Vegetable gardens can be a lot like kids’ bedrooms: Every great once in a while you might find a neat and organized one, but for the most part, they tend toward chaos and clutter. Growing a neat and organized vegetable garden requires some discipline at first, but it makes garden maintenance and produce harvesting much easier. The process of growing a neat and organized vegetable garden starts before you even plant the first seeds in your garden soil.
Map out your vegetable garden ahead of time. Use graph paper and a pencil to design your garden to scale, which will help you group the plants based on important factors such as size and plant family. Limit your garden only to those plants that your entire family consumes so you’re not wasting important garden space. The University of Florida Cooperative Extension suggests that you group perennials in one section of your garden, so they’re not in your way when you’re doing your yearly garden preparations for your annual plants.
Build raised beds for your vegetables. Construct square or rectangular frameworks from untreated wooden 1-inch-by-12-inch boards or use recycled cinder blocks or bricks. Allow enough room for your wheelbarrow and garden tiller to fit easily between the raised beds. Fill the raised beds with compost-amended topsoil before planting your seeds and young plants.
Label your rows and raised beds, an especially important step during planting time. Until they’ve grown significantly, you won’t know what plants you have in each row or raised bed without labels. Possible options include wooden stakes with plastic labels or river rocks marked with crayon.
Construct plant supports and trellises. Put support cages around your tomato plants and similar bushy vegetable plants so they won’t branch out and cover your pathways. Use steel T-posts and cattle or hog fencing panels to construct a straight trellis along bush beans. This technique will also make harvest time a lot easier, since you won’t have to wade through the sprawling greenery to get to the produce you’re trying to gather.
Mulch your vegetable garden paths. Lay down sheets of newspaper over the pathways between your rows, overlapping the edges so weeds and grass can’t grow up between them. Moisten the newspaper sheets by misting them with your garden hose. Cover the damp newspaper with a 2- to 3-inch layer of grass clippings to provide yourself with neat, orderly and weed-free pathways between your vegetable rows.
Weed and till your vegetable garden regularly. Once your young plants have emerged from the soil, mulch them to discourage close weed growth. Check your garden at least once weekly, removing any weeds that you discover in the vegetable rows. An easy way to ease your weeding and tilling chores is to work on just one vegetable or one section of your garden each day.