Marin Master Gardeners
University of California
Marin Master Gardeners

Choose Your Edible Garden Site

It’s time to begin planning for your summer edible garden. Whether you are looking for a new garden site or are evaluating an existing one, consider the following conditions:

  • Access: A conveniently located garden encourages frequent visits for care and enjoyment.
  • Sun: Plants need a minimum of six hours of sunshine. Southern exposures are ideal. Most plants prefer more sun; however, root and leafy crops can tolerate light shade.
  • Water: Locate your garden near a water source: faucet, grey water flow (research restrictions on edibles), and or near water collection bins.
  • Air flow/wind: A site that has air movement but not high winds.
  • Soil: Edible gardens need fertile, loamy soils that drain well and hold water on hot days. Prior to planting, test soil nutrients (Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium) with an inexpensive soil test kit available at local nurseries. Determine soil texture (tilth) with a “feel test” which will indicate the relative amounts of clay, silt, sand and organic matter in your soil. Do this by placing a handful of damp soil in your hand and form into a ball: clay soil will form a dense ball, sandy soil will hardly form a ball, and the ideal loamy soil will form a ball that holds together, but separates when crushed. See, and
    o For a detailed soil analysis, soil samples may be sent to a professional soil-testing lab. A list of labs may be found here:
  • Topography: A level garden is the easiest to prepare, plant, irrigate, maintain and harvest. On slopes, construct level terraces or raised beds so that water does not pool or run off.
  • Drainage: Observe how water moves across your site—surface and subsurface. Avoid low areas where water may pool or where ground water stands. Poorly drained soils may create anaerobic soil conditions (evidence: stinky soil). Look for moving surface water (evidence: erosion—exposed tree roots, channels in soil). Before planting in wet areas, redirect drainage as necessary.
  • Limitations: Avoid hazards and undesirable conditions from above (tree limbs, electrical wires, poles, and overhangs) and from below (water table, bedrock, electrical wires), or from adjacent structures, which create shade and air-flow issues.

Gael’s Edible Gardening Tidbits

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