Planning your vegetable garden around your family
May 3, 2011
  • /Crop Sciences
Planned gardens are more productive and, in the long run, less expensive than unplanned attempts, especially for first-time gardeners, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture specialist.

"To be successful, only plan to plant vegetables your family is willing to eat," said Richard Hentschel. "That is not to discourage you from trying something different each year, just be sure you plant enough of what they will eat, too."

Once you have the list of vegetables in mind, locate the sunny spot in your yard. Although leafy vegetables can grow with only a partial day of sun, a full day of light is best.

"Soil drainage is critical for good vegetable plant production," he said. "Gardeners can raise the bed by adding soil, organic matter and working that into the soil profile before you plant to increase water drainage."

"Make your garden big enough to provide the vegetables you need for fresh daily table use, but not so big that it becomes a burden to you and your family" Hentschel cautioned. "If one goal is to can or freeze vegetables, consider buying those vegetables at the farmers' market and focus your garden on other vegetables. For example, just two tomato plants will supply you with fresh tomatoes all summer, especially if one is a cherry tomato plant." Even a small area can produce a spring, summer and fall garden full of vegetables if some basic planning is done ahead. For example, where the early spring lettuce was, you can have room for snap beans.

"If you sow the row with radish and carrots, an early-season crop and long-season crop, you'll get two crops in the same space," he said. "Harvest the radishes when ready and let the carrots continue to grow."

You can also use the space between rows of long-season crops before they fill in. Examples of between-the-row crops include snap beans, radishes, green onions and spinach.

"Sweet corn is great, but you only get one ear per plant after growing it for several weeks," Hentschel said. "Squash plants that vine out can take over part of the lawn. If you grow squash, consider the bush types or grow them in a separate garden area of their own."