Choosing the right location for your garden plays an important role in your success, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Tom Koske. Several factors determine the best spot.
The horticulturist says soil quality, exposure to sunlight, proximity to your house, good drainage and what you plan to plant all should be considered in determining your best garden location.
"Good soil is not a gardener’s only consideration," Koske says, adding, "A plot near your home in full sunlight is the most convenient place for a home vegetable garden, but poor drainage, shallow soil and shade from buildings or trees may mean the garden must be located farther from the house.
"The amount of sunlight your garden gets must also be considered," he continues. "Leafy vegetables, for example, can be grown in partial shade, but vegetables producing fruit must be grown in direct sunlight."
In planning your garden, consider what and how much you will plant, Koske says, stressing, "It is better to have a small garden well maintained than a large one neglected and full of weeds."
Diagram the garden rows on paper, and note the length of row you wish to assign to each vegetable. Then you can decide how much seed and how many plants to buy. Corn is always planted in blocks or patches so that neighboring plants help pollinate each other. Plant several short rows, side by side. Place tall-growing crops on the north side so they won’t shade short crops.
The horticulturist also says to consider the possibility of working your vegetables in plots in front of your shrubbery. "Many vegetables are ornamental in appearance," he says, adding, "Some vegetables can be grown in your flower beds; others can be grown entirely in containers if necessary."
In most cases, your garden should be surrounded by a fence sufficient to keep out dogs, rabbits and other animals, Koske advises, saying a fence also can serve as a trellis for beans, peas, tomatoes and other crops that need support.
The horticulturist also says fertile, deep, friable, well-drained soil is necessary for a successful garden.
"The exact type of soil is not so important as that it be well drained, well supplied with organic matter and that it will hold some moisture," he says.
The kind of subsoil also is vitally important. "Hard shale, gravel beds, very deep sand or a hardpan just under the surface soil is likely to make the development of high-grade garden soil extremely difficult," the horticulturist says, adding, "On the other hand, infertile soil that has good physical properties can be made productive by using organic matter, lime and commercial fertilizer."
Good drainage of the soil also is essential, because soil drainage often may be improved by installing agricultural tile, digging ditches and sometimes by plowing deeply into the subsoil. The garden should be free of low places where water might stand after a heavy rain, and water from surrounding land should not drain into the garden. There should be no danger of flooding by overflow from nearby ditches. Good air movement is necessary to reduce the danger of damage to your garden from diseases.
Koske says a gentle slope of not more than 1.5 percent facing in a southerly direction helps early crops get started and provides good surface drainage. Hedges and other living windbreaks should be far enough away from the garden to prevent shade or roots from interfering with the garden crops.
The garden should get the direct rays of the sun all day if possible. Some crops, like greens, can tolerate partial shade, but no amount of fertilizer, water or care can replace needed sunshine. Even where trees do not shade garden crops, tree roots may penetrate far into the yard and rob crops of moisture and plant food.
Damage to garden crops by tree roots may be largely prevented by digging a trench 1 1/2 feet to 2 feet deep between the trees and the garden, cutting all the tree roots that cross the trench. Then put a barrier, like waste sheet metal or heavy roofing paper, along one wall of the trench and refill it.
For information on related topics, look for Gardening and Get It Growing links in the Feature section of the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com. Additional yard and garden topics are available from an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.