Planting a vegetable garden: ideas, location & instructions


For many years now, I have been growing various vegetables as a hobby in my spare time, which is what ultimately led me to studying horticulture. I find it fascinating to watch as plants grow from seed to fruit and to then finally be able to make use of the literal fruits of my labour.

Favourite fruit: Strawberries and cherries
Favourite vegetable: Potatoes, tomatoes and garlic

Nothing beats the taste of freshly picked vegetables from your own garden. Read on for detailed information on choosing the right location for planting a vegetable garden, as well as a step-by-step guide on how to do it right.

Vegetable patch
If planned correctly, you can enjoy fresh lettuce from your own vegetable patch every day [Photo: sanddebeautheil/]

Planting a vegetable patch is a lot simpler than you might think! So do not be afraid to give it a go even if you are a beginner. In this article, we cover all of the most important factors (location and a little planning) to help ensure that your vegetable garden is a huge success.

Planting a vegetable garden: location, location, location

When starting a vegetable garden, location is everything and particular attention should be paid to these aspects:

Sun and weather exposure
Most vegetables thrive in the sun. So make sure your vegetable patch is set up far enough away from large trees and shrubs to ensure that the plants get enough light. It is also important that you choose a spot that is not overly exposed to the wind. That way your plants will be protected from strong winds while still benefiting from good air circulation. This is important because it allows plants to dry out faster after rain, reducing the likelihood of fungal diseases.

Soil quality
Soil quality is a very important aspect to consider for a healthy bed. Ideally, you will need loose soil that is rich in humus, has enough nutrients and is not prone to waterlogging. Carry out a soil analysis to find out which nutrients are already in your soil. If the soil is heavy and loamy, add sand and compost to improve its structure. If the soil is too sandy, add some compost to enrich it.

The last point to consider before creating the new bed is accessibility. Set it up close to the water supply and compost heap to avoid unnecessarily long walks with heavy loads when tending the beds.

Vegetable patch with courgettes
Courgettes love vegetable patches near house walls [Photo: Paul Maguire/]

Building a vegetable garden on a slope

Not every garden is completely flat, so you may find that your vegetable patch needs to be planted on a slope. The fact that water runs off quickly also complicates matters here. First you will need to create a level bed, a type of raised bed. Depending on the slope a low stone wall might be enough to convert the area into a level vegetable garden. If it is quite steep, build a reinforced timber framed bed. It is important that the structure you choose can withstand heavy rain fall. It is also a good idea to build some stairs for easy access.

We recommend building your veggie garden at the top of the slope to ensure that the plants get enough sunlight. It will also prevent plants from becoming waterlogged due to rain or runoff from the slope if planted at the bottom.

How to turn a lawn into a vegetable garden

If you want to plant your vegetable patch on grass, there are two different approaches: digging over and not digging over, with the former requiring a lot more work.

If you decide to dig over the lawn to make your vegetable bed, the first step is to remove the turf to a depth of about 10 to 15 cm. The best tool for the job is a spade. Mark out your desired dimensions with the spade. We recommend a width of 1.2 m to allow for easy access to the middle of the bed during care and harvest.

Digging a vegetable patch
Digging a vegetable patch requires a lot of manual labour and muscle power [Photo: Kristi Blokhin/]

Infiltration ditches
The use of infiltration ditches is a tried and true method for digging vegetable beds. Divide the plot into smaller strips about 60 cm in width. Start by cutting out the sod of the first strip and setting it aside. Next dig out a ditch that is roughly as deep as the blade of the spade and set aside the soil with the sod. Now cut out the sod from the next strip, turn it over, chop it up and place it into the first ditch. Fill the first ditch with the excavated soil from the second ditch. Repeat this cycle until you reach the last strip of the bed. Fill the last strip with the sod and soil from the first strip.

Once completed, leave the soil to settle for a week or two before sowing and planting. As it can take a couple of years for the sod to rot completely, either dig deep ditches if you want to plant deep rooting vegetables or choose more shallow rooting vegetables in the meantime.

You can save considerable time and effort by using a rotary tiller or power hoe. These can be easily borrowed or hired from a local gardening club or gardening centre.

When is the best time to start a vegetable garden

Autumn and spring are the best times to start planting a vegetable garden. Each season has its advantages and disadvantages.

In autumn, for example, the frost will work to your advantage by helping to decompose any compact chunks of soil into a fine crumbly soil. The disadvantage, however, is that the valuable soil organisms that are inevitably brought up to the surface by digging will not be protected from frost.

Tip: After digging up the soil, adding a good green manure will help protect it from erosion and at the same time loosens it and enriches it with organic matter.

In spring, wait until the last frost has passed before digging the bed. This helps to protect the micro-organisms and living organisms in the soil over the winter and keeps nutrients from being washed away. However, this can also cause delays in your growing timetable if there is a prolonged frost. Also bear in mind that the soil is usually very wet and heavy in spring, so the workload will be more strenuous.

Garden tools on fine soil
Once the soil has been tilled, you should have a fine crumbly soil without clumps [Photo: Oksana Mizina/]

Create a plan for the vegetable patch

For your planting plan, you will need to decide which vegetables you want to eat and how many you want to grow. Based on that, you can estimate how much space each plant will need.

When planting, consideration needs to be given to the nutrient requirements of the plants. There are strong, medium and weak growers and each requires a different amount of nutrients in the soil. Crop rotation, in which a different type of vegetable is planted in the same spot every year, can be used in larger patches. However, in a small vegetable patch, this method is not always practical or necessary. Companion planting will be more effective here. The idea is that different plants interact with one another and have a correspondingly positive or negative impact on each other’s growth. Carrots (Daucus carota) planted between onions (Allium cepa) are said to keep pests such as the onion fly (Delia antiqua) away.

When planning your patch, remember to coordinate the cultivation periods of the various types of vegetables. That way you can use the space in the bed as efficiently as possible. For vegetables with shorter cultivation periods, staggered harvesting is a good idea.

Garlic and strawberries in vegetable patch
Garlic and strawberries make great companion plants [Photo: Hirundo/]

Step-by-step guide on planting a vegetable garden

  • Location: sunny, protected from the wind and easy to reach
  • Bed dimensions: roughly 1.2 m wide
  • Dig up the area in autumn or spring
  • Improve soil with suitable potting soil or garden compost
  • Draw up a planting plan
  • Sow your vegetables directly or start them in seed trays

Which soil to use when planting a vegetable patch

Using the right soil will significantly improve the soil structure and nutrient content of your vegetable bed. Our Plantura Organic Tomato & Vegetable Compost for example, is ideal for growing tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum), courgettes (Cucurbita pepo) and chillies (Capsicum). This organic tomato & vegetable compost is made entirely of natural raw materials and does not contain any peat. It promotes healthy plant growth and a bountiful harvest.

Organic Tomato & Vegetable Compost, 40L
Organic Tomato & Vegetable Compost, 40L
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  • Perfect for tomatoes & other vegetables such as chillies, courgettes & more
  • For strong & healthy plant growth as well as an abundant vegetable harvest
  • Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition

In addition to a vegetable patch, a small herb garden is a must. Read our dedicated article on how to plant your own herb garden to find out more.