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How to Plan A Successful Vegetable Garden, Part 2

Now for some of the bigger questions

Raised beds or In-ground

Do you want your garden to be in the ground or in raised beds. One method is not necessarily better than the other, but is more a matter of personal choice. My garden has both types.

Raised bed advantages

  • Easier installation- No grass to be removed or ground to be dug up
  • Soil is always good- You bring in the material so you never need to worry about what’s underneath, whether too sandy, too much clay, nothing but bedrock or if the existing soil is contaminated
  • Keeps plants above temporarily flooded areas
  • Easier to use for people with knee or back problems
  • Warms up earlier in spring, so planting can be done earlier
Raised Bed on Bedrock

Raised Beds Can Be Installed Even Where There's No Soil

In-ground bed advantages

  • Heats up more slowly than raised beds, they stay moist longer in the summer heat
  • Less expensive to install
  • Stays warm longer at the end of the year, so plants life can be extended
To Fence or Not to Fence

In our area most people will need to contend with deer, groundhogs (woodchucks), rabbits or some combination of the three. And sometimes with other animals including chipmunks and bears (there not really anything you can do about bears), but the first three are the biggies. Fencing works very nicely to keep the big three out of your garden. There are sprays that are purported to work, but they need to be reapplied regularly and none that I know of are effective on groundhogs.

Deer & Rodent Fencing

Typical Deer/Groundhog Fence

Fencing for deer (what I like to use though there are many alternative systems)

  • At least 7 ft tall- will keep out all but the most athletic deer
  • Plastic mesh fencing- what you can get at most nurseries is not usually strong enough. I get mine at Benner’s Garden, online.
  • Needs to be staked into the ground or deer can lift it and go under.

Fencing for Groundhogs/Rabbits

  • 3-4 feet tall
  • Made from metal- I use chicken wire, 1″ mesh. To prevent animals from eating through and young groundhogs from wriggling through
  • Dug into the ground 6-8″ and laid along the bottom of the trench away from the garden, so the groundhogs can’t dig under it
  • Metal posts- groundhogs are excellent climbers and could climb over the fence if wood posts are used
  • If you only need a rodent fence, it’s best for the fence to have some give to it. Groundhogs won’t climb over an obstacle that starts to give under them when they try to climb it

If you are fencing for both deer and rodents, install the chicken wire outside the plastic fencing.


Your plants won’t survive for very long without water, so figuring out how to that is very important. There are three basic options- sprinklers, soaker hoses, drip irrigation.

Sprinklers– I strongly urge that sprinklers not be used for the following reasons

  • Waste a lot of water- you’re watering your veggies, but also the weeds, pathways and probably the lawn around your garden
  • Encourages diseases, especially fungal diseases- because leaves get wet and stay wet longer

Soil-level watering is better and includes both soaker hoses and drip irrigation.

Soaker hoses

  • Made out of a porous rubber that allows water to seep out of the hose.
  • Laid along the rows of plants in your garden and so they deliver the water only to your plants and not your weeds.
  • The hoses come in a variety of lengths (most commonly 25’ or 50′)
  • Multiple soaker hoses can be linked together if needed. Don’t link together more than about 150’ of soaker hose together because by the end the water will be coming out too slowly to get the right amount of water to the plants.
  • Very easy to install and fairly inexpensive
  • Only last for 2-3 years, then they develop leaks

Drip irrigation

  • A more sophisticated version of soaker hoses.
  • Water comes only in specific places know as drippers or emitters.
  • Drippers can either be built into the hose or be attached to the tubing.
  • Water only comes out exactly where your plants are located.
  • Somewhat more involved to install than soaker hoses, but I did it just by following directions from the company that I bought the system from.
  • Lasts years longer than soaker hose and is easy to repair.
  • More expensive than soaker hose, but I only spent about $200 to set up my garden with drip irrigation.

That’s it for now. One more installation to come.

How to Plan A Successful Vegetable Garden, Part 1

While you can have a successful vegetable garden without thinking about how you’re putting it together, it’s a lot more likely if you do. If you’re trying to raise your vegetables organically it’s particularly important to think about how you set up your garden.

Some of what I talk about in this set of posts may seems obvious, but sometimes it’s the simple things that can make or break your harvest.

Where to Place Your Garden
  • A place the receives at least 6 hours of sun per day, more is better. Some veggies can use a bit less, such as cucumbers and leafy greens.
  • A convenient spot is important, usually closer to your home is better. If you can’t get water to the garden or it’s too far away for you to get around to taking care of it, then it’s not a good spot.
  • If possible, place beds at least 25 feet from any large trees. If installed too close, tree roots will grow into the beds and compete with your veggies. You can remove the roots every few years if need be, but it’s easier if you don’t have to spend the effort.
  • A spot that doesn’t flood. While this may not be obvious at first, look around the spot where you garden is and figure if it’s a low spot that might flood. If this is the only spot in you yard that gets enough sun, then consider a raised bed.
Raised Beds Keep Vegetables From Being Flooded

Raised Beds Keep Vegetables From Being Flooded

Which Vegetables to Grow
  • If you don’t like Brussels sprouts, for example, don’t plant them.
  • But, trying something new is one of the really fun parts of gardening.
  • Different varieties of the same vegetable are adapted to particular areas. Lots of seed catalogs have this information. Choose ones that are best for where you live
Sweet Potatoes- Grew for the First Time in 2010

Sweet Potatoes- Grew for the First Time in 2010

How Much to Plant
  • If you’re a family of five, two tomato plants probably aren’t enough.
  • If you’re thinking about preserving your harvest to eat through the winter, you need to plant more.
  • If you have pests or diseases that are hard on certain vegetables, plant more. I have this problem with Cucumbers and Cucumber Beetles/Bacterial Wilt, so I plant extra every year.
When to Plant

-Some vegetables grow best in cool or hot weather. If you only plant one type, you’ll have limited your harvest to a shorter time and smaller harvest than if you plant a mix.

  • Cool: Lettuces, Arugula, Broccoli, Peas, & Carrots among others
  • Warm: Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Peppers, Melons & others
Broccoli- A Cool Season Vegetable

Broccoli- A Cool Season Vegetable

-Some veggies you can plant multiple times per year. If you leave space in your garden to plant beans every couple of weeks you’ll give yourself an even harvest throughout the growing season.

Several plantings

  • Beans
  • Lettuce
  • Carrots
  • Beets

Two plantings ( Early Spring & Late Summer)

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Peas

-Some plants, like onions and leeks, take a long time to mature so they need to be planted early, perhaps even started indoors

-Tender plants (generally the warm season plants- see above) should be put out after the last frost date for your area. You can get this information in many places, but a good one is your local Extension office.

-Some plants taste better when grown/harvested at certain times. A lot of the cold season vegetables taste sweeter after a frost or two.

Look for part 2 later this week

My Favorite Books

Image of Bug, Slugs, & Other Thugs: Controlling Garden Pests Organically (Down-To-Earth Book)



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