Admit it: you’ve always wanted to put your green thumb to the test. Maybe you haven’t had the chance before, or maybe you want to tackle something bigger?
This article provides you with an introduction to the topic of vegetable gardening. More precisely: how to plan a vegetable garden. This step is indispensable if you want to avoid mistakes that you might have to correct later with a lot of effort. With our tips, you should thus soon be reaping your first rewards.
1 What kind of vegetable garden do you want to plan?
First of all, of course, you should be aware of what need you want your vegetable garden to fulfil. Do you simply want to grow a few beloved varieties of vegetables to supplement your groceries? Or are you planning a self-sufficient vegetable garden?
Of course, the space available to you as a vegetable garden has a decisive influence on your possibilities. Depending on what you plant, you can also plant more or less. Potatoes need much more space than radishes, for example.
Tip: It is said that a self-sufficient vegetable garden for a family of 4 usually takes up about 150 m2 of space.
2 Determining the location for your vegetable garden
Choose a sunny location
The be-all and end-all of any vegetable garden is: plenty of sun! Sunlight is essential for the growth of your vegetables. This is especially true for vegetables that tend to accumulate nitrate (a nutrient that helps the plant grow by building proteins). Examples of this are leafy vegetables such as spinach and rocket, cabbage vegetables or root vegetables such as radishes and beetroot.
But be careful: nitrate can be harmful to your health in large quantities! Therefore, a sunny location is all the more important, as this reduces the release of the substance into the leaves of the plant.
Enough sun also helps to ensure that your vegetables develop sufficient nutrients and a good flavour.
Last but not least, a location with lots of sunshine means that you can use almost the whole year, from the beginning of spring to the end of autumn, to grow your vegetables.
The right amount of wind
A little breeze is ideal for your vegetables. A very windy location means that the soil is dried out by the wind. This, together with the lower temperatures, slows down the growth rate of your vegetables.
On the other hand, a windless location is unfavourable, as pests and fungi have an easy game and are thus more likely to spread.
When should you get a raised bed?
In addition to the suitable location, you also have to decide whether to plant directly in the ground or to buy raised beds. The latter have both advantages and disadvantages. You can find more detailed information here.
A raised bed is especially recommended if the soil in your garden is not very nutritious. In this case, a raised bed allows you to match humus and soil perfectly and individually to your vegetables.
It is also suitable if you have little space or problems with your back or knees. You hardly have to weed either.
Finally, raised beds are a much more effective protection against slugs compared to slug fences.
Plant it on the balcony?
Of course, you can also plant your vegetables on the balcony. Note, however, that you will need more water, as there is less soil than in a garden and it therefore dries out more quickly in the sun. In this case, it is advisable to choose plant pots that are as large as possible and to check the moisture content of the soil often with a finger test. Especially with root vegetables such as fennel, tall plant pots are important so that the roots have enough space.
Tip: Choose plant pots with holes in the bottom to avoid waterlogging. And don’t forget a saucer!
You can also set up a raised bed on a balcony, of course. This is particularly useful if the sun does not reach your vegetables, or reaches them too little – due to concrete walls, for example.
But here, too, you have to plan: the raised bed, including soil and vegetables, must not weigh more than the capacity of your balcony.
In addition, the raised bed must not stand directly on the floor of your balcony. This is important to prevent waterlogging as the water cannot seep into the soil as it would in a garden.
3 Plant selection according to the prevailing climate
When choosing vegetables, you should of course also consider your climate. In warmer climates, you have practically all options open to you. However, if you live at higher altitudes, you should consider using a greenhouse when planting vegetables that prefer a warmer climate, such as tomatoes.
In addition to a greenhouse, it is also a good idea to use a planted fence or a hedge that is not too dense as protection from strong winds. A height of approximately 120 cm is ideal here.
4 Planning beds and paths
Now that you have chosen your location and your vegetables, it’s time to create your vegetable garden plan! The visualisation not only helps you to get a quick overview, but also allows for easy re-planning. This plan will also give you a first idea of the size and dimension of your vegetable garden.
Basically, you should plan space for the following:
- the vegetable beds
- storage areas
- the compost
If necessary, you can also add more, for example:
- a greenhouse
- cold frames
- a garden shed
- a well or water supply
We recommend that you place composting areas, storage areas, greenhouses and garden sheds at the edge of your vegetable garden. This is important so that they do not cast too much shade on your vegetables. Nevertheless, they should of course be easily accessible.
Tip: You can place larger elements on the northern side of your vegetable garden so that they create as little shade as possible. The compost can moreover be placed in the shade so that it does not dry out.
If you need to add water access right by your vegetable garden, place it centrally.
Beds: number and size
A width of about 120 cm for your beds is ideal. This way you can easily reach your vegetables from both sides, which is of course important for care and harvesting. You can also try this out in your garden by sitting down and seeing how far your arms reach.
You are free to choose the length of your beds. However, it is advisable to keep your beds uniform in size. This way you can change the vegetables grown in your beds every year without much trouble. This also makes crop rotation easier, as the type of mixed crop can be maintained.
You should lay out your beds so that you still have space for paths between them. You should plan at least one main path that is 1 m wide. This allows you to walk through your vegetable garden with a wheelbarrow, for example.
For the smaller paths between the beds, 60-70 cm is sufficient. Especially for fences and hedges, you should keep this distance anyway, as your vegetables would not grow so well here. In addition, you still have enough space to trim your hedge or maintain your fence.
The theory is in place. Now it’s time to get down to business! You can find tips on this in our second part. Have fun!