You can make a garden-that is, you can grow vegetables-almost anywhere you please. People seem to be putting vegetable gardens in all sorts of places and making them in all sorts of shapes. There are free form gardens and individual "postage stamp" gardens that measure just 4 feet by 4 feet. Some people use parsley as a handsome border for their flower beds. Others grow vegetables for their ornamental value. Eggplants, for instance, were once grown mainly as ornamentals. Their light silvery leaves contrast beautifully with much of the darker green of other plants, and they produce lovely lavender blossoms with yellow centers.
Still in all, the regular rectangular garden plot will probably remain the hands down favorite, because it is easy to work. A plot near your home in full sunlight is the most convenient spot for a home vegetable garden.
Keep the following requirements in mind, for these are what your plants will need to reward you with an early and abundant harvest.
Vegetables must have at least six hours of sun a day to flourish and produce fruit. That's the minimum. If you can put them in full sun,
they will do better. Some crops, like lettuce and swiss chard, can tolerate part shade, but no amount of fertilizer, water and care can replace the needed sunshine for your crops. Providing adequate sunlight for your plants brings to mind an important pointer when planting your garden. Lay out your garden from north to south, with the tall plants at the north end so they don't shade the short ones at the south.
Moisture... No matter what, your vegetables will need water, whether it is supplied from above by the powers that be or by you with a hose. If you mulch heavily, you will rarely have to water your garden unless you are hit with a long dry spell. The key to watering, is to water deeply or not at all. Watering deeply and well encourages the roots to go deeper and deeper into the ground where they encounter natural moisture in the soil. If you give the garden just a sprinkling, you'll encourage the delicate feeder roots to surface for their water supply. There they will run the risk of being scorched by the sun if they are not protected by mulch. Too much water is just as bad as too little. When you are making your inspection for the best place to plant a garden in your yard, keep in mind the drainage problem.
Nutrients... Just like the rest of us, vegetables need plenty of nutrients in order to grow, produce big yields and early crops. A garden that has been worked for several years gradually builds up reserves of these nutrients from natural resources; decomposing vegetable matter and hay or mulch; maybe wood ashes from the fireplace; and even nitrogen added to the soil by crops like peas.
The question of using fertilizers, is a highly emotional topic that splits people into two camps. On one hand are the believers in chemical fertilizers, the kind you buy in your local garden center. On the other hand are organic gardeners, who believe in using only non-chemical fertilizers, such as animal manure, bone meal, wood ashes, and the like.
Emotionally, I belong to the camp of organic gardeners and feel that it is wasteful to use the world's resources to manufacture chemicals to use in place of natural fertilizers that already exist.
If I can recommend anything, it is to use your own common sense. Enjoy yourself with your garden and experiment. By the same token, if you want to try out different methods of fertilizing your crops, go ahead and do it. Bury a fish head under the corn like the Indians did if you feel like it, or buy a bag of commercial fertilizer and add that to the soil if the appeals to you. (Just be sure to read the directions and don't use too much). It is your garden after all, so don't let the "experts" from either side intimidate you. Learn as much as you can from them, but also learn from your garden as well. Observe the results and see what works for you. It is helpful to keep notes, then the next year you can adjust, amplify or eliminate certain practices.