Planning a Vegetable Garden Outside the Lines

Now that Spring planting season is upon is, it’s time to plan a vegetable garden. You may have already chosen what to plant this year, but have you decided where to plant those vegetable seeds and seedlings?

Traditionally a vegetable garden is planted in rows. When I helped my mother plan and plant a garden, we used string tied to stakes to ensure that the rows would be arrow straight. One long row for beans, another row for peas, more rows for lettuce and tomato plants. Each year, the garden looked pretty much the same.

The way I see it, a vegetable garden should be not only provide a feast for the dinner table, but also a treat for the eyes and an enjoyable place to spend an afternoon. A few changes in the vegetable garden layout can make it far more visually interesting.

Instead of planting a single row of lettuce, try planting lettuce in one or more blocks. Start by preparing a seed bed, raking the soil to break up any clumps. Next, scatter the lettuce seed across the bed, then cover lightly with soil. As the lettuce sprouts, any plants that are too close together can be thinned out and used as baby greens for a salad. To make a lettuce bed even more attractive, combine several varieties of lettuce seed and other salad green seeds together before planting. A mixed bed of green and red leaf lettuce with other salad greens is almost too beautiful to eat.

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Rather than making just one lettuce bed for the garden, make it even more interesting by planting a triangular lettuce bed in each corner of the garden. Wouldn’t that be pretty and appetizing!

Some crops, such as peas and beans, are more manageable if planted in rows. But you can produce a larger crop if two rows are planted closely together. Begin by making two shallow trenches for the seeds, about six inches apart. Plant both rows at the same time, but stagger the seeds within the rows. Not only will you save space in the garden, but the plants will also help support each other.

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You can also double-up with some crops. Plant pole bean seeds right along with corn seeds, then plant squash or pumpkins between the rows. These crops grow well together, and were referred to by Native Americans as the three sisters. The pole beans will climb up the corn stalks, while the squash vines will sprawl amongst the plants. The beans will help replace some of the nitrogen that corn plants use so readily, and the squash vines will shade the earth and keep down weeds. The prickly squash vines will also deter hungry raccoons from stealing your sweet corn.

Onions and garlic make a great border around the edge of the garden or around groups of plants. Add some flowering annuals here and there amongst the vegetable plants too. Not only will it make the garden more beautiful, but flowering plants will also attract beneficial insects and pollinators to your garden.

As you plan a vegetable garden, don’t forget to include a place for yourself in your garden. Make a space for a bench or maybe a comfortable old chair where you can relax and admire your handiwork. Then add some tall sunflowers to your vegetable garden layout to provide some shade for yourself as you relax on your bench in your beautiful garden.

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