by Amber

Good Garden Location Tips

Some problems with garden crops might be due to garden location, whether it’s your first veggie garden ever, or you’ve got a little experience. This first tip had me puzzled for 2 summers in a row, and it wasn’t new to me, but the yard was. Moving the garden solved the problem, but a lot of energy was wasted in doing so!

Toxic Trees

There aren’t a lot of plants that can tolerate living in close proximity to the black walnut. It exudes a toxic substance known as jugalone – through fallen leaves, branches, and the roots. It doesn’t bother humans, or most animals, but it can kill or maim all manner of shrubs, perennials, and kitchen garden plants. For me it was tomatoes planted about 70 feet away from 2 massive old walnuts. The soil was awesome, so I was really surprised when the plants just curled up and died. I decided something was wrong with them when they were planted. A neighbor told me I waited too long to stake them. So, the next year I got them staked when they were planted, but the same thing happened. The green beans were fine, the tomatoes were toast. Another neighbor happened along and instantly knew what the problem was.

Jugalone is also a problem with English walnuts, pecans, butternuts, and hickory trees, but their toxicity is lower than black walnuts. Very few vegetables are jugalone tolerant, but you’ll be fine if all you want to grow is corn, carrots, beans, beets, parsnips, onions, and squash or melons. Toxicity is greatest from the trunk to a bit beyond the drip line of the canopy. It doesn’t travel well in water, but depending on how sensitive the plant is to the toxin, the farther away from the tree you want your garden to be. My tomatoes were 30-40 feet away from the drip line. Purdue University’s fact sheet says that raised beds protect the plants from being affected. This is not true from my experience – this garden was in fresh soil about 12″ above the original grade, but blowing leaves and those darn nut-carrying squirrels probably weren’t much help. The roots can extend up to 80 feet from the trunk!

To grow asparagus, cabbage, eggplant, rhubarb, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and lima beans – the best garden location is 100-150 feet away. Also don’t let the fallen leaves blow around, or leave branches and nuts laying on the ground. Never compost any portion of a black walnut tree.


Popular fruit, vegetable, and herb plants are all full sun dwellers – which means they prefer to be in direct sunlight from dawn to dusk. The minimum amount of direct sun for vegetable gardens is 6-8 hours. Bear in mind that reduced sunshine hours will cause reduced flowering that leads to lower fruit production, and plants won’t be as full and robust as they would with more hours of intense rays. Having 10-12 hours is way better in most climates.

If this is your first garden, or the first one you’ll grow at this place of residence, you need to know the sun’s pattern through the yard throughout a summer day before putting in a permanent garden.The sun will hit the yard differently from the Spring Equinox through early fall than it does from Fall Equinox to late winter. If you’re not sure, it might be smart to grow in easily moved planters until you get better acquainted to where the sunshine is best for an ample harvest. Sometimes thinning out large trees can help increase available sunlight. Of course, if there are no possible obstructions, anywhere will do in a wide open space free of large trees, surrounding buildings, and privacy fences.

Air Flow

Plants need to dance in the wind a bit, so make sure your garden location allows them to do so. It build stronger main stems, which means they’re muscled up and ready to bear the weight of big peppers, tomatoes, and other fruits. They also need air flow to help keep their leaves as free of moisture as possible. Without some breeze ruffling through the garden you might have bigger headaches than weak trunks, like disease issues. Molds, mildews, and fungal diseases luxuriate in still, moist air. And without enough air moving across the surface of the soil, it can, in some conditions, cause roots problems too.

Where does the wind generally come from where you live? Find out. It won’t always come from that direction, but will rarely come from it’s opposite. You want your garden location in a spot that will let you take advantage of the natural curative and strengthening powers of that breeze. If you’ve got to plant up against a wall, you want it to be the one the wind blows along or against during the summer months, but you also need to make sure putting it there still allows enough sun.

Plant Placement

This is more about crop location, but it’s just one more way to get more efficient at growing your own food. How you layout the rows in your garden can change the size of your harvest.

The rows of a garden should run north and south, because it allows your crops to get the full benefit of the sun’s energy from early morning til evening as it moves across the sky. And since the constant shadow always falls north, you want the tallest plants on the north end of a row, and the shortest ones on the south end. If you do the opposite then tall plants like pole beans, corn, and tomatoes will be shading shorter things on the north side of them, resulting in reduced performance when you could have had more.

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The garden played a starring role from spring through fall in the house Amber was raised in. She has decades of experience growing plants from seeds and cuttings in the plot and pots.