If you’re new to gardening, laying out a garden would seem to be the most obvious thing in the world. Not so fast. In addition to helping you get garden setup chores done efficiently, the right layout for the right crop(s) will improve productivity and help protect against pests.
When you read the first ‘Garden Plan’ section (you did read that didn’t you?) you saw that we like the extension service website search facility a lot. We turned to it again to see if we could find straightforward information geared to someone who has never gardened before, or who may have limited gardening experience with garden layouts.
We were not disappointed, as you will not be, with a simple guide from Washington State University and the Chelan County Extension service website. A short document titled, “Garden for Food Primer,” has really simple explanations of garden layouts. Of course, there are different garden layouts for different types of gardens, and we chose vegetable gardens as an example because, according to a February 17, 2009 press release , “Last year, vegetable plant sales were up 10-15 percent and that trend is expected to continue. Vegetable gardening is becoming more appealing as people try to save money at the grocery store during these tough economic times.”
The “Garden for Food Primer,” available as a PDF you can download to your computer, and even print out if that is convenient (go to the following blue underlined link to download the "Garden for Food Primer") covers garden layouts beginning on page 4 and going through to the end of the document on page 7. The introductory material is interesting as well.
The “Primer” points out that reducing your garden plan to paper helps to save money. It can also stimulate some landscaping ideas. A plan means you won’t be tempted to buy more seeds than you need. And you’ll find that you can keep your garden productive throughout the growing season with one crop becoming available as another is harvested. The “Primer” says that reference materials are available, presumably on other extension websites (search for ‘succession planting’) that help you orchestrate the march of vegetables to your table.
Another source of information on getting started with gardening—much more extensive than the WSU “Primer”—is the Illinois Vegetable Garden Guide series’ “Ten Steps to a Successful Garden” (by clicking the following blue link: "Ten Steps.") The Guide is published online by the University of Illinois Extension.
The Guide contains very specific garden layout instructions for planting various vegetables—down to the inch—and covers such topics as keeping your garden away from trees and shrubs (they compete for sun and other resources); growing varieties of vegetables recommended for your area (specifics are for Illinois growers but the examples are instructive); tips for supplies and tools (but no selling!); information on soil and soil preparation, and, as they say on TV, much, much more. The detail is especially helpful if you're thinking of getting into including your garden layout into overall landscaping for your property.
If you're short on creativity at the moment, there are free landscaping ideas all over the Internet. And you may even find a free landscaping program or two. You can even find landscaping pictures to help you visualize your garden designs.
Almost all sources we consulted advised getting your layout down on paper before getting down to actual chores, which is the subject of the next section (how’s that for a segue!)