Assessing Your Climate for Starting a Vegetable Garden

Vegetable Garden Layout
Consider tall objects such as buildings, trees, and shrubs when deciding where to place your garden.
Consider tall objects such as buildings, trees, and shrubs when deciding where to place your garden.

When laying out a garden, you'll need to keep in mind where light and shadows will fall. And if you're in a cool climate, you can consider extending your gardening season by using a cold frame.

Light for Your Garden

If you have a choice of where to grow your vegetable garden, don't put it in the shade of buildings, trees, or shrubs. Also remember that trees and shrubs, as well as shading an area, have roots that may extend well beyond the reach of their branches. These roots will compete with the vegetable plants for water and nutrients.

A cold frame can protect tender plants in cool weather, extending your gardening season.

Extending the Season with a Cold frame

A cold frame is an outside glass-enclosed growing area used to get a jump on the growing season.The cold frame shelters the plants from wind and cold and warms easily on summer days. Hardy vegetables, such as radishes and lettuce, can be grown in a cold frame during most of the year if you live in a mild climate. Whether you sow seeds directly or use the cold frame to harden-off containerized transplants, you'll have to water the plants regularly. Cold frames dry out easily, so they need plenty of water. However, the soil in the cold frame must be amended and well drained to prevent seedlings from rotting. Use gravel or sandy soil; plants must not be in standing water.

A cold frame uses solar heat. Built of simple materials -- scrap lumber and old storm windows -- it's easy to construct. Make the back about 12 inches higher than the front and face the window sash south with hinges on the higher side. During sunny days the sash can be propped open with a stick to prevent sunburning the plants. If the sun is bright, temperatures can reach 85 degrees Fahrenheit even when the temperature outside is freezing. Close the frame at night and during cold weather to protect young plants.

Want more information about vegetable gardens? Visit these links:

  • Starting a Vegetable Garden: Learn how to get your vegetable garden started, from planning your plot to planting seeds and sprouts.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Find out everything you wanted to know about vegetable gardening.
  • Gardening: We answer all of your general gardening questions in this section.