7 layout tips for a successful vegetable garden

As more and more people become conscious of the food they consume, there is a corresponding increase in home gardens. Growing your own food allows you to choose what fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides are applied to the produce, as well as knowing the entire history of the growing season. But reaping the benefits of a successful vegetable garden requires hard work and some basic knowledge.
Vegetable gardening is a unique mix of science and sheer luck. As a beginner, this can be daunting, but learning basics before you start is helpful. Understanding and implementing the following layout tips starts a vegetable garden off on the right foot, increasing the chances of it being successful.
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1. Pick a sunny location
Plants use sunlight and water to drive photosynthesis, the chemical process occuring within their cells, to create oxygen and glucose. The glucose is then used as a food source for growth. Vegetable gardens require a minum of six hours of full sunlight daily to prosper.
2. Assess the soil drainage
Soils with a high amount of sand drain quickly, needing more frequent waterings at a lesser amounts. On the other hand, soils with a high clay content hold too much water and can stay too wet. Understanding the type of soil helps ensure correct watering and will determine if the soil needs amending before planting.
3. Plant close to a water source
An adequate water supply is paramount for a successful vegetable garden. Depending on the local climate and weather patterns, you may need to water plants if natural rainfall amounts aren't sufficient. Planning a garden close to a water source makes watering considerably easier.
4. Orient garden rows north to south
According to Farm and Dairy, vegetable gardens in the Northern Hemisphere should be laid out with the rows running north to south. As the sun travels its path across the sky, the light given off strikes the entire length of the garden. Vegetables grown in rows running east to west may shade out each other.
5. Account for the size of fully grown plants
Proper plant spacing is important for numerous reasons. As plants grow, they compete with their neighbors for sunlight, water and nutrients in the soil. Ensure plants receive the amounts they need by configuring the garden layout based upon their size at maturity, not their size at the time of planting.
6. Consider plant competitors and companion plants
Just like humans, plants have relationships with their peers. Sometimes they benefit from being close to certain species; at times close proximity is problematic. Understanding these relationships minimizes problems between plants while encouraging symbiotic rapport in the garden. Burpee provides a comprehensive chart on its website detailing plant companions, allies and enemies.
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7. Sketch out ideas on paper
Sit down with a pencil and paper and sketch out the proposed garden layout before you begin planting. This allows you to visualize available space and determine the exact number of plants the space can sustain.

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