A vegetable plot doesn't have to be an eyesore at the bottom of the garden beside the compost heap. With a little forethought and some careful planning, it can be a lovely feature of the general scheme, adding some homeliness that other plants cannot match. If carefully planted and lovingly cared for, there's no reason why a vegetable plot can't be your pride and joy.
With this in mind, you won't feel restricted to a certain part of your garden just because it's out of sight. Most people won't have a big choice so it's a must that we take what we have and make the very best of its potential. That said, there will probably be some choice as to exposure and convenience. Ease of access is definitely a consideration at this stage. It may seem that a short distance difference is not a big deal. But, if you are tending your vegetables mostly in your spare time, this difference could soon become a pain. Convenience is likely more important than it seems. Once you have made dozens of time-wasting trips to fetch tools or seeds you will see what I mean!
The most important consideration in picking your spot is the exposure. Get this right and you will get delicious vegetables all summer and for years to come. Try to pick the "earliest" spot you can find. By this we mean a plot sloping a little to the south or east, that will catch sunshine early and hold it late. If possible your spot should also be out of the direct path of any strong recurring winds. If a building or shed protects your garden from these winds, you will be off to a great start as an early start is a big factor towards success. If your patch is not already protected, a fence or hedge or low-growing shrubs of evergreens can be used for this purpose.
In most cases, it is unlikely that you'll find a spot of ideal soil ready for use. But, don't worry as most conditions of soil can be brought up to scratch fairly quickly â€“ especially small areas like a home vegetable garden. Proper treatment of your soil is much more important than the condition you first find it in.
The ideal vegetable plot soil is rich and somewhat sandy and is usually made, not found. Richness means full of plant food, spread out where plants can make use of it. Most soils are not naturally rich enough to produce big crops. They are made rich, or kept rich, in two ways: firstly, by cultivation and secondly, by manuring or adding outside sources of plant food. Cultivation helps to change the raw plant food stored in the soil into available forms while manuring increases the amount of plant food available.
The word sandy is used here to mean soil with enough particles of sand for water to pass through it but without being sticky and pasty after a couple of days of rain. Soil should also ideally be light so that a handful will crumble between your fingers without being pressed too hard. It is amazing how quickly a plot of well cultivated ground will change in appearance. It may be that your soil has too much clay or too much sand. But with perseverance you will soon overcome this obstacle.
Drainage is also key when selecting the site for your vegetable plot. To check the drainage, dig down about a foot to look at the sub-soil. This is the second layer of soil, usually with a different texture and colour from the surface soil and generally harder. If your examination reveals a sandy or gravelly bed you have chosen well, even if it doesn't look too great. However, if the sub-soil is hard, heavy clay (particularly a blue clay) you will either have to drain it or expect your harvest to come late (unless your plot is at the top of a slope).
Last year's soil
How you handled last year's soil will have an impact on this year's garden. If you choose a plot that has been otherwise cultivated for the last couple of years, this is a great location. The soil will have been enriched by the cultivation of previous years meaning you will have more joy with your crops this year.
There are a few other things to bear in mind when picking the location of your vegetable plot. For example, the shape of your garden can have an impact. The more rectangular your garden, the easier it is to keep clean and neat. Location and ease of access to water is also a consideration so you may want to locate your plot close to an outside tap. Another consideration is that if you are lucky enough to have the space, you should lay off a couple of plots so you can take advantage of crop rotation.
All these factors should be kept in mind when choosing the best possible spot for your vegetables. By way of recap you should ideally have (1) convenient access (2) soil that has good exposure to the sunlight and is well enriched and drained (3) a near supply of water and (4) the ability to rotate your crops.
If you can tick off these boxes as best you can, you will have the best possible place for your vegetable garden giving you a great chance of success!