Vegetable Garden Layout Basics

One of the most important aspects of starting a new vegetable garden is its layout. The vegetable garden layout is critical for ensuring the vegetables receive adequate amounts of sunshine, water and nutrients from the soil.

Your specific vegetable garden layout is mainly determined by the shape and size of the land you have available to work with. Back in the day vegetable gardens were primarily large plots with long rows.

While these types of vegetable gardens can still be effective, many gardeners today have less land to work with due to urbanization.

Many of us require a vegetable garden that takes up less space and time while still producing a sizable crop yield. Using small beds is the ideal vegetable garden layout for those with limited space and a busy lifestyle.

We will go over some vegetable garden layout basics to keep in mind whether you are using small beds, like used with Square Foot Gardening, or long rows used with large plot vegetable gardens.

Determining the Location of Your Vegetable Garden

No matter what type of vegetable garden layout you use, the first thing you will need to determine is the location of the vegetable garden.

The ideal vegetable garden space should be relatively level, and allow for good drainage. You don’t want your precious plants to be sitting in a lagoon of water after a heavy summer thunderstorm.

The area should receive full sunlight for a minimum of eight hours per day. It is best to locate your vegetable garden in the southern most area of your property. The sun is in the southern sky during the summer months which will allow for optimum exposure to sunlight.

This is more of a guideline than a rule as the vegetable garden can still be very productive located in other areas. The main thing to remember is that the area receive sufficient sunlight for at least eight hours.

It is also a great idea to locate your vegetable garden as close to the home as possible. This will make tasks like watering much easier, and improve the overall accessibility to your vegetable garden.

Once you have the ideal location picked out for your vegetable garden it is time to begin working on the general layout.

Raised Bed Vegetable Garden Layout

With the increased popularity of Square Foot Gardening and limited garden space, raised beds have become the “go-to” way of growing vegetables today. The ideal raised bed vegetable garden layout is using garden beds that are no more than three to four feet wide with paths in between.

Raised Vegetable Garden LayoutUsing a width no more than four feet will make it much easier to maintain the garden beds. You can easily reach the center of the garden bed from either side. Building the garden beds wider will make reaching the vegetable plants in the middle difficult, and increase the chances of damaging the outer plants.

Providing paths all the way around each bed will give you the ability to easily access all of your plants for watering and weeding purposes. Paths should be wide enough for you to be able to comfortably walk down, and get a wheelbarrow or cart down, if needed.

Well-planned garden paths covered in mulch, gravel or pavers can also make your vegetable much more attractive. These items will also help keep the paths weed free and looking great.

If you are using garden beds for your vegetable garden layout you want to arrange the plants with the tallest in the center on down to the shortest on the outer edges.

Another effective method is to plant the tallest plants on the back side ( the side facing west would be best) on down to the shortest in the front, or east side, if possible. This arrangement will prevent the taller plants from shading the shorter ones and optimize available sunshine.

Since the sun rises in the east it is recommended to try to take advantage of morning sun as much as possible since morning sun is actually the best light for your plants. The sunlight is much less intense, and softer in the morning hours. This is why you want the taller plants behind the shorter ones.

Vegetable Garden Layout Using Rows

If you have a large area available for your vegetable garden you can plant in rows, if you prefer. Planting in long rows gives you the ability to plant with increased spacing which will improve air circulation around plants, and give them more room to fully develop.

When planning a a vegetable garden using rows, keep in mind that taller plants should be planted towards the western end of the garden with shorter plants closest to the eastern side.

Typical Row Vegetable Garden Layout

Try to orientate rows running north to south to help maximize the amount of sunlight for the plants. This will help to ensure each plants receives adequate amounts each day. Space rows far enough apart to accomodate walking and equipment that may be needed to maintain the vegetable garden.

Make sure to read the recommended row spacing requirements for the specific vegetables you are growing. This information can be obtained on the seed packets, or by following our vegetable grow guides.

Large plots can become a weed magnet very quickly so be sure to use weed fabric and mulch around the plants to suppress weeds and retain soil moisture.

Different Vegetable Garden Layout Ideas

You don’t always have to follow one vegetable garden layout or another. You can easily combine the two by creating a vegetable garden that utilizes both raised beds and rows. It all depends on your specific needs and creativity.

Remember, have fun with your vegetable garden! Continually experiment with no ideas and techniques to see what works best for your situation.

You can even get quite funky with your vegetable garden layout and make something completely unique.

For those that live in apartments or condos, you may need to use strictly containers. Arrange similar vegetables together to make maintenance a bit easier. Group them in one or two areas so they can all be watered at the same time.

Use hanging baskets and window boxes to increase the amount of vegetables you can grow.

Designing Your Vegetable Garden Layout

One of the best tools you will ever find for creating your vegetable garden layout is GrowVeg. GrowVeg is an online garden planning tool that will help you design a layout in just a few minutes. The vegetable garden layout images used in this article were all created in just a few minutes using GrowVeg. You can see how quick and easy you can layout your vegetable garden!

It is a highly recommended tool whether you have a raised bed garden, a large plot with rows, or a small kitchen garden. It even has features for determining the layout of square foot gardens, succession planting and so much more.

Get the most out of your vegetable garden, and give GrowVeg a try. They even offer a convenient 30-day free trial period with no obligation to purchase.

What do you have to lose?

Online Garden Planning Tool

6 Comments on Vegetable Garden Layout Basics

  1. Hi Tee — I’m planning a couple of new raised beds this summer. Typically, what’s the minimum amount of space you can leave between the beds? They are running east to west, so sun won’t be a problem.

    But the layout will be complicated because I’m planning to put a hoop house over them and will only have a limited amount of space. I know in VA you don’t need to worry to much about extending the season with hoop houses.

    • Hi Bill – If you don’t need to get any equipment between the garden beds (like wheelbarrows, carts, etc) I would say 18 inches would be about the bare minimum. As long as you have enough room to walk between the beds. If you will need to access the beds with a wheelbarrow or something similar then I would love 4 feet between the beds for ample space.

      I’m not sure how you will attach the hoop houses, but if you attach them on the inside of the garden bed then that may help save some space.

      • The hoop house will be bigger than the beds. There will be extra space for containers. It will be staked deeply into the ground as Eliot Coleman suggests in Four Season Harvest. I probably will go with the minimum of 18 inches that you suggested. I think I can get wheelbarrel access from the side.

  2. Well guys, it’s now July but I’d sure love to see pictures of those hoop houses. Living in MN something like that could not only extend the growing season but protect plants from blistering sun, heavy rains and probably light hail? How strong are these hoop houses and what are they made of?
    Thx, AliceMae

  3. I like your explanations about raised gardens. In “Different Vegetable Garden Ideas,” you wirte experiment with NO IDEAS, instead of with NEW IDEAS. I will continue to read your suggestions as I look for new ideas on improving my garden.

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