A 10-by-10-foot vegetable patch may not seem big, but it can provide a large crop of a single vegetable, such as potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), or smaller portions of a range of vegetables over the growing season. Vegetables that grow well in short rows or blocks are the best selections for a square vegetable bed, though pole beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) and other tall vegetables need careful positioning to prevent them from shading the other plants. Square-foot gardening is a growing method that works well in 10-by-10 vegetable patches. In areas where plant pests are a problem, practice crop rotation.
Vegetables in Blocks
Rows of plants are traditional in vegetable gardens, but many vegetables grow just as well, or even better, in blocks. Growing vegetables in blocks also provides higher yields per square foot because less space is used for walking paths between rows.
Divide the 10-by-10 vegetable garden into four beds the each measures 4 by 4 feet, and separate the beds with a cross-shaped path 2 feet wide in the middle of the garden. You'll use the path when you tend to the plants.
Crops that grow well in blocks include corn (Zea mays), beets (Beta vulgaris), garlic (Allium sativum), which grows as a perennial plant in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9, and carrots (Daucus carota var. sativus). Corn grows best in blocks because the pollen that falls from its male flowers can easily reach the female flowers of the surrounding plants in the small areas. Space corn plants 1 to 2 feet apart, beets and garlic 4 to 6 inches apart and carrots 2 to 3 inches apart.
Most vegetables need at least six hours of direct sun exposure every day to grow well, and a 10-by-10 vegetable garden poses the danger that tall vegetables will create a shadow and deprive the other plants of light.
Grow cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) on a trellis, indeterminate varieties of tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum, USDA zones 10 through 11) in tomato cages, and pole beans and other tall vegetables on the north edge of the square vegetable garden. When grown on the east edge of a 10-by-10 patch, these vegetables cast shade in the morning; when they are on the patch's west edge, they cast shade in the afternoon. Tall plants growing on the south edge cast shade all day.
Square-foot vegetable gardening involves growing vegetables in raised beds divided into sections that are each 1 square foot. In a 10-by-10 vegetable garden that contains four 4-by-4 beds, each bed has 16 sections that are each 1 by 1 foot. Growing vegetables in 1-foot squares allows you to grow a wide range of varieties. For example, one square could contain nine garlic, 16 carrot, four lettuce, one tomato or six pole bean plants. Cucumber and other large vining vegetable plants each requires a 2-foot square.
For the best results, the soil in a square-foot garden should be 12 inches deep, but vegetables also give good yields in soil 6 inches deep. Spread a 4-inch layer of garden compost, aged manure or other rich organic material over each bed, and add a 2-inch layer of garden soil. Mix both layers into the soil to a depth of 6 inches with a garden fork.
Growing crops in rotation avoids plant pests and diseases building up in a vegetable patch. Vegetables belong to plant families, and many pests and diseases specialize in one family. For example, the pests that attack cucumber often also attack winter squash (Cucurbita maxima). Growing the same plant family in the same spot year after year increases pest and disease populations, but growing different crops every year reduces problems with pests and diseases.
Rotating crops in a 10-by-10 garden could involve rotating the plant families in each section every year or growing only one plant family across the whole plot one year and a different plant family the next year. Growing only one plant family at a time provides the best protection against pests and diseases.
Some of major vegetable families are:
Pea Family (Fabaceae) -- pole and bush bean, garden pea (
Pisum sativum ), soybean (Glycine max) Carrot Family (Apiaceae) -- carrot, celery (Apium graveolens var. dulce, USDA zones 3 through 6), parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
Gourd Family (Cucurbitaceae) -- cucumber, winter squash, summer squash (Cucurbita pepo), watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) Mustard Family (Brassicaceae) -- Asian greens, cabbage (Brassica oleracea Capitata Group), rutabaga (Brassica napus Napobrassica Group) Nightshade Family (Solanaceae) -- tomato, potato, pepper (Capsicum annuum, USDA zones 9 through 11)