Creating, caring for and harvesting a vegetable garden
A vegetable garden can supply you with regular fresh, crunchy vegetables. Simply collect the harvest from the garden. Using these tips, you can create your vegetable garden properly and enjoy a plentiful harvest.
The correct way to create a vegetable garden
A vegetable garden is a little treasure directly next to your house or a plot in an allotment. It is a place where you can grow and, from time to time, harvest individual vegetable plants. Alternatively, you can go bigger and create a self-sufficiency garden.
There are some important things when creating a vegetable garden. You should take these into consideration from the start, as it takes a lot of effort to iron out little mistakes later on. With our tips you know exactly what to look out for and you will soon be harvesting vegetables you have grown yourself in your own garden.
Size, location and climate for a vegetable garden
If the vegetable garden is intended to provide self-sufficiency for a four person household, about 150 sqm bed area is sufficient, with the appropriate planning. Potatoes take up a lot of space in the garden. Plan an extra 50 sqm for these.
If you have limited space available, supplement meals with lettuce, herbs and other vegetables from your garden.
Choose the sunniest area on your property for the vegetable garden. The sun ensures particularly good growth with its light and warmth. It also contributes to an intense aroma. Hardly any vegetable varieties thrive in the shade. Even vegetables which grow underground, such as potatoes and carrots, need sunlight for their overground plant parts.
Vegetables which are easily enriched with nitrate such as leaf lettuce or spinach must grow in the sun. Nitrate is harmful to health and collects in the leaves in particular in low light levels. The brighter the plants’ location, the less nitrate will collect. If necessary, ensure additional lighting for perfect vegetable garden conditions. Then the plants will also grow on the shorter days in spring and autumn.
You cannot influence the climate in the vegetable garden. So you should adapt your vegetable selection to the prevailing conditions. If you live in a warm environment, such as a wine growing region, you can choose almost any vegetable varieties. You can also plant heat-loving vegetables such as peppers or aubergines. If your region is colder or you live high up, the choice is more limited. In this case, it is better to grow vegetables which prefer heat with a long cultivation time, such as tomatoes, in a greenhouse.
However, you can certainly influence the microclimate in the vegetable garden. A hedge around the garden, for example, will keep off strong winds. At the same time, the bed will remain well ventilated. The protection is important, as persistent wind reduces the temperature in the vegetable garden. It also dries out the earth. This will cause the plants to grow slowly, which may mean that you have less to harvest later on.
Conversely, if there is no breeze, pests and fungal diseases can spread particularly easily. So take appropriate measures, such as a hedge, to ensure good protection.
Plan beds and pathways
It is best to make a plan for your vegetable garden. This will allow you to precisely determine the size and you will have a good overview of the arrangement of the individual elements such as beds, pathways, storage spaces, a composter, a greenhouse, cold frames, raised beds or a garden house.
You should also plan a water connection or a well. It is best to put this in the most central position possible. This shortens the distances for watering.
The amount and width of the beds are particularly important when planning and later creating the vegetable garden. Plan beds no wider than 1.2 m so that later you can easily reach all areas of the garden and care for and harvest the plants.
Where the length of beds is concerned you can utilise the available space however you like. However, it makes sense to make all beds an equal length. For example, they could all be 1.2 m wide and 5 m long. This means you can stick to the crop rotations more easily later on and change the bed each year for different plants. In this way, you will not have to sacrifice mixed cultivation in the bed. So you can easily calculate how much harvest you can expect.
To cover an area of 150 sqm you will need 25 beds of the size stated above. Plan an area of about 10 m x 5 m independently of this area for potatoes.
The main pathways in the vegetable garden should form a central path cross or double cross, as in classic cottage gardens. They divide the areas for the beds into areas of roughly equal sizes. Do not make the pathways narrower than about 1 m. This will allow you to comfortably walk down them and also push around a wheelbarrow.
Lay a pathway 60 cm to 70 cm wide between the bed areas and the garden enclosure. This is important so that you can maintain the fence or cut the hedge without stepping on the beds.
The perfect place for the water connection is in the centre of the vegetable garden, where the two main pathways cross. You can create a water outlet at this point from an underground pipeline. Alternatively, set up a groundwater well. Remember that this will require a power connection. This supplies the submerged pump in the well shaft with energy. With a garden pump, such as the GardenPump 18 from Bosch, you can easily transport the water in this to the plants using a hose. You can also use the GardenPump 18 in the same way with a rainwater barrel. You can combine the Fontus mobile cleaning equipment with the same pump and use it for convenient garden watering.
Set up storage areas, a garden or greenhouse on the edge of the vegetable garden. If you build the composter yourself, you can set it up in the perfect size. The same applies for a self-built greenhouse. It should be easy to reach all of these facilities from the main pathway.
The composter should not be too small. You need three sufficiently large containers for reasonable composting. There must also be space for a wheelbarrow. A fruit tree planted next to it will provide some shade in the summer. This will prevent the compost from drying out so quickly.
If you are planning taller structures such as a raised bed, or if you want to plant small fruit trees, plan these for the north side of the garden. Then they will not cast shade on other plants.
Creating a water supply and main pathways
If you have finished planning you can start implementing and gradually creating your vegetable garden. It is best to start by installing the supply pipelines for the water. Do this by digging up a trench under the planned main pathway. It should be about 40 cm deep. Lay the water line in this. If necessary you can connect the end to a central water outlet or interpose several outlets. Install it level with the soil. You can also install it in pathways using its cover flaps.
As soon as the water supply is installed, mark out the planned main pathways. Then dig up about the soil about 10 cm deep along the markings. Install a continuous steel border along the edges. Hammer the metal strips vertically into the soil. This will clearly demarcate the beds from the pathways.
The steel borders are particularly easy to add. However, you can also create kerbs from concrete. Use twine to align them straightly and hammer them in firmly. Give them backrests on the bed side. This is a filling behind them of soil-damp concrete. It stabilises the stones.
When you have placed the edges, pack down the pathway substrate with a hand tamper. Then lay out a heavy duty geotextile. Cover this with a layer of stone chippings about 5 cm thick. This is more suitable than gravel as a path covering as it is more comfortable to walk along. Stone chippings are more angular and therefore wedge into one another better. Round gravel moves around under heavy pressure. This makes it difficult to walk on.
The top edge of the pathway should be about 5 cm below the pathway border.
Enclose the vegetable garden
Depending on the climate where you live, you can enclose your vegetable garden either with a fence or a protective hedge. Hedge bedding borders are typical for cottage or farm gardens and require regular pruning.
If you choose a fence, a semi-closed, roughly 1.2 m tall solution is ideal. This will keep the wind of the garden effectively. You can find out how to build a wind and visual protection here. If you are planning a vegetable garden in an existing garden, there is usually already an enclosure. However, in very large spaces it is worth putting up an additional enclosure for the vegetable garden. This will result in an area clearly separated from the rest of the garden.
You can keep most pests away with a vegetable protection net. If pests still attack your vegetables, we have lots of practical tips for combatting them.
Creating a compost space for the vegetable garden
Good soil is important for a rich vegetable harvest; you can produce this yourself with your own compost. Do not seal the ground under the compost space. Otherwise, earthworms and other beneficial creatures will not be able to reach the composter from underneath. These are important as they decompose the garden waste. An unsealed floor also allows excess moisture to percolate out easily. It’s best to use or build a composter with a three-chamber system with two separating walls. This will save material and space in the vegetable garden.
Simple constructions consist of wooden corner posts. You stretch a metal mesh between these. You can close the three chambers on the front side with inserted wooden planks.
Alternatively, a walled three-chamber composter is also conceivable. Build the walls on a foundation of clinkers and mortar. Leave a wide space between all the stones. Then the composter will be well ventilated.
A multi-functional leaf blower/vacuum that can chop up the fallen leaves is recommended so you can also use the leaves in your garden as compost. You can also use the chopped material for mulching.
Prepare the soil for the vegetable garden
If everything else has been done for the vegetable garden, you can create the beds. First of all, remove any plants currently growing there. These are often only grass or a wild meadow. Dig up the soil in the bed to about the depth of a spade.
If you find loamy or packed soil, dig up to the depth of two spade blades. This is also referred to as double-digging. Very loamy soil in the bed can be enriched with coarse sand. This makes the soil more permeable. Pour about 10 cm depth of sand onto the soil. You can then easily work in the material with a cultivator.
If necessary, add humus to the soil. Use leaf humus for very loamy soil and mature garden compost for sandy soils. This does not add as much acid to the soil.
Remove all weeds such as ground elder or couch grass from the bed.
The first planting in the vegetable garden
Experience has shown that it is worthwhile only growing potatoes in a new vegetable garden at first. The plants loosen the soil. The large foliage also reliably covers all the beds. So weeds don’t have a chance.
When the potatoes are harvested in late summer, sow a green manure. Cut this down in spring, rake it up and put it in the composter. You can then plant various vegetables in your vegetable garden.
First spread about 3 l of mature compost per square meter in the beds. You can thoroughly work the beds with a hoe. Then loosen the soil further with a cultivator or a rake. This should result in a fine grained seed bed.
Then sow your favourite vegetables in the beds. Lay wooden boards about 30 cm wide between the beds. These serve as temporary pathways.
Incidentally, it is also worth keeping a garden diary. Note what you have planted or sown and when. Keeping an overview of your mixed cultivation is also worthwhile in a raised bed. This will make it easier for you to stick to the correct crop rotation the following year. In this way you can care for the soil and always take in a good harvest.
If you want to know more about when you should do what kind of work in the garden, you can find out the best times for all the important tasks in our Gardening Calendar.