Dateline: 6 June 2014
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The best place to plant a home vegetable garden is on well-drained soil in a spot that gets full sun exposure. Beyond that, I think it is important to have the garden close to your home.
If your garden is far from your house, you aren't as likely to give it the attention it deserves.
My garden (pictured above) is in an ideal location. I took that picture a couple days ago when I was on the roof of my house. There is a small bit of lawn between my house and the gravel driveway, then the garden. My workshop is at the end of the driveway, which is just to the right of the picture (out of sight). Right behind the workshop is a sharp drop down to a stream.
With the garden so close, it is much less likely to get neglected. Unfortunately for me, the amount of garden I can grow close to my house is limited to what you see in the picture.
The front yard of my house (at my left as I took the picture) is less than half the size of my garden and does not get full sun. The back yard is even smaller and shaded by trees most of the day. Years ago I did have garden beds in the back yard and they did not do well.
The other side of my house (behind me as I took the picture) is pretty close to wooded land, which also goes behind the house. I have 1.5 acres of land on this home site but most of it is woods and steep bank.
So, though I have what I believe is a perfect place for a home garden, I don't have any room to expand the garden. My property line is the row of grape vines at the end of the garden.
The field beyond would be ideal for expanding my garden and, in fact, I used to use part of that field to grow a lot of garlic and potatoes and squash, but the neighbor who let me use his land moved. Now the field grows weeds.
We tried to buy a portion of that field a few years back, but the deal fell through. Then, a couple years ago, we bought 16 acres of land on the other side of our house (behind me as I took the picture). Part of the land is a field, with lots of room for expanded gardens.
But it turns out that to get to the field I have to walk a distance through the woods and over a stream. Or I have to drive down the road, around the corner, and up into the field. Such a location is not ideal for a home garden. It's too far away and out of sight. It's also not a good place to pasture animals for the same reason.
In the time it takes to get to a farther-away garden, and back, I can have a lot of work done in the garden close to my home. If I had nothing much else to do but garden, a farther-away garden might work, but I'm super busy with my Planet Whizbang home business. For some reason, none of this occurred to me when I bought the 16 acres of land.
Besides that, there is the matter of varmints… In 20+ years of gardening next to my home, I've rarely had a problem with rabbits, woodchucks, or deer. If you have a good dog, it will make sure the critters keep their distance. If you don't have a good dog, it's much easier to see and shoot a critter in a garden next to your house than a garden far from your house.
My idea of the ideal homestead would be a house and workshop positioned on a piece of land where I could plant garden plots and fruit trees, and have pastured animals, all around, close to the house. Mown lawn would be at a minimum. For now, I'll continue to do the best I can with what I have. And that right there is a good bit of garden advice in itself… Do the best you can with what you have to work with.