Where Does Your Garden Grow?

The phase “Right Plant, Right Place” rings true in every outdoor space, certainly for a vegetable garden.  Though each plant has some potential for adaptability, vegetables can generally be divided into 2 groups: a. the sun lovers and b. the ones that prefer full day sun but are adaptable to a few hours of shade as well.  Knowing the requirements of these picky and not-so-picky individuals leads to success or failure.


Veggies for sun include tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, okra, onions, beans, carrots, cucumbers, melons, potatoes, sweet corn and sweet potatoes.  Though not totally made for the shade, those that tolerate a bit are spinach, lettuce, broccoli, collards, peas and cabbage.  In specific terms, the sunny group need 6-7 hours of direct sunlight at a minimum, while the others can get by with 4-5.


In addition to sun exposure, there are other location specific considerations.  The first is a must and the second is a matter of human nature.  Loose, rich, well drained garden soil is an absolute requirement.  Attempting a garden growing venture in hard, compact, rock and nutrient poor media is an impossible hurdle to leap over.  Before seeding or installing transplants, stick a pitch fork in your chosen space and turn over a chunk.  If it looks black and rich and crumbles a bit, it’s good to go.  If it stays together as a heavy clod, even after you try to break it up, it needs help.  Fortunately, most problem soils can be greatly improved with an incorporation of organic matter.  Working in several bags of leaf mold or compost will provide the nutrients, drainage and the root expansion potential that veggies need to thrive.


The second is the location of the site itself.  If the plot being pondered is at the edge of the property, it might become a chore to tend the garden regularly.  Improve the chances of success by choosing a section of the landscape that is close to a water source and easily accessible.

Photo 0099 tessa barney

John Fech
Horticulture Extension Educator at Nebraska Extension
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.
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