Marin Master Gardeners
University of California
Marin Master Gardeners

Gael’s Edible Gardening Tidbits - 2 of 4

Create Your Edible Garden Plan

Design Options to Consider:

  • Edible landscape: Use edibles in place of ornamentals in your landscape or integrate them within existing ornamentals. Blueberries and artichokes are beautiful ornamental shrubs; blackberries, asparagus and raspberries make a nice hedgerow; herbs create a lovely border.
  • Theme garden: Create containers or areas using themes: an edible flower garden, a ratatouille garden, a tea garden, a salsa garden, etc.
  • Relative sq. ft. value of home grown crops: If you have limited garden space consider growing plants that give you the most return on your investment: herbs, parsley, carrots, and beets are most valuable; while winter squash, sweet corn, watermelon and pumpkin, which take up large areas, provide the least value. Other crops are in between.
  • In-ground raised beds and rows: If your local soil is good or can be amended, in-ground beds and rows are an inexpensive and satisfying way to grow your favorite fruits and vegetables. A little bit of elbow grease, will put you on the path to a productive garden.
  • Boxed raised beds: If your natural garden conditions are not ideal, boxed raised beds, built from 2” x 12” cedar, redwood or pine provide a perfect solution to a many garden problems including: poor soil, underground pests, and drainage issues. Boxed raised beds warm up the soil faster in the spring and if you fill them with soil mixes rather than local soil, they will have fewer weeds. The downside? Boxed raised beds can be expensive, but the investment pays off if you plan to grow food for many years. Boxed raised beds are portable, so if you move, you may be able to move them with you.
  • Containers: Be creative. Any box, bag, pot, vase or trough made of wood, metal, ceramic or fabric that will hold soil and drain, may be repurposed into a garden vessel. Ex: growing potatoes in a burlap bag.
  • Vertical Space: Get the most out of your garden space by going vertical. Re-use, recycle, and re-think the conventional. Contain and train tomatoes, squashes, cucumbers, beans and peas with support. Many of the materials may already be in on your site.
    o Use bamboo or tree branches from the yard to build your own.
    o Grow vining plants along a fence, which becomes the trellis.
    o Use accumulated grocery twist-ties to secure vines. Use cloth strips or nylons to secure heavy items such as squash and melons.
    o Re-use pieces of PVC, wood, or chicken wire to build trellises.
    o Investigate the DIY network for trellises that you can build yourself: www.diynetwork.com/topics/trellises/index.html.

Garden Planning Guidelines:

  • Bed width: If you can access beds/rows from both sides, maximum bed width is 4 feet. If accessible from only one side, limit width to 2-3 feet. Beds/rows may be as long as space and irrigation permits.
  • Path width: Plan pathways between beds 2-3 feet wide.
  • Cultural Zones: Group crops with similar soil pH and nutrient needs.
  • Hydrozones: Place edibles with similar water needs together. Plants with similar root depth have similar water requirements. Most annuals need 1 inch of water per week. Tomatoes need less water after fruit has set. Perennial herbs need less water after established.
  • Intercrop: Place smaller edibles such as radishes and lettuce that mature quickly along edges or in between rows of larger, longer maturing plants. Plant slower growing crops in center.
  • Perennials: Place perennials such as asparagus, artichokes, berries, herbs, fruit trees, sunchokes, walking collards in separate beds or containers.
  • Plant Spacing: Place crops according to size at maturity or according to spacing suggestions. Vegetables to be harvested before full maturity, such as beets or greens, may be placed more closely.
  • Pollinators: Place flowering pollinator plants throughout the garden. Ex: Borage, Bee Balm, Echinacea, herbs, Phacelia, Salvia and Yarrow.
  • Rotation: Group plant families together for easier seasonal crop rotation.
  • Season: Plant cool season crops (broccoli, onions, potatoes, peas etc.) in early spring and fall and warm season crops (tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, melons etc.) in late spring and summer.
  • Sensitive Plants: Place frost sensitive plants in protected areas near a structure, fence or in an otherwise protected spot. Plan for crop covers and watch the weather.
  • Seeds or starts? Direct sow large seeds (beans, garlic, squash, peas, and potatoes), root crops (beets, carrots, and parsnips) and quickly maturing crops (braising greens and lettuce). Transplant starts for most other crops.
  • Shade: Put tallest plants on the garden’s north side, so that they won’t shade other plants. Plant crops that enjoy light shade, such as lettuce, in the shadow of taller plants.

Read Gael's first Edible Gardening Tidbit, on Planning "Choose Your Edible Garden Site"

Webmaster Email: banielsen@ucanr.edu