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Selecting A Site

A back yard or some other plot near your home in full sunlight is the most convenient spot for a home vegetable garden. However, poor drainage, shallow soil, and shade from buildings or trees may mean the garden must be located in an area farther from the house.

In planning your garden, consider what and how much you will plant. It is better to have a small garden well maintained than a large one neglected and full of weeds. Diagram the garden rows on paper and note the length you wish to assign to each vegetable. Use a scale of a selected number of feet to an inch. Then you can decide how much seed and how many plants to buy.

Consider also the possibility of working your vegetables in plots in front of your shrubbery. Many vegetables are ornamental in appearance. Some vegetables can be grown in your flower beds; others can be grown entirely in containers.

The amount of sunlight your garden gets must also be considered. Leafy vegetables, for example, can be grown in partial shade but vegetables producing fruit must be grown in direct sunlight.

Protecting the Garden

Usually, the garden should be surrounded by a fence sufficiently high and close-woven to keep out dogs, rabbits, and other animals. The damage done by stray animals during a season or two can equal the cost of a fence. A fence also can serve as a trellis for beans, peas, tomatoes, and other crops that need support.

In most sections of the country, rodents of various kinds damage garden crops. In the East, moles and mice cause much injury. Moles burrow under the plants, causing the soil to dry out around the roots. Mice either work independently or follow the burrows made by moles, destroying newly planted seeds and young plants. In the West, ground squirrels and prairie dogs damage vegetable gardens. Most of these pests can be partially controlled with traps.

Soil, Drainage, and Sunshine

Fertile, deep, friable, well-drained soil is necessary for a successful garden. The exact type of soil is not so important as that it be well drained, well supplied with organic matter, retentive of moisture, and reasonably free of stones. The kind of subsoil also is vitally important.

Hard shale, rock ledges, gravel beds, very deep sand, or a hardpan under the surface soil is likely to make the development of high-grade garden soil extremely difficult or impossible.

On the other hand, infertile soil that has good physical properties can be made productive by using organic matter, lime, commercial fertilizer, and other soil improving materials.

Good drainage of the soil is essential. Soil drainage may often be improved by installing agricultural tile, digging ditches, and sometimes by plowing deep into the subsoil. The garden should be free of low places where water might stand after a heavy rain. Water from surrounding land should not drain into the garden, and there should be no danger of flooding by overflow from nearby streams.

Good air drainage is necessary to lessen the danger of damage by frost. A garden on a slope that has free movement of air to lower levels is most likely to escape late-spring and early autumn frost damage.

A gentle slope of not more than 1-1/2 percent facing in a southerly direction helps early crops get started. In sections that have strong winds, a windbreak of board fence, hedge, or trees on the windward side of the garden is recommended.

Hedges and other living windbreaks should be far enough away from the garden to prevent shade or roots from interfering with the garden crops.

The garden should get the direct rays of the sun all day if possible. Some crops can tolerate partial shade, but no amount of fertilizer, water, or care can replace needed sunshine.

Even where trees do not shade garden crops, tree roots may penetrate far into the soil and rob crops of moisture and plant food.

Damage to garden crops by tree roots may be largely prevented by digging a trench 1-1/2 to 2 feet deep between the trees and the garden, cutting all the tree roots that cross the trench.

Then put a barrier of waste sheet metal or heavy roofing paper along one wall of the trench and refill it. This usually prevents root damage for several years.

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