Planning a vegetable patch is easy enough if you think about the three main things that can cause issues. Space, accessibility and light. I split the work into 5 steps to make it a bit easier. Depending on how used you are to gardening and how big your patch is you can spread these 5 steps over a couple of days to reduce work load. There is no need to rush at this time of the year or over exhaust yourself. Gardening should be fun after all.
Planning the vegetable patch
If you are just starting out then it might be useful to draw a sketch of your vegetable patch on paper and map out what you would want and see how much space you actually have. You can either draw it by feel or actually take the time and draw a properly scaled down version. I usually go by feel by now since I have done this quite a few times already. As you see it doesn't have to be super accurate or fancy. It is a guide for yourself to see what you can plant and if there actually is more space than you anticipated like it was in this case.
Accessibility and light are two of the major things I think about when planning. Make sure to put the plants that you use the most like herbs closer to the edges. I even go as far as planting them closest to the patio door. Plants that grow very big like kale should not be planted directly next to smaller plants that need much sunshine. They will overshadow the smaller ones so plant the big vegetables at the end of the patch or next to things that don't mind being a little bit in the shadow. Read the package of the seeds if in doubt.
Spacing is another issue. Although packages of plants like onions and garlic advise excessive spacing I tend to cut the space recommended down to half or even a third. The reasons are simple. Sometimes you are unlucky with a plant or two and they simply won't grow and another one is a greedy one. Yes, a very greedy one. When you sow too much garlic and onion you can pull out little ones over time and have spring onions and young garlic while the rest of the plants mature. Why not maximize the use of your plot. I do it with most vegetables that can be eaten when they are very small.
Preparing the vegetable patch
If you expanded the patch like we did, then you need to discard all old plants that you no longer want and carefully dig up those that you do want to keep. Place those plants that you want to keep in a safe corner or into empty pots. If you want to see how we expanded the patch and how it looked before you can click here.
In case you are starting from scratch then you can ignore this step. All you need to do is even out the soil.
Fertilizing the soil
Scatter some organic fertilizer onto the soil and mix it in. Remember that less is more. Even if you use organic fertilizers you can do more harm by fertilizing too much than too little.
It is very crucial to re-home the plants that you dug up as quickly as possible so the roots don't dry out and the plants doesn't suffer damage from it. Dig small holes where you want to plant them, place them into it and cover the roots with soil. Make sure that all roots are covered and that you firmly pat down the soil around them.
This is also a good time to plant certain vegetables deeper. You can do this with plants like cavalo nero. It is a black kale that can last you for years with proper care. It grows like a tiny tree and you trim off the leafs that you want to use without damaging the stalk too much. Ours is two years old already and even survived moving houses. Simply dig it out carefully. Dig a deeper hole and place it back into it. The reason why you can or even should do this is to give the plant more stability.
Even out the soil and water the plants carefully if necessary. Now is the point where you can take a break and continue the following day if you want. You did quite a lot so be proud of yourself.
Sowing new plants
Now you can sow new plants. This time of the year is great for planting onions. In a few weeks you can plant seedlings that you started inside of the house or bought into your vegetable patch and sow herbs like parsley from seeds. I will make a new post in a couple of weeks to show the progress and remind you of what your next steps should be.
This might be an odd last step but it is one nonetheless. A continuous one on top of it. It is important to keep an eye on your new vegetable patch to make sure it stays pest and weed free. The quicker you remove weeds the easier it will be for your vegetables to grow. Weeds not only take up space but also leech nutrients out of the soil. By throwing the weeds you have into your compost heap you use weeds to fuel your vegetables, how good does that sound?
And now one last advice when it comes to gardening. Be patient. It might not look very pretty in start but in a couple of weeks this will change a lot already. As it gets warmer and all starts to grow you will love your little vegetable patch not only because it's convenience but also because it will be absolutely stunning. I promise!