Garden orientation

sweetwilliam89(5b)July 29, 2014

I've read here and elsewhere that running the garden in a north-south direction is better than east-west due to way the sun aligns and not wanting plants to be in shadows. I'm wondering if that's also the case for wide row gardening or square foot gardening? With both wide rows or square foot method it seems like the plants are so close together (unlike the single row method) that it may be best to change the orientation or perhaps it doesn't matter? Our garden is on open land without trees or other stuff around so that shouldn't make a difference. Thanks in advance and thank you again be so kind in answering my previous questions.

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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

sweetwilliam89, You may have read that north/south orientation is best, but further reading will often tell you otherwise. It all depends on your layout of slope, drainage, and what fits your configuration of land.

I have both n/s and e/w. Some may have northeast/southwest too. My area is laid out in straight roads and directions mostly so I use that orientation. It really doen'.t matter much for most crops. The main thing is to plant taller crops on the north side of things.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 10:19AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

Sorry...a double post.

This post was edited by wayne_5 on Tue, Jul 29, 14 at 16:52

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 4:49PM
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If we were to run the wide rows or square foot boxes east to west with the tallest plants for each row on the north side is a two foot path between the rows enough space so the taller plants don't shade out the smaller plants in the next row north of them? For example please see below.


T = tomatoes, L = lettuce, x = pathway

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 10:49AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

The tomatoes on the south bed likely will shade the lettuce on the next bed north some, but that looks like a good thing to me.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 1:16PM
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A two foot pathway is not wide enough. Assuming your tomato plants grow to 6 ft tall in cages, the sun would have to be at an angle of 71 degrees above the horizon. Just to give you an idea, this is the noon sun's altitude in southern Tennessee on August 1st. If you are at the latitude of South Dakota or further north, the sun will never be at this angle, not even on the summer solstice.

However, this is lettuce after all. It doesn't need full sun and it likely will do better without full sun in the heat of summer. if you are far enough north, you'd get enough sun from the northeast and northwest in the morning and evening to compensate for the lack of sun from the south. So don't worry about it too much.

Confused enough?:)

Just be sure not to place sun-loving, low-growing plants (such as squash) behind the tomato plants unless you widen the pathway.

This post was edited by Slimy_Okra on Wed, Jul 30, 14 at 13:36

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 1:34PM
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Would it be better to orient the other way (i.e., North- South)?

T L xx T L
T L xx T L
T L xx T L
T L xx T L
T L xx T L
T L xx T L
T L xx T L

Again with T= tomato, L=Lettuce, xx = footpath

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 5:54PM
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Personally, I would keep it E-W to allow a bit of shade for the one row of lettuce. Just make sure there is enough space between the two tomato rows. Where are you located?

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 6:42PM
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loribee2(CA 9)

Sweetwilliam89, your first suggestion is the one I have in my garden. My beds run E to W and I've got a 3' pathway between them. I'll run into some shade issues during fall and winter when the sun is low, but never enough to be a problem. Definitely not during the summer growing season when you're growing tall plants like tomatoes and pole beans.

I do agree 3' is better spacing than 2' to avoid shade issues.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 12:34AM
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yolos - z 7b/8a Ga.

My beds run east to west with 3 foot pathways and taller plants on the north side.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 7:42PM
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Thanks to everyone for the replies and I'm sorry Slimy_Okra for not responding previously. We live in east-central Illinois. Another possible idea for orientation would be to have north-south rows with the tall plants on the north side?

T T xx T T xx T T xx
T T xx T T xx T T xx

The above is only a portion of the plot.

I'm sorry for not having described things better. One big problem I'm running into when I'm planning things out is that while I have a nice sized area of gardening space available for the plants the space is broken up into smaller sections (and the actual land I have available is still to be determined). Currently I think I'll have about 5 plots of land with each plot being a 20 X 20 foot section. I'd like to grow around 15 tomato plants. So I'm figuring with cages about 30 foot length and I'd like to have 2-3 foot wide paths.
Thanks again for all of your suggestions. I may post on another topic latter on when I get through planning things out and seek advice at that time.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 5:37PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

I had 2' paths in my first veg garden and it drove me crazy. Now I always insist on 4' and I love my nice, wide paths.

If you have the room I highly recommend making the paths as wide as you can. Think about maneuvering a wheelbarrow full of heavy compost between your rows, and then having to get around in front of it to start with the spreading. Also, are you going to invite outsiders into your veg garden? The more space they have to move the better, because non-gardeners can be like bulls in a china shop. I don't know how many times I said: 'look out for the seedlings' and then watched someone step on the plants I had just pointed out.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 9:34AM
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My neighbor is a real farmer and she has a 1/2 acre vegetable garden. The plot is perfectly rectangle, fenced in. The rows run east to west. The paths are wide, like 4-5' (could be wider), to at least allow wheelbarrow to get in. Not sure if they run the motor cart. Make sure the paths between the rows allow maintenance and picking equipment to get in.

They do grow medium size sunflowers on the north side. With the wide paths, tomatos do not look tall. They also grow beans, peas, peppers, and some flowers.

In an open plot, the orientation is not very important. Just make sure to space the plants correctly and having the tall plants on the north side.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 9:42AM
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