Planning Your Garden Site

If you’ve decided you have a little extra time to tend a garden, whether it be vegetables or flowers, picking a garden site is your next step.
Most veggies need about 6-8 hours of sun.  The summertime vegetables we are familiar with (corn, tomatoes, okra, squash) are heat loving plants and the more sun the better.

Heat loving Okra is a staple when I plan my southern garden
Greens, such as lettuce, arugula, and spinach are a few examples that do well with fewer hours of sun and cooler days.
When planting the garden, lettuce is a cooler weather crop
This all depends on the heat and humidity in your area.  I’ve never been able to grow greens past May in our area, (they bolt and become bitter) but folks that use row covers or have trees leaf out to provide extra shade can block some of the harsh heat and prolong their harvest a little longer.
If growing flowers is your goal, you need to know how much sun reaches the bed.  If there are no trees, tall fences, or buildings around the site, you most likely have full sun. If you do have trees or other obstacles, it’s good to know when the sun hits the spot you are wanting to plant.  It’s best to observe these areas for several months as the location of the sun is different in the spring, summer and fall.  It’s easy to look out and think an area gets full sun only to realize when leaves appear, you might have partial to full shade (been there.)  And, of course, there are gadgets you can buy that will tell you this as well.
sunlight calculator
Here are some terms you will see in garden catalogs, seed packets, or plant tags. These terms will help you decide what to plant and where to plant.
Full Sun: At least 6 hours of full sun per day.
Partial Sun/Partial Shade: Both are defined as 4-6 hours of sun per day. The key is knowing when the sun hits the plant and how long it stays on the plant. In my zone 7 area, the mid-afternoon sun can be scorching hot. Therefore, partial shade (for me) means the plant needs some afternoon shade. This can be very confusing if you are new to gardening.  If you have questions about this for your area, check with your local county extension office. They have a wealth of information about gardening for your specific area.
Full Shade: Less than 2-3 hours of sun.
When all of this has been figured out, the next step is to outline the bed.  My veggie garden was easy.  It’s a rectangle.  Easy to get in and out of, easy to fence off, and easy to mow around.  The sun hits it around 7 am and continues until around 6 pm.
Planning your garden site.
I did have to bring in about 3-4 loads of topsoil since our land sits on hundreds of feet (seems like) of solid rock.  The back of the garden was built up with old railroad ties.  The barbed wire fence was already there but cows were able to reach through so I used remnants of chicken wire, hog wire, and whatever else I could find to reinforce the fence.
My butterfly garden is also in full sun.
My full sun butterfly garden.
Butterfly Wrangler in training
It sits in the corner of the yard as a triangle.  It is also built up with old railroad ties and several loads of topsoil. It’s large enough that I put a circular path through it so I could walk, water, and weed without trampling plants and caterpillars.
The area behind my garage gets morning sun from about 9 am to noon.   Annabelle hydrangeas and Spicebush do well in this spot.  I usually fill in the spaces in front with shade loving impatiens.
Annabelle hydrangeas line a shady spot behind my garage.
Annabelle hydrangea
Late winter/early spring is a great time to plan and configure your garden site.  Building the beds and obtaining and distributing topsoil, if needed,  is a great reason to come out of winter hibernation and get moving again.
~Spring will be here before we know it~
Your friend in the garden,