Where is the best place for the vegetable garden?

February 10th, 2019
Posted In: Garden trends & design, Grow-your-own

The vegetable garden is no longer tucked away out of sight. Now that our gardens are getting smaller, people are finding the most ingenious places to grow vegetables.

And I think we’ve learned to appreciate the beauty of a vegetable garden. There’s no longer any need to tuck it away out of sight.

And I have visited a lot of wonderful gardens in the last few years, so I thought I’d look at where these gardeners have put their kitchen gardens.

The vegetable garden near the house

I think there’s an interesting new direction towards bringing the vegetable beds closer to the house. This look appreciates the beauty of growing vegetables.

My only concern would be that I might not want to harvest leaves or roots from a particularly glorious-looking row. But it’s also more convenient – you can pop out for a few herbs or salad leaves.

Place the vegetable garden centrally on the lawn...

Sarah Langton-Lockton’s garden is open for Faversham Open Gardens & Garden Market Day and also for the NGS. Here garden is about 30ft wide and 80ft long. The vegetable garden is the star of the show, centrally placed on the main back lawn. It’s also open and sunny so a good place to grow veg.

Or put your vegetable beds just outside the back door....

This garden in Norman Road, Faversham, has also been open for the NGS and Faversham Open Gardens. Here the vegetable beds are directly outside the back door, with a path leading to a central lawn, and then to flowers, shrubs and a small pond.

Make the greenhouse a focal point

Greenhouses were once considered the ‘utilitarian’ part of the garden, but now many people love to see a beautiful Victorian greenhouse in pride of place.

These friends have a large greenhouse in relatively small garden (see pic below), and it looks wonderful. They furnish it as a room as well as growing plants in it. It makes a wonderful summer house.

Treat a greenhouse as a major feature or focal point

This beautiful greenhouse is also a relaxing outside room. It’s the main feature in this town garden.

A practical and attractive position for a greenhouse

Sarah Langton Lockton’s pretty greenhouse is also in a prominent position – to the side but central to the garden’s design.

Put a greenhouse in the middle of the garden

Steve Edney and Lou Dowle’s greenhouse is in the middle of their exotic-themed garden and is just feet away from the back windows of their house (seen at the top of this pic). This garden is open for the NGS on August 18, Sept 29 and by arrangement.

Professional gardeners Steven Edney and Lou Dowle have an exotic theme to their garden, so a greenhouse is essential for the winter. Instead of hiding it away they boldly placed it right in the middle of their garden, just a few feet from the back windows of the house.

It is surrounded by their fabulous jungly planting. Although Steve and Lou’s garden is a wide rectangle – probably around 40ft wide and perhaps 80ft long – it is so lush that it seems endless. You can’t see the borders and twisting paths invite you on enticing journeys.

A kitchen garden in the front garden?

Steve Edney and Lou Dowle grow their vegetables and herbs in the front garden, mixed with flowers.

Put your vegetable garden in the front of the house.

Mixed fruit, veg and flowers in Steve and Lou’s front garden. Front gardens are often open and sunny so it’s a good use of the space.

Other options for vegetable garden layouts…

The traditional place for the vegetable garden is out of sight of the house. But if you have a middle-sized garden and you can see the whole garden from the house, that can be awkward to plan.

It’s particularly difficult if you have a square or wide garden, because the space doesn’t necessarily divide up naturally. The garden below belongs to Robin Grimble and is often open for Faversham Open Gardens.

Where do you put the vegetable garden in a wide garden?

The centre of Robin Grimble’s square, wide garden with its central lawn. The bottom third of the garden (behind the lawn) has been divided into three, with an eating area, vegetable garden and shed along the back.

Where to put your kitchen garden.

The vegetable borders, seen closer up, in Robin Grimble’s garden. You can see the eating area behind it.

Where to grow vegetables

The bottom third of Robin Grimble’s garden has (from left to right), the shed, the vegetable garden and (not seen) the eating area with the table and benches.

In a long, thin garden…

It’s relatively standard to have a vegetable border at the bottom of a long, thin garden. However, if you shield it from the house with high fences, trees or trellis, it may get too shady.

Garden designer Posy Gentles has a raised vegetable bed and some pots with courgettes in them at the bottom of her garden. She hasn’t put up any screen.

Even if you don’t want to see vegetables growing, they are relatively low compared to shrubs, perennials and some annuals. You can’t see the bottom of Posy’s garden until you walk down there.

Do you need to screen the vegetable garden?

Posy Gentles’ raised bed doesn’t need a high screen. This pretty thalictrum and the shrubs behind it screen out the salads and leaves without casting too much shade.

Where to put the vegetable garden?

Posy’s vegetable garden is tucked away just in front of the shed, but you can’t see it from the house. She hasn’t put up a screen – just lavish planting.

An L-shaped garden…

This is an easy one because if you don’t want to see the vegetable borders, you can put them round the L.

We have an L-shaped garden and so our vegetables grow out of sight.

I regret this – I’d like to see them, but short of putting vegetable beds on the main lawn, there’s nowhere else to put them. And Mr Middlesize likes his lawn and does not want to give it up.

Vegetables in an L-shaped garden.

Our vegetable garden looking unusually tidy and productive. It’s in the shorter part of the ‘L’.

Where is the best place for the vegetable garden?

Our veg beds are out of sight of the house, but I’m concerned that they are too tucked away – they may not get enough light.

The rise and rise of the vertical veg garden…

There are lots more ‘living wall’ schemes now. At the Ascot Garden Show last year, a group of young designers created an edible living wall for a small courtyard garden.

Grow salads, herbs and leaves up the wall.

The Ascot Garden show Young Gardeners design. The wall behind the bench is planted up with salads and leaves. An excellent way of growing veg in small spaces!

Grow salads and leaves on a living wall

A green wall at Shire Oak Academy garden at the BBC Gardeners World Live show 2018. These are succulents but could also be salads or herbs, though these do require much more watering.

You will probably need to think carefully about watering and drainage but there are several wall planting systems around now. I haven’t tried any so I can’t advise.

Fellow blogger Mark Ridsill-Smith is the expert – his blog is called Vertical Veg. He’s been growing vegetables and salads up walls and in window-boxes for many years.

And the vegetable garden on the roof…

The main issue with a roof garden is what weight it can take. Once you’ve sorted that, it’s an excellent place to grow vegetables because it’s often the sunniest open space available.

The vegetable garden on the roof of John Lewis, Oxford Street.

Tomatoes, herbs and salads being grown on the roof of John Lewis in Oxford Street.

I visited a suburban garden in Australia, where the beehives were kept on the roof because that kept them out of the way of nervous neighbours.

There’s a lovely roof garden on the John Lewis flagship store in Oxford Street, with lots of ideas for veg and fruit planting.

Vegetable garden container ideas

Many veg can be grown in pots – I have a friend who grows leeks in quite deep square ones and potatoes in an old dustbin.

Grow vegetables in pots

Leeks growing in pots. A blackberry is trained along the fence.

Salad veg grow really well in window boxes – I find it much easier to keep the slugs off. And a couple of window boxes of mixed lettuces will last for a good six weeks if you pick the leaves around the outside rather than chopping across the top. If you pick the bigger leaves from the outside, new leaves grow, so you get a bigger yield.

Container vegetable garden ideas

A shallow pot used as a strawberry planter. Think about how much root space a plant will need – you probably couldn’t grow carrots in this, for example.

Grow salads in pots and window boxes

Lettuce mixed with tulips in galvanised zinc containers at Sarah Raven

Raised vegetable planters are increasingly popular – brands include VegTrug and Vegepod.

These are vegetable planters at table height, and they usually have cloche and netting covers. I’ve been watching some of the veg growing challenges on Instagram which feature raised bed planters. There’s no doubt that the height and the cover makes it easy to grow veg. And it’s probably easier to keep snails and pigeons at bay too. But I haven’t tried them myself.

Note: Links to Amazon are affiliate, see disclosure.

Raised bed planters make vegetables easy to grow

The VegTrug raised bed vegetable planter at GLEE, the horticultural trades exhibition.

What about a vegetable garden with flowers?

This is very much in tune with the cottage garden feel that is growing increasingly popular today. It looks wonderful, although it won’t be the most labour-saving garden you could have.

(If you want to know more about easy-care gardens, read this post on brilliant low-maintenance plants.)

These are the ‘railway siding allotments’ from BBC Gardeners World Live (13th-16th June 2019), showing a delightful mix of vegetables and annual flowers.

Mix flowers and vegetables in the same borders

The ‘Made In Birmingham’ railway sidings allotment garden at BBC Gardeners World Live show 2018.

Annual flowers and vegetables growing together

A close-up of the planting in the ‘Made In Birmingham’ show garden.

Charles Dowding also mixes flowers and vegetables in his three-quarter acre ‘no dig’ garden. Here’s a post on how ‘no dig’ applies to flowers just as much as vegetables.

'No dig' vegetables and flowers

Charles Dowding has a ‘tiny garden’ corner of his garden, where he trials growing vegetables and flowers in 25 square metre patch, typical of an urban garden. It’s charming and very productive.

This week’s video:

This week’s video follows on from the post on choosing the materials for your garden path:

Pin to remember vegetable garden ideas:

There are more ideas for where to grow vegetables on my Middlesized Garden Pinterest board Small Space Vegetable Gardens. And if you want to know more about growing vegetables, Charles Dowding’s Organic Gardening, the Natural No Dig Way is my number one reference book.

Where to place the vegetable garden? #gardening #smallgarden




4 comments on "Where is the best place for the vegetable garden?"

  1. Chris B says:

    I can recommend making the greenhouse a feature. Ours is in the middle of the view from our kitchen and conservatory, framed around the side and behind by pear and medlar trees and perennials. It works.

  2. Cortney D says:

    This is such a great post! Our veg garden has long since been installed, but our plot is (large) but awkwardly placed in the front of the house but the driveway bisected it. I just had to pick the spot where it would get the most sun and build all the other garden spaces up around it. I find that very few gardening resources give good space and thought (and photos!) to different ways to site veg gardens, so thank you!

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