Beginners’ Guide: Planning A Vegetable Garden

The Easy Way

By Gil Medeiros, Fairfax Master Gardener
If you are new to vegetable gardening, winter is the perfect time to think about what shape your backyard produce patch will take in the year ahead. As one option, here is a simple plan to create a 100-square-foot plot. It is a great starter size — large enough to yield a reasonable harvest, yet small enough to make maintenance manageable.

crop squaresHopefully, you already have a spot in mind with the right sun requirement (at least six hours of direct sunlight during the growing season); and hopefully, you have already begun to prepare the soil. (See Create A Vegetable Garden The Easy Way). If so, you are ready to take the next steps in making that vegetable garden a reality.

Laying out the garden

To begin, divide 100 square feet of garden space into four beds that are 4 feet by 4 feet, separating these beds with 2-foot-wide walkways. The bed dimensions make it easy to construct planting boxes. Doing so with no waste requires two 8-foot-long, 2-inch-by 8-inch boards, a convenient size to transport without renting a truck. When filling boxes, follow the directions given in our vegetable garden article (link is in the paragraph above). Of course, planting boxes are optional; you can also simply mound soil in the 4-by-4 squares.

Squares of this size will allow access to plants from all sides without having to step in a bed. If children are going to help tend this garden, though, consider reducing the bed width to 3 feet. The paths are wide enough to accommodate a wheelbarrow and can be “paved” with shredded leaves, wood chips, bark mulch or straw to control weeds.

Now comes the fun part—thinking about what to plant and where to plant it. In making those decisions, though, you first need to consider the importance of rotating crops.

Crop rotation

You should not plant crops in the same family in the same place two years in a row; better yet, avoid repeating locations for three or four consecutive years. Why? Plants in the same family often fall victim to the same insects and diseases. By rotating crops, you prevent a build-up of harmful insects or pathogens in one area.

Since this simple layout has four garden beds, choose four pla