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How to Plan A Successful Vegetable Garden, Part 3

Seeds or Transplants

You can either raise your plants from seeds or buy transplants from your local nursery.

Seeds- Advantages

  • Less expensive
  • A virtually unlimited variety of plants
  • A packet of seeds can often last for more than one season.
  • You know get to see your plants from start to harvest

Seed Starting Equipment and Set-up

Seed Starting Equipment and Set-up

Seeds- Disadvantages

  • You need a spot to raise the plants (basement, greenhouse, cold frame),
  • You need to buy assorted equipment including lights, dirt/potting soil, growing trays, heat mats
  • Patience, and time to take care of them
  • Planning when you need to start them


  • Very convenient
  • Often bigger/stronger when they are ready to be planted than those you raise from seed (at least until you have a few years of seed starting under your belt
  • Some plants are difficult to raise from seed (ie. parsley)

Transplants- Disadvantages

  • More expensive
  • More limited in the varieties you can get (though there is still a wide variety available), but are very convenient and are often bigger/stronger when they are ready to be planted than those you raise from seed (at least until you have a few years of seed starting under your belt).

If you do buy transplants I suggest getting them from a local nursery you’re familiar with and who you can ask where they got the plants, rather than at a big box store where no one has a clue. Contaminated plants supplied to big box stores in 2009 was a major factor in the extensive Late Blight epidemic that devastated tomatoes in the Northeast.

Vegetable height

Tomatoes are taller than onions. I’m trying to insult your intelligence here but I’ve met a lot of people who don’t necessarily think about this when planting their garden. If you put tomatoes in front of your onions, relative to the sun, your onions will be shaded out and not grow well. So figure on putting your taller veggies at the back of your garden. Also if you get most of your sun either early (East) or late (West), rather that evenly through the day, the tall plants should be on the side where they don’t shade the short ones.

Plant Your Tall Veggies Behind the Short Ones

Plant Your Tall Veggies Behind the Short Ones

Tall Plants

  • Tomatoes
  • Corn
  • Anything grown on a trellis including Beans, Peas, Cucumbers, some Melons

Medium Height

  • Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Eggplant
  • Potatoes
  • Squash
  • Kale

Short Plants

  • Lettuce
  • Beets
  • Onions
  • Carrots

Vegetable Spacing
Different plants need to be spaced different distances apart. Most guides you’ll find mention a range of distances such as tomatoes being planted 24”-36” apart. These same guides will also usually give a greater distance between rows of the same vegetables than for ones in a row.

I tend to plant my veggies at the closer end of the scale and have generally found no reason to make the distance between the rows any different than between plants in a row. Square Foot Gardening has a lot of good information about vegetable spacing.

There are occasional exceptions to the above rule. In 2010 I planted my tomatoes at the far end of the distance scale. I did it because of 2009’s tomato blight. Although the blight is not supposed to be able to survive the winters here in New York, I suspected some probably survived and would be around in a greater amount than usual (which is was). By planting my tomatoes further apart there will be more air circulation to dry off the leaves quickly after they get wet which will decrease the likelihood of my tomatoes getting the blight. I got over 300 lbs of tomatoes and no blight. I don’t know how much the spacing helped, but I know it didn’t hurt.

Now you can put together your plan, Like mine below for part of my garden.

Sample Garden Plan

Sample Garden Plan

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