The Basics of Planning Your Vegetable Garden

Gardening 101 Pt. 1 – Planning Your Garden

Before we get into planning your vegetable garden, I’m sure some of you are asking why should I even bother to  grow my own vegetables?

the basic steps for starting a vegetable garden

There are many many MANY reasons to have a vegetable garden but here are my top 3.

source: Nantucket Mermaid

My Top 3 Reasons For Growing Your Own Vegetables:

  1.  Safety – You know exactly what you’re getting. You know what soil was used and what was or wasn’t sprayed on it.
  2. Freshness – You’ll be able to pick your veggies at their peak flavor vs commercial growers that have to pick and ship. The flavor of homegrown can’t be matched by a grocery store!
  3. Self-sufficiency – gardening gives you the skills you need to feed yourself.  There’s something comforting in knowing that you aren’t solely dependent  on a grocery store and once you get going you can save money growing your own. - harvest

Where to begin? Well first you need a plan –

Step 1  in planning – Where are you going to put your garden?

kitchen garden

source: velvet & linen

Site location is SUPER important.

All vegetables need some sun to grow.  A vegetable garden needs a minimum of 6  hours of full sun to do well.  8-10 hours is ideal. Especially for sun lovers like tomatoes.

*Choosing a sunny  site is a major factor in success.

pecan tree

You may have to think about removing trees or at least removing lower limbs to let in more light. It’s not an easy decision.  I had to remove a beautiful large crabapple tree when I originally put in my garden. Recently, I had to decide what to do with a pecan tree on the outside of my vegetable garden . It wasn’t  a problem tree until I increased the size of my garden last year plus it had gotten huge (as you can see in the photo above). I was going to cut it down but it’s such a beautiful mature tree that  I opted to remove the branches that were causing a problem and give the whole tree a haircut. I’m going to see what happens this summer when it leafs out. I may still wind up having to remove it.

However, here  is a list of  vegetables that are shade tolerant if that’s what you’ve got to work with. It’s mostly greens and some root vegetables. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have the ideal sun requirement.  Since there are different levels of shade, sometimes trial and error is the only way to know if something is going to work. Or you may decide to grow in containers so you can move your plants around in what sun you do have.

beginners guide to vegetable gardening

 *Put your garden where it’s convenient for you to take care of it.

If you can, place it where it’s close to the house so you don’t forget about it. Vegetable gardens don’t usually thrive on neglect! You need to be able to see if you need to weed, or harvest, maybe the tomatoes need staking, or you need to check for pests etc. The no-care vegetable garden doesn’t exist!

watering garden


Watering is critical even if you mulch around plants. So be sure that you site your garden where you have easy access to water.

raised beds

 *Decide how much time you want to devote to your garden. Which in part will determine the size.  It’s usually a good idea to start small when you’re new to gardening and build from there. I started with containers – moved on to one raised bed – then I  had 4 – then 6 and this summer I plan on having  9 or 10 raised beds! See how I layed out my vegetable garden –  My 2012 Garden Plan

garden shed in a raised bed vegetable garden

Now that you know where to place your garden you need to decide if you are going to use raised beds (photo above) or an in ground method. I use the raised bed method. The main benefits of using raised beds is less weeding, better drainage, and no soil compaction.

Next time I’ll show you how to make a raised bed and tell what I soil combinations I use to fill mine.

The entire series is linked below for your convenience. I hope you find these post helpful in starting your vegetable garden!

Gardening 101 How to Make a Raised Bed

How to make a raised bed with concrete blocks

Gardening 101 The Dirt on…Dirt, Seeds or Starts & Fertilizer

Gardening 101 Backyard Chickens & Compost

Gardenning 101 Using Technology – How to Plan Your Vegetable Garden Using Online Garden Planners

Gardening 101 Adding Flowers to Your Vegetable Garden – Attracting Pollinators

Blooms on a Budget – How to have a beautiful garden without spending lots of money

Happy Gardening!

vegetable garden raised beds


Vegetable Gardening 101

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  1. says

    Thank you for doing this series! You are my real life gardening hero.

    I think you nailed it with the “easy access to water”. In the past none of my spots have had easy access and I had to run a hose and roll it back up each time so the grass man (aka husband) would not fret. That was a huge pain and deterred me from watering. Am going to have to figure out a better plan this year.

  2. says

    GREAT blueprint to start….thanks Manuela…and the FOURTH reason to have your own garden is simply that it is FUN!!! – a RELEASE….Getting into the dirt and playing is SOOO relaxing…sure we may sweat some, and our (okay MY) knees may creak and be sore some) but the joy of watching what you sow turn into something you can eat….oh….I LOVE IT!…Thank you for doing this. I will be here…. {{{hugs}}}

    • Manuela says

      Yes, it’s a great stress reliever unless I’m freaking out about squash bugs destroying my zucchini and pumpkins! :)


  3. says

    Great suggestions here, Manuela. I currently have one raised bed. Yesterday I planted peas, lettuce, spinach & radishes from seed.
    I’m curious to know whether you eat the pecans from your tree? If so, have you found a good way to shell them?

    • Manuela says

      Funny you should ask that…the main reason I decided not to totally do away with the tree is because it does produce something edible. As a matter of fact, lots of people sell small boxes of pecans around here from their trees. So it’s potentially an income source as well.

      I usually use a hammer to shell them but I can’t tell you how many pecans I’ve smooshed doing that! Supposedly soaking them for a few minutes makes it easier to shell them but I haven’t tried it yet.


      • Kristie says

        Take 2 pecans in the palm of your hand and squeeze them together. (you may have to squeeze with both hands) They should crack each other. 😉 That’s how my Gran taught us to do it.

  4. says

    While I garden, I am really excited about the suggestions you have shared, and plan to share. I will be back to raised beds and starting off small this year in our new home. I am very excited and your series (along with the abnormally warm southern weather) is just fueling it!

  5. says

    Trees. That’s my problem. And the further problem is that they are not my trees. Perhaps I need to purchase a little red wagon and put two large container pots on it and haul it around chasing the sun! It could work.

    • Manuela says

      One well cared for tomato plant can give you 20+ tomatoes. It would be worth it to do it just for that. Or put a garden in your front yard or plant veggies amongst your flowers.

  6. says

    This will be helpful info. Even though I’m a seasoned gardener, I love to see and read anything about gardens. Speaking of trees, we are getting a maple cut down this spring because it has grown too big and starting to shade our veggie garden. Sad, but necessary.

  7. says

    We have a mix of sun and shade where I live here on the California coast. I think that when I try growing tomatoes, I’m going to put it in some sort of mobile container :) :) I’m home a lot right now, so I have the time to move it around, based on where the sun is…at least, that’s what I think will work well (in my head :) :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

  8. says

    It’s getting time… YEAH! My husband tilled ours up last night! He took a soil sample and we needed some stuff in our soil! Can’t wait to taste some fresh veggies! It is so nice to walk out the back door and pick stuff for dinner! I was raised on fresh vegetables and I believe it is healthier:) Have a blessed day dear Manuela! HUGS!

  9. says

    This is wonderful information and inspiration, I will have to remember it in a few months down the road when planting time comes. Right now we’re getting more of the lovely white stuff.
    Have a sweet day.
    Hugs, Cindy

  10. says

    Hi Manuela!
    Love love your garden beds and picket fence… that’s what I’m picturing for our new garden area…!
    Great info here… and lovely images too! Happy Gardening!!! 2012

  11. says

    I saw how important placement is with tomatoes when I planted a couple of my tomato plants literally INCHES nearer a tree than I usually do. Those two tomato plants were pathetic compared to those just a few inches away from the tree.

    My little herb garden sits near the tree in the other raised bed and it actually does quite well there. I know now not to push it with tomatoes!

  12. says

    Your garden beds look so nice!

    We moved into a new house last fall that came with three raised beds. The first problem- they have been growing for years unchecked and were completely full of weeds. A few weeks ago, I painstakingly weeded it all and covered up the beds with newspapers and black cloth. However, this layer has already started to puff up with plants growing again underneath the newspaper. I’m wondering if these beds have just gone neglected for too long (here’s a picture of what they looked like before weeding:

    My second concern is that we have a lot of deer in our area. Do you have any preventive tips on keeping deer away from the raised beds? I’m thinking that I may need to erect some type of fence around each bed. Or plant lots of plants that deer hate?


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