Planning the layout of your vegetable garden is an important first step. Plants that are taller cause lower-growing plants to be shaded. Use companion planting so that vegetables thrive and are not detrimental to each other. Make the most of your garden space by planting summer harvesting vegetables alongside early harvesting vegetables. Get a piece of paper and pencil and plan your garden layout before planting.
Plant tall vegetables, such as corn or pole beans, where they do not block the sun. Place the corn and other tall vegetables on the northern end of the garden layout. For pole beans, which need support, plant them along a perimeter fence if you have one. This allows the fence to do double-duty by protecting the garden and by supporting the pole beans.
Vegetables that like to sprawl out in the garden include cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash and pumpkins. Plant these in a separate garden, if possible. If you do not have a separate space, plant them toward the middle section of the garden plot. Plant only a few seeds, as each plant produces several pounds of produce. Use trellises or fencing to allow sprawling vegetables to grow vertically to save space. Plant trellised vegetables at the northern end of the garden so they don't block the sun.
Companion planting incorporates plants that benefit each other. One of the most common companion planting ideas is Three Sisters. This includes peas or pole beans, corn and squash. The corn acts as a support for the beans or peas, and the squash acts as a protective prickly barrier against squirrels and raccoons that climb corn stalks. Bush beans grow well with most any vegetable, such as cucumbers. Plant bush beans in the center of the garden plot. Tomatoes thrive when grown alongside herbs such as basil. Plant tomatoes and herbs in the middle section of the garden as well.
Get the most out of your garden plot by planting early and later crops together. Broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, onions, peas and spinach are all early-harvesting crops. Plant these in the middle of the garden. As the air and the soil warm up and these vegetable are just about ready to harvest, plant subsequent crops alongside them. Plant carrot seeds alongside the onions. Plant corn in with the early crop of peas. Plant another crop of peas along with the spent corn for a fall pea harvest.