How to design a vegetable patch or vegetable garden in your garden
A vegetable garden combines vegetables and ornamental plants in a beautiful way for a space that is both charming and useful. Often called a kitchen garden from the French ‘garden soup”or ”soup garden”, this style has been part of historic estates, country houses and informal cottage gardens throughout history in France and many other cultures. “What’s so enchanting about a vegetable garden is that there’s an element of strong architectural form, like tightly pruned box trees, combined with loose, puffy flowers in bloom, which creates an attractive contrast,” says Linda Vater, author of The elegant and edible garden: Design a dream vegetable garden adapted to your personality, your desires and your lifestyle, and host of a popular YouTube gardening channel. “A vegetable garden appeals to all of your senses. It should be visually appealing, but also have elements of texture and fragrance to create a fairy tale appeal and a sense of peace.
How to design a vegetable garden
Any size plot is suitable for a vegetable garden. If you’re new to gardening, it’s best to start small and understand the time commitment before digging up your entire side yard so you don’t get frustrated and feel overwhelmed. After all, it’s supposed to be fun! You can also plant a vegetable garden in a collection of planters, containers, or pots on your patio or balcony, if that’s the only space available, says Vater. Pots can also be placed strategically in garden beds to add height; this allows you to move them, if necessary, to accommodate variations in sunlight throughout the season.
Choose the right location.
While a vegetable patch is traditionally placed near the door closest to the kitchen, you need to consider the environment of your own garden. Vegetables need full sun, 6 hours or more of direct sunlight per day. Decide where your vegetable garden will get the right exposure, then plan accordingly, even if that means placing the garden farther from the house. But also make sure the water is accessible, so you don’t struggle with thirsty plants during a heat wave in July.
Plant lots of different herbs.
Herbs are a great base for your vegetable garden, says Vater. Many perennial herbs, such as lavender, thyme, sage, and oregano, are easy to grow and will come back year after year. Let your herbs bloom, which attracts the pollinators necessary for edibles, like squash, to develop fruit.
Herbs are also incredibly versatile. Plants such as dill and sage make beautiful bouquets for the kitchen counter, lavender can float in drinks or be used to flavor your bath water, and chamomile can be infused fresh or dried to a soothing tea. Herbal topiaries are another way to inject texture, charm and interest into your vegetable patch.
Add pretty, easy-care foods.
Many edibles are beautiful on their own, like rainbow-colored Swiss chard, the dark blue-green leaves of Tuscan cabbage, and colorful lettuces. Easy-to-grow vegetables to consider include cayenne peppers, which can be used fresh or dried; cherry tomatoes, which come in a variety of colors; and tiny eggplants, which are suitable for containers. In fact, many new vegetables have been developed to be more compact for growing in containers. Another option is to create a themed garden, such as a tomato and basil spaghetti garden or a cocktail garden with garnishes like mint and rosemary.
Mix ornamental plants in your vegetable garden.
Both annual and perennial flowers have their place in a vegetable garden. Pansies and nasturtiums are great annuals, and they’re also edible. Perennials and shrubs such as roses, lavender, salvia, coneflowers and black-eyed Susans attract pollinators and add color, texture and fragrance. You can also add cutting garden favorites such as larkspur, cosmos, zinnia, dahlias, sunflowers, mums and asters for color throughout the season.
Define the space.
Your vegetable garden should have a sense of enclosure, which can be achieved with a frame of raised beds, a fence or a border of trimmed box hedges. The idea is to provide a sense of privacy, protection and privacy, as well as dividing the garden into a manageable space for maintenance, reinforcing the idea of garden ‘rooms’ and setting the tone space,” says Vater. Enclosures also turn your vegetable garden into a welcoming place to relax or entertain guests.
The paths not only allow you to walk around the garden to admire the changing views, but they are also necessary for you to kneel down to weed or harvest your vegetables and herbs. A path doesn’t have to be wide, but it should leave enough room for you to reach and work with your plants without getting into the bed and compacting the soil or twisting your back, says Vater.
Incorporate garden structures.
Garden structures such as stakes, trellises or arbors provide a focal point in the garden but also provide surfaces for plants to climb. “If you don’t have a lot of space, you need to grow upwards, not outwards,” says Vater. These structures provide support for vegetables such as adorable little pattypan squashes, climbing beans such as scarlet runners, nasturtiums of all colors, and climbing roses. It is not necessary to separate edible and ornamental plants; in fact, a vegetable garden is more delicious when these plantings are intertwined.
Whether you’re a new gardener or you’ve been digging in the dirt for years, don’t be afraid to experiment. It’s also helpful to jot down a few notes in a garden journal or take pictures of your garden to remind you when certain plants budded or flowered or what went particularly well (or not so well!) this year.
Finally, be patient: the plants will die, despite your best efforts, because nature is capricious. But it’s all so worth it! “A garden is a dynamic space that stimulates creativity and nourishes the soul,” says Vater. “It takes time to grow and constantly change and evolve, which is part of the journey.”