Where Should You Place a New Kitchen Garden?

Want to start growing your own food? Here's what to consider when deciding on where a garden should go.

Well organized and maintained raised vegetable garden by the lake
Catherine Ledner / Getty Images

If you are planning a new kitchen garden, do you know where should you place it? In my experience as a garden designer, this is one of the things which new gardeners most frequently get wrong. Positioning a kitchen garden should be something which is given careful consideration – it might not be a case of simply giving over a small rectangle of existing lawn.

Decide What Type of Kitchen Garden You Will Create

The first thing to determine is what sort of kitchen garden you will create. Will you grow traditionally in rows? Will you grow at ground level or in raised beds? Or are you short on space and looking at container gardening? Are you gardening indoors or undercover? Remember, too, that a kitchen garden does not necessarily have to contain traditional annual crops. A kitchen garden might also be a perennial paradise – a forest garden type scheme packed with perennial edibles. Knowing this will help you know what kind of space you need.

Look at Sunlight, Water, Wind, and Other Environmental Conditions

Whatever sort of kitchen garden you want to create, the first and most important considerations will be environmental ones. Knowing your garden is not just important when choosing plants – it is important when thinking about layout and positioning too. This might sound obvious, but it is surprising how many people overlook it.

Many new gardeners fail to think about the basics when choosing a site for new kitchen garden beds. I have seen new beds created in the shade of coniferous trees, on a north-facing border, and in an exposed spot with ocean winds, all when better spots were available. I've had a number of gardeners come to me to solve problems that can easily be solved simply by moving a growing area to a more suitable location already existing on a property.

Of course, not all sites will offer the perfect spot for a kitchen garden. But most problems can be solved with careful consideration of the growing methods used, and the specific positioning of growing areas.

Most annual vegetables will grow best in an area that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day. Sheltered spots are generally preferable. You should avoid areas which become frost pockets, or which dry out excessively during the summer months.

While there are plenty of complexities involved, environmental conditions should be the starting point. From there, you can work towards determining specifics for a site.

Orientation of Kitchen Gardens

Conventional wisdom dictates that vegetable beds (or rows) are oriented north-south, rather than east-west. Often, this is a good idea for maximizing light and reducing unwanted shading. However, there are a number of reasons why you may not choose to position a kitchen garden with this orientation.

The terrain of the site, surrounding landscape features, and other specifics of a site may mean that a different orientation will be preferable. You may not even grow in traditional rectangular beds or rows at all.

Permaculture Zoning

In permaculture, the concept of zoning helps us figure out our own place in a garden ecosystem. It helps us work out the best position for different elements by helping us consider how frequently we will visit each one.


Bill Mollison coined the term permaculture in 1978, describing it as, “The conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive systems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of the landscape with people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.”

Working out from zone zero (typically your home, or the center of operations), you will designate a series of zones from one up to (potentially) five. Zone one is used for areas you will visit most frequently, and an intensively managed annual kitchen garden would typically be within this zone. Perennial food-producing zones might be a little farther away.

Zoning is all about practicality and begins with the simple premise that the elements on a site that we visit most often should be closest to the center of operations. You might be surprised by how often new gardeners place a kitchen garden at the far end of their garden, so that they have to walk across lawns or recreational zones to reach them.

Thinking about zoning can help you keep practicality in mind, and save time and effort. It makes sense to place a new kitchen garden in as accessible a spot as you can – as close to your home as possible.

Connecting the Dots – Where to Place a Kitchen Garden in Relation to Other Garden Elements

Moving beyond the idea of zoning, you can make it easier and more convenient to use your garden by undertaking a process of systems analysis when deciding where to place it and other elements, on your site.

Systems analysis involves looking at all the elements in a system, the inputs, outputs, and characteristics of each, before thinking about how they should all best be positioned to minimize the time and effort required to keep the whole system functioning.

For example, when we look at the inputs required for a kitchen garden, we soon see the importance of placing it as close to composting areas and water sources (perhaps rainwater harvesting) as possible. Think about how easy it will be to transport materials, maintain fertility, and water/irrigate your garden over time. For outputs – the food you grow – your kitchen garden should also be close to kitchen areas, where the food you grow will be prepared.

In summary, you will want to consider the basics:

  • Which growing methods you are considering (and what you wish to grow).
  • Environmental conditions; sunlight, wind, water, and other site factors.
  • Zoning: Access and practicality.
  • Proximity to connected elements within the overall garden system.

 When you consider these things first and foremost, everything else should begin to fall into place.