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6 Ways to Plan a Garden Layout
Here are six of the most common garden layouts, whether you’re growing greenery in the ground, in containers or in raised beds:
1. Block Layout Gardens
The block-style garden layout is also known as close-row planting, although you don’t plant in traditional “close rows.” Instead of planting in single, long rows, vegetables are planted in rectangular or square-shaped blocks, usually in raised beds of some kind.
Unlike when planting in straight rows, close row planting allows you to utilize more of your space, instead of dedicating so much of it to walkways. Plants are grown very thickly in groups. So, you may plant a block of lettuces, next to a block of celery, then a block of radishes, etc…
The trick to the block layout garden is to plant densely without overcrowding your crops. Overcrowding hinders air circulation, which can lead to pests and diseases. The plants need soil that drains well and is infused with organic matter. And because of the high-density planting, the crops definitely need regular fertilizing.
This planting method requires a bed width of 3-4 feet, so you can easily reach the other side when harvesting, sowing seeds, replanting and weeding. The length can be the size that suits you best. Keep the walkways small… maybe about 1.5-2 feet. And heavily cover the walkways with organic mulch, whether you use grass clippings, straw, leaves or wood chips.
The block layout garden is perfect for creating a garden space along a long fence or a wall. It’s a great way to utilize that space to grow your own foods.
2. Four Square Gardens
Just like the name implies, this planting method involves dividing your bed into four equal quarters. Each individual square represents a completely different garden bed. Then, you plant each section based on these four categories, which are broken down by the amount of nutrients needed, with examples of each:
Need a high amount of fertilizing:
Need a medium amount of nutrients:
- Brussel Sprouts
- Swiss Chard
Require small amounts of fertilizing:
Take nitrogen from the air, convert it into a form plants can use, then leach it into the soil so the other plants can use it:
One of the biggest benefits of the four-square garden layout is that it forces crop rotation. When creating the layout, plant your crops from top-left and counter-clockwise in the following order:
- Heavy feeders
- Middle feeders
- Light feeders
- Soil builders
Rotating your crops each year helps keep soil diseases and pests at bay. This allows the soil to recover from pesky issues caused by growing specific crops. So, each time you harvest, rotate that group of crops over to the next square the following year.
3. Container Gardens
A common layout used by gardeners with limited space is container gardening. This is also a great way to garden when you have bad soil and are unable to amend it properly.
Here are some basic benefits of creating a container garden:
- Thriller, Filler, Spiller – In the center of a big pot, plant a large focal point to act as the “thriller.” Add “filler” plants around it that give it a vibrant, full look. Then, plant crops that will “spill” out over the sides of the container around the edges.
- Edible Containers – Densely plant edible crops that have vibrant, colorful, gorgeous foliage. Last year, I planted red mustard greens, swiss chard, fern and Helleborus Sunmarble together in one pot. It was gorgeous!
- One Color Planting – I am such a fan of the color purple that I dedicated two beds in my front yard to purple plants last spring. With this container garden method, you simply choose one color as your theme. Then, you add flowers and pretty edibles in variations of that color throughout the pot.
- Succulents & Flowers Mixed – There are many succulents with some interesting and eye-pleasing textures and colors. Choose the ones you like. Then, mix in some flowers to give the pot even more pops of colors and textures.
- Colorful Side Yard – This container gardening method is great for neglected pathways, such as the side of a house. Fill your pots with flowers that give the area a cheery feeling, like forget-me-nots, pansies and tulips.
4. Row Gardens
One of the common ways to plan a garden layout is using the row garden method. It consists of long, straight rows that run north and south. This guarantees that the area gets the best air circulation and sunlight possible.
Planting rows that run east to west will get the plants good sunlight during the mornings. But they will get very little to none during the afternoons because the preceding rows will shade them out.
Here is the basic planting layout to follow for row gardens:
- Tall Crops – Plant on the north side so they don’t shade out smaller plants (corn, runner beans, tomatoes)
- Medium-Height Crops – Grow these plants in the center of the growing area (cabbage, greens, summer squash)
- Short Crops – Grow on the south end of the planting area to give them continuous sunlight in the afternoons (radishes, turnips, lettuce, carrots)
5. Square Foot Gardens
These layouts are commonly set up using wood or strings attached to the bed frame. They are set up to divide the bed into 4X4 square grids. Then, only one type of crop is planted into each individual 4X4 foot section. All vine plants should be placed in the back and grown up trellises.
6. Vertical Gardens
Although I’m just getting into it, this is quickly becoming one of my favorite ways to plan my garden layout. Many people grow vertically because it’s a space saver. It allows you to grow vining plants upward, instead of letting them sprawl all over the ground. This can lead to diseases, which is another reason why I like this growing method so much.
- Some ideas for growing vertically include:
- Growing up trellises
- Growing upside down
- Growing in hanging baskets
- Growing in stackable containers
- Growing in planting towers
When to Plant Which Crops
Vegetables fall into two general groups based on the seasons in which they grow best:
- Cool Season Crops – Plant these crops in the spring after your last frost date, when the soil is still cool. This will get you a summer harvest. Or plant them during the late summer and harvest them in the fall. Cool season crops thrive best in cooler temperatures.
- Warm Season Crops – Plant these crops in the spring right after your last frost date to ensure they mature before you get your first frost in the fall. Warm season crops cannot stand frost, so the soil must be warm for them to thrive.