Designing Your Site
It is now time to decide on how you want to grow your vegetables. The kind of space you have, the terrain, the soil, and the amount of sunlight your garden site will get can help with your design decisions. Do you have a tiny balcony, porch, patio, or alley way and the only space available will hold just a few pots? Or is the space a large patio that will enable you to have some larger planter boxes, perhaps to grow a dwarf fruit tree? Is the space fairly flat and rows will work best for you? Do you have poor soil and a raised bed would be the best option? These are all great ways to grow a fabulous vegetable garden. Consider the following design options to see what's best for you.
If you live in the middle of a city and the only sunny area you have available is on a balcony, porch, or in some other small space, growing in containers is the perfect option to make a lovely vegetable garden. Containers come in various sizes and can sit or hang in your space. Some vegetables grow better in containers than others, so to get the best results possible, you want to be informed when choosing your vegetable plants.
In some urban homes or offices all the access you may have to the outdoors is a concrete patio. These are often areas that get a lot of sun. Sometimes these spots are a little too hot, but they might offer ideal conditions for growing your food using containers. Patios are usually big enough to accommodate larger planters, enabling you to easily grow larger vegetables and even some fruit trees and berry bushes.
Row gardening is best used if you have a flat area. Even though row gardening is usually used on larger plots, this method of growing can be easily utilized in small spaces, such as in a flat sunny front or backyard. When planning a row garden, it is important to make sure you allow space for pathways between and at the end of each row to accommodate a place for you to walk and use any larger tools, like a rototiller or wheelbarrow. Walking on the soil where you will be planting your veggies can compact it and harm the soil structure. When designing this style of garden, make designated pathways.
Rows can be as long or as wide as you want or need them to be. Often the width is dependent on the type of equipment you will be using to till the beds. If you are going to be using a rototiller, measure the width of the tines. This will give you an idea of how wide you want your bed to be. When choosing the width of your garden bed, consider how long your reach is; if you are weeding on one side, can you easily reach across the bed without straining your back?
Growing in Raised Beds
Raised beds are structures that have four sides and hold soil. They are a great option for a small space, for areas with poor soil, for a hillside garden, or if you want structures in your garden. If you want to grow in a moist area that has poor drainage, the raised bed will allow for better drainage. If you have a sloped or terraced garden site, raised beds will help define these areas and make it easier to grow plants in the more difficult to reach areas. If the garden is replacing your front lawn and you want it to look attractive to your neighbors, using raised beds is a great way to add structure, definition, and tidiness to your vegetable garden. Raised beds are often used in community gardens as they can be easily designated to individual growers.
Even in the smallest garden, make room for a place for at least one person to sit. This adds purpose to the space and will be a lovely place to enjoy your garden. You can place your seating in a shady spot so you can relax after a hot day of working.
Another great reason for using raised beds is that the bed can be made to any height. If you have physical disabilities, have limited mobility, or cannot bend easily, the raised bed can work very well for you. Make sure it is built to the height that works best for you. If it is a low bed, adding a ledge on the top will allow you to sit while gardening. And the ledge is great for older gardeners or those that cannot easily get down on hands and knees to plant or weed.