Selecting your vegetable garden site

Vegetable garden site selection is critical for the success of your home or market garden. You need to consider the following factors is selecting your site:

Sunshine: while you want a vegetable garden site with a minimum of 10 hours direct sun daily, there are some crops that can survive with less e.g. carrots, lettuces.

At New Terra Farm we have a 'sunny garden' and a 'shady garden'. The sunny garden is in full sun all day, while the shady garden has some trees to the east and south. We use the sunny garden for the earliest crops and for fruiting vegetables, like tomatoes, squash and peppers, that require a full day of sunlight.

We plant the shady garden later in the season; it takes longer for that site to warm up. But in the full heat of summer, it's a good place to grow lettuces and greens that need some shade.

Slope: The next factor to consider for your vegetable garden site is the slope of the site. Cold air tends to run down slopes, so early in the season make sure you plant high up on the slope. A site that slopes slightly to the east or south is ideal for early vegetables.

Slope is also important for drainage. Our sunny garden slopes to the east, but we have a couple spots that 'dip' and therefore stay wet longer in the spring. These spots have to be tilled and planted later than the rest of the garden.

But, also be aware that planting at the very top of a slope in a windy area can dry out or break your plants. If you are in a very windy area, try to select a site with some windbreak on the prevailing side.

Soil: Finally, you have to consider soil when selecting your site (soil is last, because you can amend and improve soil but its hard to fix sunlight and slope.)

If your soil is shallow or very heavy, root systems may not develop very well, and drainage may be a problem. Raised beds can help with these problems. The soil in my garden is a fertile but heavy clay-loam; I use raised beds exclusively in my garden. Raised beds warm up quicker in the spring, too.

Logistics: There are other considerations for your vegetable garden site, for example access to the site to bring in equipment and bring out crops. I have a road that runs between my two gardens, and I also leave a 'truck-wide' path down the middle of my bigger, sunny garden to get stuff in and out.

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Starting out with a good site selection make your gardening, easier, earlier and more productive. An ounce of 'plan' is better than a pound of 'fix'.

See Also: How to Plan a Garden


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