Plotting Your Garden

Determining Your Plot Size

If you’re starting a bed from scratch, base the size on available sun and a realistic measure of personal ambition. A 6- by 4-foot plot can grow enough for singles feeding the occasional friend. A busy couple might start out witht 6- by 8-feet, and two avid cooks can go for a 25-foot (490-square-foot) circle.

Determining Square Footage of a Circle If you slept through most of your Geometry 101 class, here’s a refresher on determining the square footage of a circle. Multiply pi (3.14) by the square of the radius (half the diameter) of the circle. For example, if your circle is 10 feet across, the radius is 5 feet. The square of the radius is 25, which you multiply by 3.14 to get 78.5 square feet.

Where to Put Your Plot

You’ll need plenty of sunlight and good drainage to ensure a healthy crop. Track the sun and chart the shadows cast by buildings, fences, trees and hedges at their shortest and longest times of the year. A shade-free, south- or west-facing wall is ideal, but as long as your spot is sunny and sheltered from the wind it should work for your plot.

Hot spots, which get sun from at least May to September, are best for warm-season crops like tomatoes, peppers, basil and eggplant, as well as overwintering crops like cabbage, broccoli, mustard and fava beans. If a section of your space is not ideal, try growing parsley there. It will do just fine in a partially shaded corner, even in summer.

Go Make Your Bed

Orderly types who want to keep grass out can build wood or stone sides for their raised beds. If you’re sure of the location and size of your plot, consider a traditional edging like dwarf boxwood or myrtle. Or you can always go hillbilly-style and just hoe up the dirt edges and flatten the top.