Planning is everything! Organising your vegetable garden layout will be a key factor in getting the maximum yields, especially if your growing area is limited.
Here are some Ideas and sketches to consider for your vegetable garden layout ideas.
The Right Location
The right location is absolutely everything, and will mean the difference between a good harvest or a dismal crop.
Sunshine is your best friend! On the whole, the brightest sunniest areas will produce the best yields, so if you only have limited areas that are sunny, then your vegetable garden layout will need to be well thought out, and the type of crops well chosen to make the most of the space.
I only have a small patio garden, and my sunny area is limited to about half that space. Therefore in order to get the maximum growing potential from this space I will have to think outside of the box a little by incorporating multi-tier growing platforms which allow me to place as many crops into the sunny area as possible.
Below is a sketch of my the raised bed vegetable garden arrangement I have just built (see the initial construction in this video), with an additional raised platform which I designed to hold grow-bags.
The additional platform will virtually double the growing capacity of the area, and with the correct structure, there is no reason why a third tier could not be added, potentially tripling the growing capacity of the area. Obviously there are considerations to be taken into account such as ensuring the tiers are positioned in such a way that they do not cast continuous shadows over the plants below.
My finished units --->
There are also other high-yielding methods you can incorporate into your vegetable garden layout.
There is also Straw Bale Gardening which provides abundant growing possibilities with minimal maintenance, and saves a fortune on compost and raised-bed construction materials.
Also raised beds warm up more quickly, meaning you can plant earlier, giving you a longer growing season.
It's also important in your vegetable garden layout planning, to decide which vegetables you will grow.
Have a look at the 'what grows best' page (opens in a new window) to get an idea of the kind of things you might want to grow.
Yields per square foot are an important factor in container gardening. It's all very well dedicating your raised bed to growing radishes because they are easy to grow, but radishes will not provide more than a mouthful of food, - a mere flavour component for a salad. Whereas cabbages, potatoes, lettuces, and in particular Broad Beans, grown in the same bed will provide much larger quantities of food that will sustain you and your family. An important consideration if you are aiming for self-sufficiency, or even creating a survival garden.
Also, don’t forget your airspace! If you've filled up your sunny walls and floor space with plants, take a look above. Is there any airspace you could be utilising? How about the shed roof? Will it take containers? Could you run a length of rope between two solid structures and place hanging bags or baskets along its length?
This arrangement is ideal for cascading tomatoes and strawberries. If you can fasten hanging bags along a length of rope so they do not slide along it, you could prop them up into the air like an old fashioned washing line. They will be out of your way, but you can lower them down for ease of watering.
One trick I'll be using this year in my vegetable garden layout is growing tomato plants upside down from hanging buckets.
The buckets will be suspended on the corner spars of the vertical climbing frame I constructed for the climbers such as runner beans and squashes.
I have sawn a small 'V' shape into the tops of all the spars so the bucket handles have a place to sit into, preventing them from rolling out.
To prevent the buckets from swinging, I will be using a length of builders band (a thin strip of flexible galvanised metal that comes on a roll,) or cable ties (or both). The band or ties will run around the circumfrence of the bucket and be anchored to the upright posts.
When planting in smaller or confined areas, shadows will be something you must take into consideration, as they will directly affect the growing ability of your plants.
Taller or climbing plants need to be positioned in such a way that they do not cast shadows over the other plants when they are in full growth.
If you are planting vertical climbing walls (see this vertical gardening page) then try to get the walls to run from north to south. This will provide the most even sun exposure and will help prevent some plants from being permanently shadowed by each other.
Also take advantage of climbing plants grown in containers such as runner beans and squashes.
Once the leaves have grown and have began climbing, you may be able to move the container further into a shaded area (as long as the climbing leaves of the plant remain in the sun) this may free up some more sunny space to grow more food.
You will also need to take into consideration how best to supply and distrubute water to your garden.
See my brief but interesting article about water butts and choosing them here.
A little planning before you start your growing season will reward you in heaps, with high yields and a fabulous crop!
Preserving (using a food dehydrator)
Of course when you have high yields of crops, you will need to find ways to preserve them so you can enjoy them throughout the winter months. Freezing is always a popular method, but you can also dry your crop. Tomatoes are especially tasty and useful dried.
There are various ways to dry your food, but a purpose made food dehydrator is always the most efficient. Electric food dehydrators are good, but are quite expensive to buy and to operate.
A much cheaper and, in my opinion, better way to go about drying your food is to use a solar powered food dehydrator. They can provide a much larger capacity, do not use any electricity, and are very cheap to build.
Have a look at the one I built in the spring of 2010. It was a simple design based on a solar furnace constructed from beer cans and scrap wood! You can see it here.