Step 2 - Plan Your Garden Layout - Illinois Vegetable Garden Guide - University of Illinois Extension

Step 2 - Plan Your Garden Layout

After choosing a garden site, the next step is to plan the arrangement of crops in the garden. First consider each of the points listed below. Then sketch a map of your garden area showing the location of each vegetable, the spacing between rows, and the approximate dates for each planting. Two sample garden plans are shown on the following pages.

Size of garden. The size of your garden depends on the space available, the quantity of vegetables you will need, and the amount of work and time you desire to spend. Make the garden just large enough so that it will be interesting and fun for the whole family. Don't make it become a burden.

Kinds of vegetables. Choose vegetables that you and your family enjoy. Make sure, though, that they can be grown successfully in your area.
Some crops utilize space better than others. These vegetables can be produced efficiently in a small garden:

Snap beans Leaf lettuce Spinach
Beets Onions Swiss chard
Broccoli Peas (followed by other crops) Tomatoes
Cabbage Turnips Carrots

Another consideration in selecting crops is whether they taste noticeably better when they are fresh from the garden. Sweet corn is an outstanding example of this. Although it requires more space than the vegetables listed above, it is often chosen because of its high quality when fresh from the garden. Other highly perishable crops that taste best immediately after harvest are peas and asparagus.

Growing seasons and growth characteristics. Group the various vegetables according to their growing seasons and growth characteristics. Perennial crops, such as asparagus, rhubarb, and berries, which will be in one location for more than one season, should be planted along one side of your garden. Arrange early plantings on one side, probably near the perennials. Group early- or quick-maturing vegetables together so that after harvesting the space may be used for later plantings. To avoid shading, plant tall crops to the north or west of shorter crops.

Spacing between rows. Proper spacing between rows is important to allow for growth of plants, ease of cultivation, and efficient use of space. Recommended spacings are given in Table 1. If you have farm equipment and plenty of space, make your rows long and wide enough apart so that you can use your farm tractor and cultivator, thus avoiding much hand-weeding.

Table 1 : Planting Chart - Spacing
Vegetable Spacing in row
Seed to sow per foot Distance between plants when thinned or transplanted Distance between rows Planting depth
inches inches inches
Asparagus ….. 12-18 36-60 6-8
Bean, bush, lima 3-4 Do not thin 18-30 1-2
Bean, bush, snap 6 Do not thin 18-24 1-2
Beet 10 2-4 12-18 ½-1
Broccoli ..... 18-24 30-36 (d)
Cabbage ….. 9-18 18-30 (d)
Carrot 15-20 1-3 12-18 ½
Cauliflower ….. 18-24 24-36 (d)
Chard 8-10 4-8 18-24 ½-1
Corn, sweet 1-2 in row
4-6 per hill
9-12, single plants
36, hills (3 plants per hill)
24-48 1-2
Cucumber 3 in row
4-5 per hill
12, single plants
36, hills (3 plants per hill)
48-72 1
Eggplant ….. 18-24 30-36 (d)
Endive 4-6 9-12 18-24 ½
Garlic, from cloves ….. 3 12-18
Kale 4-6 8-12 18-24 ½
Kohlrabi 6-8 3-6 18-24 ½
Lettuce, leaf 10 2-4 12-18 ½
Muskmelon 3 in row
4-5 per hill
12,single plants
36, hills (3 plants per hill)
48-72 1
Mustard 20 1-2 12-18 ½
New Zealand spinach 4-6 12 24-30 1
Okra 3 12-15 36 1
Onion, from seed 10-15 2-4 12-18 ½-1
Onion, from plants or sets ….. 1-4 12-18 1-4
Parsley 10-15 4-6 12-18 ½
Peas 10-12 Do not thin 18-24 2
Pepper ….. 18-24 18-24 (d)
Potato 1 10-12 24-36 4
Pumpkin 1-2 in row
4-5 per hill
24-36, single plants
72, hills (3 plants per hill)
84-120 1
Radish, spring 10-15 1 12-18 ½
Radish, winter 10-15 2-4 12-18 ½
Rhubarb ….. 24-36 36-48 (d)
Rutabaga 4-6 6-8 18-24 ½
Spinach 12-15 2-4 12-18 ½
Squash, summer 2-3 in row
4-5 per hill
18-24, single plants
48, hills (3 plants per hill)
36-48 1
Squash, winter 1-2 in row
4-5 per hill
24-36, single plants
72, hills (3 plants per hill)
84-120 1
Sweet potato ….. 12-18 36-48 (d)
Tomato ….. 18-36 36-60 (d)
Turnips 6-8

15-20 (greens)
2-4 12-18 ½
Watermelons 1-2 in row 4-5 per hill 24-36, single plants 72, hills (3 plants per hill) 84-120 1

Successive plantings are desirable if you wish to have a continuous fresh supply of certain vegetables. Don't plant too much of a crop at anyone time. Two or three small plantings of leaf lettuce and radishes may be made a week to 10 days apart in early spring, with an additional one made in the fall. Onion sets for green onions may be planted every two weeks until you have used up all your sets. At least two plantings of carrots, beets, and cabbage should be made - one early in the spring for summer use, another later on for fall storage. Several plantings of sweet corn and snap beans should be made throughout the season.

Certain later crops can be planted in the same spot in the garden from which earlier ones have been harvested. Any of the early-harvested crops, such as leaf lettuce, spinach, radishes, green onions, and peas, can be followed by beans, beets, carrots, cabbage, sweet corn, late spinach, late leaf lettuce, and turnips.

Interplanting. To intensify production in a small garden, early maturing crops can be planted between rows of later or long-season crops Peas, radishes, green onions, spinach, or lettuce may be planted between rows where tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, or corn is to be grown.

Rotating crops from year to year is necessary to prevent diseases that overwinter in the soil. Do not grow the same vegetable or related vegetables in or near the same location more often than once in three years. Rotate crops from one side of the garden to the other.

Erosion. If your garden is on a hill, plant the rows across the slope rather than up and down.