Choosing a Site for a Vegetable Garden

While we were house hunting, an important consideration was whether the yard would be suitable to having a vegetable garden. During open houses and showings, I brought a compass along (an easy way to make your Realtor think you’re not right in the head) and thought about where our vegetable garden would go: a spot with full sun, close to a water source, visible from inside, and accessible for quick picking and weeding. However, our final house search and selection was very quick and I signed our documents at closing just praying that the 0.29 acre lot would have someplace to situate a vegetable garden.

Once we moved in last July of 2012, I started paying attention to different locations around the yard. I asked neighbors where the lot lines were, noted the sunlight every hour in several spots, considered where the faucets were located, and stared out our house’s windows dreaming about a big beautiful garden somewhere out there. What I realized was that there weren’t many good options. We were on a corner lot and the two road-sides of the house didn’t seem appropriate (the neighborhood trend is one with “proper landscaping”). With trees all around the property, there were only a few small patches of yard with full sun. I started guiltily adding trees to a hit list whenever their shadows darkened a spot that I liked.

I ended up deciding on the far, south-southeast side of our backyard. It had the most potential for full sun, was within range of a water hose from the back faucet, and was visible from our kitchen window. While some people might find a vegetable garden to be an eyesore, I love the lush look of growing plants and healthy soil and wanted to gaze out at it while eating.

These brussels sprouts are from the farmer's market. I have doubts that my vegetable garden will grow anything so large.

These brussels sprouts are from the farmer’s market. I have doubts that my vegetable garden will grow anything so large.

But there are a few concerns with the spot: whether it will get enough full sun, whether the neighbor’s lawn service will be a problem, whether the trees close to the garden will steal nutrients away from the vegetable plants, and if the location will be visited frequently enough.

First concern: I’m hoping that my best potential spot for full sun actually gets enough sun. There is some patchy sunshine coming through the trees in the early morning and then full sun for 4 hours mid-day. There’s a large blue spruce tree to the south of the garden which is at the top of my hit list due to the shade it casts over the garden in the afternoon. It‘s actually two trees right next to each other. Before trying to take down these trees, I decided it would be good to wait a year and see how things grow in the garden. The tree appears to be too large for us to take down ourselves and the tree removal estimates from tree services would make the garden quite expensive.

Second concern: our neighbor to the south (along my best vegetable garden site) has a lawn service. I called the lawn service to inquire about what they ‘do’ to the lawns, and although they were very friendly and happy to provide some information, I wasn’t too happy with the information itself (more on this in another post). I wonder whether they have sprayed the garden site in the past (not knowing where the lot lines were) and whether that ground is contaminated. I wonder about if the pesticides and insecticides will drift into the garden in the wind, water, or other means. I wonder if I’ll be able to call my garden organic if it is 2 feet away from a lawn exposed to chemicals. With small children and a dog, I don’t like this one bit.

Third concern: there are several trees and shrubs near the vegetable garden site. It’s possible that those roots will be a problem, both in taking water and nutrients away from the vegetables and making it hard to dig in the soil or install a rabbit fence. There is a large blue spruce tree 20 feet away, a large honey locust tree 15 feet away, an unknown neighbor’s shrub 10 feet away, an apple tree 8 feet away, a pear tree 4 feet away, and a dwarf evergreen about 2 feet away. When Mel Bartholomew talks about putting plywood under a raised garden bed to avoid competition from nearby trees and shrubs, I can see how that could be a good thing (although I object to cutting my garden off from the earthworms and rest of the yard’s ecosystem).

Fourth concern: this potential vegetable garden spot is located far away from frequent walking areas by the house. It’s not right by a door, garage, or patio; it’s at the far end of the yard. This means that I’ll have to make it a point to go out to the garden to plant, weed, and harvest vegetables, and it will be more like work than convenience. This is not good, but at least I can see the garden well from the kitchen (where I spend most of my time), and perhaps I can do some container gardening right by a door, garage, or patio for some vegetables that need more attention.

Ach, is my vegetable garden doomed? I wonder how much money to invest in this garden, given the concerns. Can I make it work and defy the odds?

I’m determined to grow some healthy food for my family, someway, somehow.

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3 thoughts on “Choosing a Site for a Vegetable Garden

  1. Pingback: Preparing our Vegetable Garden Soil | SimpliCitySoil

  2. Pingback: Fencing our Vegetable Garden | SimpliCitySoil

  3. Pingback: Making Urban Permaculture Happen | SimpliCitySoil

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