Site selection and sizing can seem like easy decisions to make when it comes to start a home garden, but how many of us who gardened have said, after a few years, “I wish this was a little closer to the house,” or “if I’d know that tree was going to get so big…”? These kinds of things are useful to try to anticipate early in the planning process; none of us wants to put all the time and energy into improving a garden plot only to resent its placement.
There are a few things to consider when choosing your garden’s location, the first of which is sunlight. Optimally your garden will get more than 8 hours of sunlight a day during the growing season, some vegetables can make out with less (that’s a forthcoming post), but 8 hours is ideal.
The next is to consider the geography of the place and its surrounding. A slight slope south-south-west (or sunward) can give your garden a little boost in the amount of heat and sunlight it receives, but not too much or you risk losing valuable rain to running off. Trees or bushes on the north and east (but not too close) can help create a beneficial microclimate that can help the ground warm up more quickly and stay warmer longer in the shoulder seasons.
And of course you’ll want to make sure that you get easily access your garden when you want to with hoses, tools, etc. We often tuck gardens away in the back corners of our properties, but this can lead to them being forgotten. Some of the best gardens I’ve seen (not mine!) are ones that are right front and centre of a yard.
Sizing is trickier, because it depends a lot on what you’re trying to grow. A row of pumpkin plants takes up a lot more space than a row of lettuce, for example. The conventional wisdom states that about 200 square feet of garden is required for year-round vegetables for one person, half that if you’re just worried about having fresh, in-season produce. Again, much of this depends on what you choose to plant and the percentage of your food intake that is fruits and vegetables.
Take some time to research how much space your favourite things take up, and think about how much time you want to devote to gardening. It might seem silly to think of it this way, but on average 10 square feet of your garden will need about a 1 minute of your day on average. This is a helpful number when determining how much time your garden will take. Our 200 square foot garden, for example, will take about 20 minutes per day to maintain when averaged over the season, some days more, some days less.
This number scales slightly as your garden gets bigger and/or equipment is used, but it’s a good starting point.
PS/Full Disclosure: these photos are from previous years, I haven’t worked my gardens yet for this season. It’s way too wet.