Building your own vegetable garden
By Bob Dailey
First step: Locating your garden.
Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the best way to orient your garden rows are north to south. This gives maximum exposure to the sun and allows better air circulation.
Vegetables need sun to flourish. Pick a spot with east to west exposure and plan your garden at perpendicular to the path of the sun’s path. Remember though that the path changes throughout the year.
Second step: Designing your garden beds
I have always recommended raised beds for our area. It holds soil and nutrients in and is easier and less messy than simple rows. But that’s up to you. My preference is a rectangular bed no wider than five feet wide (although I prefer four feet). The narrowness will allow two rows or more of plantings. This also allows you you to plant, weed, cultivate your harvest from either side without straining or walking on your garden soil – which you should never do anyway.
You can make the rectangles if you want and do multiples of them parallel to each other. If you do multiple parallel gardens though, make sure you leave enough room between them to move easily between them.
Third Step: What material should you use
I used pressure-treated lumber for my home garden. It works very well. Make sure the lumber you use is treated after 2003. Prior to that, pressure-treated lumber was treated with chromated copper arsenate which can leach arsenic into the soil, into your vegetables and into yourself. Almost all lumber available now is safe to use, but I suppose there are some chromated copper arsenate-treated wood still out there.
In our community garden, we use cinder blocks, laid out end to end. The holes in the cinder blocks can be used for planting marigolds, short-stemmed zinnias, herbs, or even strawberry plants. Some gardeners prefer corrugated or galvanized steel, plastic or other compounds to build their gardens.
Fourth Step: Make sure you have a water source close by
Of course, water is necessary to all life on the planet, and your garden is no exception. Make sure you have a source of clean water. If you are using municipal water, it has chlorine in it, and although (by law) it has a neutral pH, chlorine does kill microorganisms in the soil. However, the chlorine level is very low, so any damage is minimal. On the other hand, rainwater does not have chlorine in it, and it does have trace amounts of nitrogen. You may think of installing a rainwater system. If you want to see what one looks like, I suggest you visit the Montgomery County Agrilife Extension Center here to see what the master gardeners have accomplished with rainwater systems.
For more information about vegetable gardening, go to https://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/library/gardening/