Organic Vegetable Garden Design – 3 Tips From Phil

If you’re on a quest for some organic vegetable garden design ideas, here are 3 unique tips to think about when planning a vegetable garden.

Vegetable Garden Design Tips 1 & 2

1. Remember beauty. Search “Google Images” for the term “vegetable garden” and you’ll get hundreds of photos of square and rectangular vegetable gardens. And sure, there are a couple of advantages – they can be easier to water and measure.

But let’s remember that it doesn’t always have to be so formal. Your organic vegetable garden design layout can be beautiful. Your beds can be curvy and fit in nicely to your existing landscape. They can have some flowers in there for beauty and insect attraction. Remember beauty when planning your garden.

2. House Proximity. Likewise, vegetable gardening doesn’t have to be banished to a back corner of your yard. If you study permaculture, you’ll learn that the best place for an organic vegetable garden is often right outside the kitchen door – close by for daily harvesting and other tasks.

I like to integrate my vegetable garden designs into the landscape, right by the house, interspersing vegetables with flowers, shrubs and trees. I keep my compost pile close by, too, rather than hiding behind the shed. That way, I have compost nearby all season, which is handy because it allows me to regularly throw in my kitchen scraps without trudging to the back of the property, and I like to keep seeding some vegetables throughout the year. That brings me to planting…

Vegetable Garden Design Tip 3

3. Plant Densely And Informally. Still thinking about beauty, but also other benefits, I like to mix many species of plants together more naturally when planting a vegetable garden rather than having straight rows with just 1 species of plant each. The straight row approach is reminiscent of a farm field, while the mixed species approach is more of a natural, organic vegetable garden design layout.

You’ll create a diverse soil food web ecosystem that keeps plant predators and weeds under control, and keeps the ground covered, cool and moist throughout the growing season. If you choose your plants carefully, they will benefit each other with shade, wind protection, nutrition and natural trellises (for example, beans can climb up corn and vetch can climb up ryegrass). Often, when I harvest something, I seed something else to replace it.

Do you have any design tips to share with us? Tell us something you always try to remember in your organic vegetable garden designs.

Click for video transcription

This transcription will have some mistakes because it is partially automated.

My third tip is to plant things very densely and more informally, kind of keeping up with this aesthetic theme of a vegetable garden design layout but also for their other benefits to doing this.

So what I’ve done here, if we just take a look at this section here of the vegetable garden design layout that is out there in a really niceful sun, often, usually the way it is going to be done is something like this which I drawn in here. Zoom in here.

See you can see we have straight rows of, you know, maybe our beans and our greens and cabbage and kale and carrots and things like that. Nice straight rows.

People sometimes will have a path going down between every rows so they can get right up to the plants, which is usually gonna be a waste of space in my opinion. But sometimes you know often they will, all the plants will grow perfectly nice together if you space them properly.

Now this is fine to plant things like this. It’s the traditional way of doing it. It kinda reminisce us how farm works, a field! You know you have the nice roads so that you can drive down them.

Well that is fine but what I want to do is something a little different with this vegetable garden design layout. So if I remove this, here is what I’ve done next as I planted more densely and much more informally.

So I’ve taken all those same plants, same number and I’ve just put them all in together very randomly and first of all I can get things more closely together if I plan cleverly so I can get a lot more out of space.

Now plants won’t necessarily get as big or produce as much on their own but, overall for this square footage I can get more products, more food coming out of there.

There are other benefits though, we have plants if we do this intelligently we can plant things so, some taller plants provide a little bit of afternoon shades for some smaller plants. Things like corn can act as a treluce for beans; or grass can act as treluce for vetch if you are doing more of a cover crop.

You know the soil is gonna stay covered a lot better. It will be moister, weeds would be controlled, plant predators will be controlled better, because there is so much diversity going on in here that you know, there is just not anyone pest is going to, would get a hold of something as well because you just have so much diversity going on.

Of course incorporated in here won’t just be vegetables, I would like to put some flowers in there that attracts certain beneficial insects and that maybe deters some other insects. Things like that! So I like to plant densely and informally like that too.

If you want to go a little more formal which is just fine, I’ve done another one here. You could see I am a little bit of a computer geek. I’ve done one here and I do a lot of my drawing in paper too for when I am designing but this is just easier to show you.

So here I’ve taken the exact same plants but I group them more like you might find in nature. And so kinda group things in cluster like you were going to do a few designing of your garden and that looks really nice. But it provides a little bit more of a naturally looking system and more density and you get a lot more plants in there than if you are just planting in rows, so lots of benefits to doing that.

So there are my three tips. The first one is trying to go forth or consider going for a more informal, nice curvy organic garden that really fits in with your existing garden instead of sitting out there on its own as a perfect breath taker.

Next one is bring it closer to the house. Right near the kitchen door if possible, bring your compose pile close there too, have your rain water barrel right there too. You know, think about all that kind of ecological design stuff where everything is right close nearby.

And then third one here is this. Plant densely, plant informally, get a bunch of stuff in there. As soon as I harvest something in during the summer, I am going to be seeding something or planting something else in there which is why I like the compose pile nearby.

So, always keep that nice dense, informal planting going on. So I hope those organic vegetable garden design tips have been helpful for you. If you have not picked up the 15 Vital Organic Gardening Lessons for Becoming a Better Organic Gardener, you can do that at smilinggardener.com right there on the main page. And I hope that’s been helpful for you, I’ll see you next week.

My third tip is to plant things very densely and more informally, kind of keeping up with this aesthetic theme of a vegetable garden design layout but also for their other benefits to doing this.

So what I’ve done here, if we just take a look at this section here of the vegetable garden design layout that is out there in a really niceful sun, often, usually the way it is going to be done is something like this which I drawn in here. Zoom in here.

See you can see we have straight rows of, you know, maybe our beans and our greens and cabbage and kale and carrots and things like that. Nice straight rows.

People sometimes will have a path going down between every rows so they can get right up to the plants, which is usually gonna be a waste of space in my opinion. But sometimes you know often they will, all the plants will grow perfectly nice together if you space them properly.

Now this is fine to plant things like this. It’s the traditional way of doing it. It kinda reminisce us how farm works, a field! You know you have the nice roads so that you can drive down them.

Well that is fine but what I want to do is something a little different with this vegetable garden design layout. So if I remove this, here is what I’ve done next as I planted more densely and much more informally.

So I’ve taken all those same plants, same number and I’ve just put them all in together very randomly and first of all I can get things more closely together if I plan cleverly so I can get a lot more out of space.

Now plants won’t necessarily get as big or produce as much on their own but, overall for this square footage I can get more products, more food coming out of there.

There are other benefits though, we have plants if we do this intelligently we can plant things so, some taller plants provide a little bit of afternoon shades for some smaller plants. Things like corn can act as a treluce for beans; or grass can act as treluce for vetch if you are doing more of a cover crop.

You know the soil is gonna stay covered a lot better. It will be moister, weeds would be controlled, plant predators will be controlled better, because there is so much diversity going on in here that you know, there is just not anyone pest is going to, would get a hold of something as well because you just have so much diversity going on.

Of course incorporated in here won’t just be vegetables, I would like to put some flowers in there that attracts certain beneficial insects and that maybe deters some other insects. Things like that! So I like to plant densely and informally like that too.

If you want to go a little more formal which is just fine, I’ve done another one here. You could see I am a little bit of a computer geek. I’ve done one here and I do a lot of my drawing in paper too for when I am designing but this is just easier to show you.

So here I’ve taken the exact same plants but I group them more like you might find in nature. And so kinda group things in cluster like you were going to do a few designing of your garden and that looks really nice. But it provides a little bit more of a naturally looking system and more density and you get a lot more plants in there than if you are just planting in rows, so lots of benefits to doing that.

So there are my three tips. The first one is trying to go forth or consider going for a more informal, nice curvy organic garden that really fits in with your existing garden instead of sitting out there on its own as a perfect breath taker.

Next one is bring it closer to the house. Right near the kitchen door if possible, bring your compose pile close there too, have your rain water barrel right there too. You know, think about all that kind of ecological design stuff where everything is right close nearby.

And then third one here is this. Plant densely, plant informally, get a bunch of stuff in there. As soon as I harvest something in during the summer, I am going to be seeding something or planting something else in there which is why I like the compose pile nearby.

So, always keep that nice dense, informal planting going on. So I hope those organic vegetable garden design tips have been helpful for you. If you have not picked up the 15 Vital Organic Gardening Lessons for Becoming a Better Organic Gardener, you can do that at smilinggardener.com right there on the main page. And I hope that’s been helpful for you, I’ll see you next week.

9 Comments

  1. Renate Kasper on June 25, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    I started focusing on the aesthetic nature of my garden more this year and have employed this same mindset of informal rows and groupings, with the addition of flowers and other ornamentals  When I put areas together in dense clusters, I put stepping stone pavers randomly around to be able to make my way through the plants better.  This works with the smaller plants at least.My question now is regarding all the mixing of plants as you described.  Do you worry about crop rotation when you mix all kinds of things together?  The next season, would you have to move the entire grouping elsewhere so as not to allow any of the plants in that assortment to remain in that spot?Renate

    • Phil on June 25, 2011 at 8:35 pm

      Great question. I don’t have a definitive answer, but for the most part, Idon’t worry about it too much if I have a good mix with lots of diversity. Iobviously like to move my potato patch every year if possible, and if I hadan area that was dominated by something like sweet corn, I generaly try torotate that, too.But if it’s a mix of greens and herbs and many other vegetables together, Idon’t rotate. Anyone else have thoughts on this?

  2. landscaping design on July 11, 2011 at 4:09 am

    In landscaping your garden architects are expert on this. They areable to make beautiful and unique designs. So if you want your garden to bebeautiful, find your architect designer right now.

  3. Amy Pearson on September 17, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    If you’re truly interested in living organicyou must take action by learning more about genetically engineered food andGMOs. 

  4. Susanhenkel on September 22, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    Phil, you are talking my language.  I’m very interested in delving more into “edible landscaping”.  Our garden is a 6×16 rectangle.  I’ve practiced square-foot gardening at one end for the past four years … for several reasons … one of which is the patchwork quilt look of the different colours and textures of vegetables (and some added flowers).  The other end, by the way, is for garlic, onions, peas, zucchini.  But, I have been wanting to create something more organic looking and incorporate perhaps more flowers … for beneficial insects, aesthetics … and for cut flowers.  Will work on new plan this winter.Thanks for addressing this!! I look forward to all the information you provide. 

  5. Suzanne Fulton on July 7, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Flowers & vegetables don’t always do well together in my experience.

    • Phil on July 11, 2012 at 2:03 pm

      I agree, but sometimes they’re very happy together. I suppose it depends on the combination.

  6. Stan on March 22, 2013 at 12:10 am

    Straight lines are like death rows. The bugs just walk from one plant to the next one in the row, and so on. Intercropping, staggering plants confuse rhem and usually confine them to one plant, especially if they need to cross some plants they don’t like. They go hungry ans sick, and a sick bug is a dead bug. My platoon of natures insecticide control: beneficial bugs and birds, find them and zap them in a jiffy.

  7. Shuqian chen on February 20, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    Can you pls give me a list of fruits, herbs, vegetable can be grow together. Thank you.

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