designs can all be traced back to the planning. An hour of planning can be worth days and perhaps even weeks of trial and error. Ensuring that the plants are easily accessible and very productive often coincides with how inviting it is to pollinators, and how protected it is from garden critters. A little bit of planning can also help to make sure the garden is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the kitchen table.
Having a large, open area in the yard to put the garden in helps with accessibility and potential critter damage. This allows for access pathways and fencing. (I’ll go into that more later.) The space selected for the garden should have good lighting, and is usually the best if on the South, Southwest or Southeastern sides of structures (in the northern hemisphere).
Make sure to check for long shadows. Trees and buildings can be deceptive in the shadows they cast, often being hundreds of feet away from themselves in the early morning and late afternoon. A vegetable garden needs at least 5-6 hours of direct sun per day, best between 9am and 4pm.
The placement of the different plants within the garden makes a difference too. If plants like cabbage are planted to the north of a bunch of rows of pole beans, the beans can end up shading the cabbage and impacting the quality of the crop. It is best if rows are planted in a north to south orientation, with taller plants (pole bean, gave bean, tomato, etc) on the north side, and shorter plants (cabbage, onion, zucchini, etc) on the south side.
With the placing of the different types of plants situated, the spacing of each plant becomes important. Some plants can grow in close quarters (onion, potato, etc), while others need room to spread (watermelon, pumpkin, etc). The needs for each plant differ, and taking the time to look into the best spacing for each plant will result in a higher yield, and better quality harvest.
Spacing is essential, but so is timing. While succession sowing is always recommended (planting a specific type of crop days or weeks apart to ensure a longer harvest time), multiple plants can make this difficult and hard to keep track of without a planting calendar. Taking the time to look into the timing, and harvest of each plant will help make harvest time longer and more fruitful.
Types of Gardens
There are many different types of gardens. No matter where you live, there is a vegetable garden that will work for you. If there isn’t very much space to work with, no worries! If there are acres and acres to plan out, there are many different setups that will work to your advantage, no matter the landscape.
Greenhouses are always a good idea, no matter the hardiness zone you are located in. With the more northern climates, a greenhouse provides a wonderful place to increase the growing and harvest season, as well as an early start to the growing season. Greenhouses in the southern hardiness zones can end up getting too hot, and making sure there are removable sides or adequate cooling will be essential to keep the plants from wilting from the heat.
There are any types of in-ground garden beds that will work well with different types of plants. Doing a little bit of research goes a long way. There are sloped gardens, where the plants that need the most drainage are placed at the highest point of the slope, and those that need more moisture sit pleasantly at the bottom of the slope.
Raised beds are a fan favorite, with many different options of height, location and building material available to suit any need. More about what to build a raised bed from can be found here. There are also pre-made tubs and toughs that make wonderful raised beds without the hassle of building one from scratch.
While in-ground, greenhouse, and raised bed gardens provide a lot of possibilities for horizontal growth, vertical gardening has become more and more popular. The wide range of materials and setups for vertical gardening means that no matter if you are working with a severely limited space, or simply want to make use of a well lit section of wall, plants can be grown and food can be harvested. Vertical gardening is especially popular in more urban areas because of the utilization of vertical space that makes small spaces and multi-use a trendy addition to any living space.
Access and Perimeter
The setup of backyard vegetable gardens are dependent on the available space and light. An important portion of the planning that often gets overlooked is the access to the plants themselves. Without proper access to weed, prune and tend the plants, the harvest can suffer. With access to all sides of the plant, and proper protection from hungry garden friends, backyard vegetable gardens can thrive!
Pathways provide circulation to the plants themselves, protecting from fungal infestations and other diseases that occur when there isn’t enough air circulation. The main pathways through the garden should be at least 30″ wide, with beds being about 4′ wide. This allows for easy access to all the plants in the beds and all the sides of the plants for maintenance.
Pathways between the different beds can be made out of anything. (Some people even choose to let grass grow between beds. I do not recommend this for beginners or those who have limited time for gardening, simply because it adds another plant that needs to be tended and increases the maintenance requirements for the garden.) Some pathways are simply garden soil with stepping stones. There are pathways made from mulch or rocks. Decomposed granite is one of my personal favorites. As long as the pathway is able to keep the walkway clear and needs little to no maintenance, have fun coming up with a creative and aesthetically pleasing avenue through the garden.
Depending on the location of your garden, pests might be only insects, birds or rabbits, or larger ones like deer or bears. Providing protection from other creatures trying to take advantage of your beautifully cultivated garden is important. In some places it is more of a necessity than others. While insects are most likely an issue no matter where you live, birds and common garden critters that might be wanted or tolerated in other parts of the garden become a real nuisance when they effect the yield of a kitchen garden. Proper walls or fencing can help with that. Making sure to install edging down past the line of the soil will help to keep out burrowing animals.
There are also many methods for keeping out birds, but their ability to fly in makes them a more frustrating adversary. Enter the scarecrow. There are less traditional methods to use, to keep birds away now, but who can forget the first of Dorthy’s friends that helped get her back to Kansas.
Common Types of Backyard Vegetable Garden Design Ideas
When it comes to the setup of the beds themselves, I have already gone over orientation of the garden in relation to structures and the plants themselves within the garden. Now I’ll discuss the many options available for the actual setup of how to do the gardening.
With any gardening method, there are certain staples that can be set up a variety of ways. There are raised beds of many different sizes and shapes. Many people like to build their own raised garden beds. Raised beds are often rectangle or square, but are available pre-made in all sorts of shapes. A commonly purchased raised bed is made out of galvanized steel in an oval shape.
There are also the traditional in-ground gardens that are most commonly done in long rows. While any gardening method can be done in the traditional in-ground format, lots of gardeners like to use four squares or blocks when limited on space but wanting to grow a wide variety of veggies.
A popular method is called “Square foot gardening”. There are books, articles and videos on this method. It’s sectioning the garden into 1 foot by 1 foot squares, and planting according to the optimal number of plants of whichever type that can grow in that allotted space for the best results. For some plants it’s just one, for others, many.
This method is so popular, that many products have been created to help make square foot gardening even easier. I recently came across such a product, that I think is a game changer! While the square foot gardening method makes planning, planting and harvesting much simpler, watering is still a necessary chore. The Garden Grid Watering System makes watering a cinch! With the customizable setup, the size and shape of the garden doesn’t matter! As long as the square foot gardening method is being used, the hose hookup watering system makes watering simply a matter of turning on and off (or using a timer)!
There is also the question of what to grow in the garden? My recommendation will depend on what level of experience there is. Beginners might be better served by starting off with a herb garden. Often times herbs are a bit more hardy and tolerant of a learning curve.
A moderate amount of experience might mean it’s time to move on to a salad garden. Growing an assortment of greens to be made into salads can provide a lot of good experience on the more tender plants, and their increased maintenance requirements.
For the seasoned gardener, a full kitchen garden with fruits and veggies will mean more planning, attention, and time. It will also, however, mean a leaner grocery bill and a lot of wonderful, garden to table meals!
Backyard Vegetable Gardening Pays Off in So Many Ways
I can taste it now! The delicious spring salad with cherry tomatoes, carrots, onion and herb roasted chicken on top made primarily from ingredients grown right in my backyard! One of my favorite things about the backyard vegetable garden is the money saved in the produce section at the grocery store. I also feel like I have a better sense of well-being. Spending the time out in nature helps me to calm and center myself in a way no yoga class has been able to. (Don’t get me wrong… I love my yoga class!) The connection to nature and the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment just can’t be replicated in any other way. On top of that, yard work helps to keep the pounds off! Who doesn’t love that?!
Do you have any recommendations or feedback to add to the discussion? Please feel free to comment below! I answer every comment. You can also email me at Randi@FairyCircleGarden.com or send me a message through Facebook or Instagram as well!
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