Designing your garden is more than just making it look good. In fact, in an edible garden, how you lay out your garden has a lot to do with how healthy and productive it is come harvest time. In this podcast, Joe Lamp’l covers everything you need to know to plan and plant your garden for a more bountiful harvest.
Show Notes: BHG007 – Designing Your Garden for Better Yields
Well last week, we talked about the importance of making notes of your garden through the season so you can repeat the successes and avoid the failures. And one of the things I mentioned was making note of the garden layout for all your plants to thrive. And that’s what I want to talk more about today; How to design your vegetable garden so that all your plants have the best chance of success. So yes, where you place your plants in the garden has a lot to do with their overall health and productivity.
We already know that vegetable plants love sun, and the more we can give them, the better. But how we lay out our garden at planting time can have a big impact on how much sun our plants are getting throughout the season as they grow. Even though we may be starting with a blank palette, we need to keep in mind the mature height and width of each type of plant we put in our garden, and place them so they aren’t shading out the smaller ones.
So with that in mind, here’s a question for you; to get the maximum amount of sunlight on our plants, is it better to have our garden beds run north to south or east to west? Well, actually that was a trick question, because in the southern hemisphere, it really doesn’t matter that much. The sun passes so directly overhead during the summer growing months that no matter which way you place your beds, your plants will still get about the same amount of light.
But here’s what does matter. Where you place your plants within those beds. You never want the tallest plants shading out the shortest ones. So how do you avoid this? Plant your tallest varieties along the north or west side of your garden. Now earlier, I said the sun passes directly overhead, but really it tracks across the sky with a slightly southern exposure. So as the sun’s rays bath our garden plants through the day, the angle is slightly from the south. So with that in mind, by placing the tallest plants at the north side of our garden, and the shorter plants in front, all our plants will get the maximum amount of sun.
Here’s an example to help illustrate the point. Assume I have one garden bed and I’m growing pole beans, eggplant and cucumbers along the ground. Since the pole beans are the tallest, they go on the north side of the bed. The medium sized eggplants will go in the middle or just south of the pole beans, and finally, the cucumbers that I decided to grow along the ground would be my southern most plants in the bed.
Now for a twist, what if I wanted to grow those cucumbers on a trellis? Well then, I’d put them in the middle, since they’ll grow taller than the eggplants but not as tall as the pole beans. And when you start getting two plants of similar height growing near each other, be mindful of ensuring that however you place your plants, they all have the best chance of getting the most sunlight possible.
OK, that was an example of north to south. Now let’s look at east to west. I bet you can figure this one out from what we just learned. Again, I’ll start with a question: This time you want to grow a big plot of corn within your garden, along with some other crops. But no matter what else you’re growing, are you going to put your corn on the east or west side of your garden? The west side of course! As the sun rises and moves across the sky, we know it rises from the east. So by having the tallest plants on the west side of the garden, everything planted to the east, gets to soak up all that sun before those late day rays have any chance of casting shade on them.
It’s as simple as that! Plant your tallest plants along the north or west side of your garden and everybody wins. OK, here’s one more teaser just to see if you were paying attention: Which location gives all your plants the best opportunity to get every drop of the sun’s rays for the entire day? Placing your tallest plants on the North or the West side of your garden? If you said the north, you’re right! Going back to what I said earlier, the slightly southern exposure as the sun tracks across the sky will bathe all your plants in the most light possible when the tallest plants are at the northern most place in your garden. So put the right plants in the right place and you should be well on your way to gardening like a pro with your Burpee Home Gardens Plants.
Now next week, we’ll talk about another consideration when considering where and what to plant. For those space-challenged gardeners out there, fear not! I’ll have some great ideas for you to get the most out of your garden too, no matter how small it is. And even if space isn’t an issue, gardening in containers offers an entire new dimension to what and where you can grow edibles. In fact, no matter where your garden grows, we’ll be right there with you, every step of the way to help you have a great season. This is just one of 26 podcasts created to get you off to a successful start and provide helpful, weekly tips throughout the entire growing season. And to be sure you don’t miss a single, you can subscribe to this podcast series for free in iTunes. And for more ideas and inspiration any time, be sure to check out burpeehomegardens.com.
We’ll be right back here next week for another Burpee Home Gardens Tip of the Week.
Now go get dirty!
Joe Lamp’l, Lovin all your websites..so helpful with all stages of gardening. I have 2 raised garden beds. Each is 6ft wide by 12 long. They face east west, and I have a 6 ft fence on the east side. So my question is do I put larger plants on the west?? Now I have squash trailing onto my fence on the east, in back and all smaller plants headed toward the west. This seems to work. Tomatoes are east towards fence also and cukes, on an arched trellis towards west. I put beans on a trellis on north side and peppers towards west. Does this sound good? So far my garden is growing great with only pm as a problem. I had this last year and forgot I had to keep an eye out for this or pre-treat. This is my second year with the garden, but having great results. I live in Northwest Indiana. Do you think I should put my tall veggies on the west? I was planting tall on the east because of the fence. Put some lettuces behind the squash and tomatoes so they would block the west sun. This provided shade. Thanks for your help.
Joe Lamp'l says
Hi Mary. The rule I follow is to put your tallest plants on the north or west side of your garden, then mid-sized plants in front (or to the east) of them, and smallest plants in front (or east) of them. In the northern hemisphere, the sun’s rays strike the ground from a slightly southern exposure. So follow this rule as best you can and you will have maximized the exposure to all your plants.
Hi there! I’ve been keenly trying to get some guidance on how to design/lay out my garden according to where the sun rises/sets in relation to it. So I was excited to see this article. However, I’m confused. i thought BHG was based in North America but yet in this article you reference being in the Southern Hemisphere. I don’t want to follow the advice if this is in fact written for gardeners located in the Southern Hemisphere so just wanted to ask for clarification!
Joe Lamp'l says
That was my bad Felicity. I meant to say “northern” hemisphere. Sorry for the confusion! BHG is U.S based.
How hard is it to grow okra? I live in N Idaho. I here it is really good for your health.
Joe Lamp'l says
Easy to grow once it gets warm. Soak the seeds in water for about 24 hours to speed up germination and plant according to instructions on package. They grow pretty past. The most important thing to know about growing okra is that once it starts putting out fruit, you need to harvest when pods are 2-4 inches. They grow so fast, if you miss a day, it might be too late. Once pods get longer than 4″, they become too tough and woody.