Starting A Vegetable Garden
The first step in starting your own vegetable garden is to choose a suitable site. It needs to get plenty of sun (ideally six to eight hours a day) and be well-draining.
It also needs to have rich soil and be fertilized. This can be achieved by using organic compost from a local garden-supply store.
Warmer temperatures mean spring is right around the corner, and gardeners everywhere are ready to get plants
in the ground. However, prior to planting, growers should develop a plan for this year’s vegetable garden. A
thoughtful approach to garden layout and preparation can influence disease pressure as well as the overall
success of the crop. Here are a few areas to consider to get ahead of diseases as you make your vegetable
The best vegetable garden sites are sunny with adequate moisture and fertile, well-drained soil. Avoid low
spots, which can worsen soilborne diseases, and shady locations, which can worsen foliar diseases. Prior to
planting, it is advisable to draw a planting map. This allows consideration into site limitations and succession
planting. Scale models of the garden space can be drawn on graph paper, or simple maps may be made using
a virtual spreadsheet (Figure 1). Choose perennial locations carefully to make tilling more convenient. Taller
crops, such as sweet corn or tomatoes, should be planted on the north or west side of the garden to avoid
shading shorter plants. Retain these maps from year to year and refer when planning next season.
If the same garden site is used each year, avoid planting the same or closely related crops in an identical place
each year. A three-year rotation is recommended, however, even a year or two out of a certain plant family can
be beneficial. Crop rotation prevents disease-causing pathogens from building up in the soil. Multiple vegetable
crops are closely related and are prone to many of the same disease issues. Closely related crops are listed
• Tomatoes, Peppers, Potatoes, and Eggplant
• Cucumbers, Pumpkins, Squash, Watermelons, and Muskmelons
• Peas, Broad Beans, Snap beans, and Lima Beans
• Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, Collards, Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, Kohlrabi, Turnips, Rutabaga,
Chinese Cabbage, and Mustard
• Lettuce, Endive, and Salsify
• Chives, Garlic, Leeks, Onions, and Shallots
• Beets, Swiss Chard, and Spinach
• Carrots, Parsley, Celery, Celeriac, and Parsnip
Avoid composting diseased plants or produce, since home compost piles typically do not reach temperatures
high enough to kill pathogens. Accelerate the rate of decomposition by turning compost piles at least once per
month. Avoid adding fresh material to current compost piles, as new material will not break down in time for this
season. Water should be added to very dry compost piles at turning to allow for more complete decomposition.
For more information on composting for the garden, see Composting
Basics https://whitley.ca.uky.edu/sites/whitley.ca.uky.edu/files/general/composting_basics.pdf or Home
Composting http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/ho/ho75/ho75.pdf .
Tech-savvy gardeners may enjoy utilizing one of the many mobile applications available for both Android and
Apple platforms. Apps can be used to map out vegetable gardens and maintain records from year to year.
Several apps allow users to enter information about cultivars, planting dates, and plant growth. Some apps provide
an estimated date for harvest from this information. A few apps have been designed to diagnose common
diseases and insect issues. However, diagnosis of plant problems can be a challenging task, even with the
assistance of an app. Thus, if plant problems arise in the garden, reach out to a local County Extension Agent
Each garden season is like a school year, with lessons to be learned. Whether by app or a physical garden
journal, keep track of disease and pest issues as they occur, to help develop strategies to prevent or manage
these issues. Also include varieties grown, how they performed, and common weather patterns.
• Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky (ID-128)
• Vegetable Cultivars for Kentucky Gardens (ID-133)
• Homeowner’s Guide to Fungicides (PPFS-GEN-07)
• Home Composting: A Guide to Managing Yard