Location, Location, Location

Location, Location, Location
Vegetables and
Annual Flowers

Starting a new garden? Now’s the time to think about location -- before you start tilling!  Here are some things to consider.

  • Sunlight.  Most vegetables and many flowers need full sun to thrive and produce their best. (Full sun means at least 6 hours of direct sun during the day.)

  • Soil. Choose the spot in your yard that has the best soil (see below).

  • Protection from wind. Strong winds dry out plants and soil, and can topple tall plants like corn and sunflowers.

  • Water. Plants will need supplemental watering during dry spells, so locate your garden near a water source.

Realistically, you may not have this ideal spot. So if you’ll be tilling a new garden, what’s most important? Number one is sunlight. You can improve soil and build windbreaks, but you can’t move the sun! If you want to grow sun-loving vegetables and annual flowers, choose the sunniest spot you have.

The next factor to consider is soil. You may be able to distinguish the quality of your soil by looking at your lawn. If it looks lush and healthy, then the soil supporting it is probably good for a garden. Don't pick the spot where the lawn is the worst, and think that you can get out of reseeding it by locating your garden there. Also, avoid low spots that stay wet in the spring.

Wind is a little harder to plan for, but if you have the choice, choose a spot that is protected from your area’s prevailing winds. If your worst winds come from the north, then a garden on the south edge of a row of trees will receive some protection. (Just be sure your windbreak doesn’t shade your garden.) You can set up a snow fence or plant some low shrubs to help break the wind without sacrificing sunlight.

Finally, remember that proper watering is crucial, so be sure you have a hose that will reach your garden. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems save water and time, so consider installing them before you plant.

The ideal vegetable garden location is a gentle south-facing slope that gets at least 6 hours of full sun, with rich loamy soil and protection from strong winds.

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Sunshine Woes?

If your garden doesn’t get full sun, you have three options.

1. You can grow sun-loving plants there anyway, and accept the diminished results you're likely to get.

2. You can forego the sun-lovers, and plant more shade-tolerant crops such as greens and root crops, or flowers such as impatiens.

3. You can grow sun-lovers in containers on the porch or wherever you do have full sun.

Impatiens grow well in light to full shade.

Flowers for Shade
Here are some good choices for an annual flower garden in a shady spot.

Full shade: impatiens, coleus, begonia.

Light shade: pansy, primrose, alyssum, lobelia, torenia, mimulus, fuchsia

Flowers Under Trees
Although it seems logical to plant shade-loving flowers under trees, this doesn't always work well. Tree roots -- especially those of shallow-rooted trees like maples -- will often outcompete the flowers for water and nutrients.

Also, the soil under pine trees is often too acidic for annual flowers. Instead of planting directly in the ground, brighten up the area under these trees with large planters of flowers.


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