It’s critical to choose a sunny spot for growing vegetables. Most fruiting vegetables need 6 to 8 hours of direct sun a day for best results. Leafy greens, such as spinach and lettuce, can thrive with a bit less direct sun. If you assess your yard in winter, remember that deciduous trees that are then leafless will cast shadows as the growing season progresses.

The best location for the vegetable garden is close to the kitchen so it’s easy and convenient to visit. In addition, it helps if you can view the garden from a window. When the garden is easy to see and reach, you are more apt to notice what needs to be tended and to take full advantage of the harvest.

While the ideal garden location has loose soil that drains well, don’t fret if your soil is less than ideal. You can improve it over time by adding organic matter, such as compost, or create raised beds on top of poor soil by bringing in the amount of topsoil and compost you need. Be sure to consider any factors that may contribute to changing your landscape throughout the year, in order to choose the best place to start your garden. If you are having questions or concerns be sure to get into touch with a professional lawn care company so they can assist you.

A 20- by 20-foot garden will give you room to grow a wide range of crops, including some that need a lot of space, such as sweet corn and winter squash. A 10- by 12-foot plot is sufficient for a garden sampler with a variety of greens, herbs, a few tomatoes and peppers, beans, cucumbers, basil, parsley, and edible flowers such as nasturtiums. I always include flowers in my garden, even if they aren’t edible, because they are beautiful to cut and bring indoors. Flowers also attract pollinating and beneficial insects to the garden. By growing plants in succession and using 3-foot-wide beds with 18-inch paths, you should have plenty of luscious vegetables for fresh eating and extras for sharing

You’ll need a tape measure, plenty of string, 1-foot-long wooden stakes, and a hammer to drive the stakes into the ground. For best sun exposure, orient the garden so the beds run east to west, with the tallest plants on the north end. This will reduce the chance of one vegetable shading another. Following your plan, drive a stake in each of the four corners of the garden.  At this point you’ll need to remove any sod and rototill or turn the soil by hand to loosen the soil and remove weeds. If you’re starting in the fall to get a garden ready for spring planting, you have an option that will save you some hard work.

Now it’s time to lay it all out. Measure, stake, and outline each bed with string. To make a raised a bed, first loosen the soil using a shovel or a garden fork, then shovel soil from an adjacent path onto the bed. Keep adding soil until the bed is about 8 to 10 inches tall. Smooth the soil on the surface of the bed by raking it flat with an iron rake. Draw the soil evenly between the string boundaries, letting excess soil fall off the edge of the bed outside the string. The object is to end up with a flat-topped raised bed that extends fully to the string boundaries about 8 inches above the pathway.

It’s easier to address the soil’s long-term nutrient needs before planting rather than after veggies are already growing. I build up the soil with natural fertilizers and compost. It may take time to build fertile, rich soil using organic fertilizer and amendments, but the nutrients from organic products are released into the soil slowly, providing weeks of nutrition to the plants. Once each bed is formed, add a 1- to 2-inch-thick layer of compost over the surface and work it into the soil with your rake.