16 Vegetable Garden Ideas for Your Backyard

backyard garden

There’s no shortage of good reasons to start your own backyard vegetable garden. So what’s keeping you? Could it be you’re not sure where to place it and how to design it? This guide has 16 practical vegetable garden ideas for your backyard to help you figure out the perfect location, size, and design. Read it, use it, and enjoy your first delicious homegrown veggies!

1. Fitting a raised bed garden in a small backyard

Soil on a red wheelbarrow for a raised garden bed
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Raised garden beds are easier to work with because they have good drainage, you control the soil quality, and the working area is easy to keep neat and weed-free.

The traditional vegetable beds are 4×4 or 4×8 feet, sometimes hard to fit into a small backyard. But don’t let this discourage you. Make the raised beds as narrow, long, or short as you need. Many veggies can thrive in 1, 2, or 3-foot-wide raised beds with no problems.

Build them along the fence, house or garage walls, patio, or deck – wherever you have some space to spare. 

Go for tall raised garden beds for easy work and to keep pets and critters away. You’ll also need less space beside them for a walkway if you don’t need to bend for weeding and harvesting.

Gain extra space by mounting trellises to climb vine vegetables like beans and cucumbers. Use cages to keep tall plants, like tomatoes and eggplants, from falling over.

2. Use pathways to structure a large backyard

A lot of space at hand doesn’t simplify planning a vegetable garden layout, either. Often, large gardens end up looking disorderly. Carefully planning walkways is an effective trick to solve this and make a topsy-turvy veggie garden look neat.

Make pathways an important part of your home garden design. Choose straight or curved flows. Make them all the same width. Cover the pathways with gravel, pebbles, or pavers. With a tight budget, cover the walkway area in wood chips or plant a ground cover like scotch moss. Try to achieve contrast and clear delimitation from plant beds.

If you’re growing vegetables in in-ground beds, use edging (stones, wood, brick, flowers) to separate the planted areas from garden pathways. 

3. Grow climbing vegetables on arbors

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The magical trick arbors perform is turning vine vegetables into beautiful ornamental plants. Beans, cucumbers, zucchini, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and squash look amazing on these elaborate wood structures. 

It’s where their uniquely shaped and colored leaves shine. You’ll need to offer additional support with mesh wires for large fruits like pumpkins to prevent stems from breaking.

Place arbors at the garden entrance, across walkways, or near a fence or a wall where you can install a bench to take advantage of the shade. Plant the climbing veggies directly into the soil or in large pots placed near the arbor. 

It costs $1,430 to $4,075 to have an arbor professionally installed.  You can also make one DIY or buy it online and install it yourself. 

4. Herb garden in a window box

Wouldn’t it be nice to reach out your kitchen window and pick some fresh basil or oregano leaves for your salads and sauces? Window boxes offer just that kind of culinary garden experience. 

Window boxes are long pots you install outside a window and use to grow vegetable plants. The small space makes them suitable for growing herbs

Oregano, sage, cilantro, basil, thyme, and rosemary will feel right at home in a window box garden. Besides their culinary use, they give off enjoyable fragrances and bloom tiny, delicate flowers, giving the house a sunny, Mediterranean look during summer. 

Window boxes are meant for growing small amounts of herbs to use fresh in recipes and drying out for later. If you’re a homemade pesto fan, add more basil to your garden beds to ensure enough for this sauce.

5. Make your garden look pop-up with layers

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Potager gardens are an amazing example of how to make vegetable gardens look ornamental. One trick they use is layering short, medium, and tall plants to create volume, structure, and focus points. 

The easiest way to use the concept in your garden is to plant tall veggies in the center of the garden beds if they’re not edged by a wall or a fence – meaning you can access the beds from all four sides. 

Install pyramid trellises or arbors in the center of garden beds to climb beans, cucumbers, and zucchini. Or plant tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers and use cages to support them.

Use the space nearest the edge to plant smaller species like beets, spinach, lettuce, arugula, and carrots. Plant kale, cabbage, broccoli, and peas in between.

6. Mix edible flowers in your salad garden

The secret of managing a successful edible garden is planting what you enjoy eating and cooking with. If you’re a salad lover, the best vegetables to grow are lettuce, spinach, arugula, radishes, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions. 

Add some herbs to spice up your salad recipes, like basil, oregano, cilantro, and edible flower edging to make your salad garden a visual delight. Nasturtium, viola, pansy, and dianthus are small edible flower species you can use as borders that won’t shade your veggies.

7. Expand a salsa garden with containers and alternative gardening

With a small vegetable garden, alternative planting is the golden goose of garden design ideas. Containers, hanging baskets or bags, wall planters, and suspended gutter gardens are all options worth tackling. 

To start a veggie garden on multiple levels, make your must-grow veggie and herb list and place the largest plants with the deepest and most extensive roots in your garden beds. 

For example, in a salsa garden, you’ll have tomato plants, tomatillos, peppers, cilantro, onion, and garlic. 

  • Plant tomatoes and tomatillos in in-ground or raised vegetable beds. 
  • If there’s still room, add the peppers. If not, move them to your container garden. Jalapenos grow best in pots at least 12 inches wide and 14 inches deep. Serranos thrive in 16-inch deep containers.
  • Install cilantro in a hanging basket or plant with onions and garlic in a wall planter or suspended PVC gutter bed.

8. Grow leafy greens in a gutter garden

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Spinach, lettuce, arugula, and Swiss chard are filled with fiber and minerals essential for a balanced diet. They also look gorgeous in improvised pots made of PVC gutter attached to a fence or installed on a wall. 

Leafy greens are cool-season crops. This type of vegetable requires less sunlight and can grow with only 4 to 5 hours of full sun. 

9. Hide the veggies and herbs in your front yard flower garden

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The main thing that gives a vegetable garden its functional look is order, rowing, and grouping. When installing a veggie garden in your front yard, you can give it style and flare by mixing it up like crazy and hiding the veggies between flowering plants, edible or not. 

There are only two rules you need to follow: 

  • Check a companion planting chart to ensure you don’t put incompatible veggies together. 
  • Put tall plants toward the back or the northern side and short ones in the front or toward the south to ensure enough light for all your plants.

Note: Some HOAs don’t allow growing vegetables in the front yard. Check with yours before planting. 

10. Mulch your way into a time and water-saving garden design

A protective layer made of wood chips, straw, hay, dry leaves, or grass clippings, called mulch, plays a vital role in landscape design. It makes a small garden look larger, busy spaces embrace an elegant view, leaves seem greener, and fruits and flowers burst with color. It’s essentially a background for your painting made of plants. 

On a more practical note, mulching protects the soil from heat and evaporation, reducing the water required for vegetable crops. It also prevents weeds from growing, limiting the time you’ll spend pulling them out and the amount of herbicides you spray in your garden.

11. Install a vertical garden on your balcony

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If you’re passionate about growing your own vegetables but have only a small balcony to work with, don’t worry; we have a fix for that, too. The best solution is taking your balcony garden vertical

Plant 2 or 3 cherry tomatoes and peppers in containers you’ll keep on the floor. Add a bean plant in each one and use trellises or rope to climb the beans toward the ceiling as they grow.

Add 1 or 2 cucumber plants in pots and install trellises to take them up a wall with good sun exposure. Use a wall planter to grow leafy greens, radishes, onions, garlic, and chives. 

No, we didn’t forget about the delicious aromatic herbs! For them, you should install a railing planter, which is also great for growing small edible flowers.

12. Bush and dwarf plants for beginners

Whether you plan to grow them in pots or right in the ground, bush and dwarf plant varieties are a better choice for beginner gardeners. They don’t grow too tall, always look neat, healthy, and dense, and require less water and pruning.

Tomato, pepper, and eggplant dwarf varieties have productive crops, and their mature size is much easier to incorporate into a garden layout since you just add one for every square foot. 

13. Garden design with edible ground covers

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You’re growing veggies, herbs, and edible flowers. Why not also add some edible ground covers? They’re typically the easiest to grow, and they make your garden look like a magical corner of the forest. 

Ground covers also protect the soil, keep moisture in for a longer time, and support the good bacteria and fungi working to feed your plants. Plus, they add extra food to your kitchen pantry. 

Sweet potatoes are a great ground cover option. You can eat the leaves throughout the growing season and enjoy the delicious tubercles in the fall. 

Nasturtium is another delicious option. Its leaves, stems, and flowers are all edible. The small, colorful flowers look great in salads and attract valuable pollinators. 

14. Vegetable garden design ideas with a low budget

Starting a vegetable garden doesn’t have to be expensive. For every material you think you need to buy, there’s something free or cheap to replace it with. 

Let’s begin with the heart of the project: seeds and transplants. You can start your plants from seed instead of buying vegetable transplants from the local nursery. Keep the seeds from your crops to avoid buying them again the next year.

Instead of buying germination trays, use yogurt or clamshell containers, egg cartons, and styrofoam meat trays. Replace large pots with buckets and plastic woven shopping bags. They’ll grow wonderful peppers and cucumbers. Build your garden beds DIY from pallet wood.

Instead of buying fertilizers and garden soil, build your own compost pile, get free manure from a neighbor or local farmer, and use dry leaves and grass clippings as mulch.

Repurpose an old barrel to collect rainwater. You’ll save on your water bills, and the plants will thank you for giving them natural, chloramine-free water.

15. Make it a pergola garden

Pergolas offer a unique opportunity to hang climbing vegetables like cucumbers, zucchini, beans, squash, and pumpkins. If you already have a pergola in your backyard, the climbing structure is there, and you don’t need to invest more money to build it. You only need to cover it in beautiful, green, fresh plants. 

If not, you can have a pergola professionally installed for around $4,000. While that’s a pretty high number, you can also build your own pergola or install a kit for a lot cheaper. 

Plant your veggies in containers and place them around your pergola so as not to bother the flow of traffic. Use a rope to climb the vines from the container to the roof.  A plant climbing net or some trellises can also be good for climbing plants. Enjoy the shade and the beautiful sight of crops in full bloom.

16. Use tall raised beds instead of the furrow method for root vegetables

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Root vegetables like carrots, beets, turnips, and parsnips grow better in the mounds you get when digging planting rows on your land. The problem is, those mounds don’t usually look all that great. If a nice garden design is what you’re looking for, replace the furrow method with raised beds, at least 8 inches tall, filled with loose, rich soil. 

Remember, root veggies hide their treasures in the soil. They’re not much to see above ground. Plant marigolds, lettuce, or aromatic herbs in the same bed to spice up the look.

FAQ about vegetable gardening 

What are the best pots to grow veggies and herbs?

Terracotta containers offer the best drainage, especially for herbs, but plastic pots are also good if they have enough drainage holes.

What are the benefits of having a vegetable garden?

With a vegetable garden in your backyard, you enjoy fresh veggies and herbs every day. You know they’re grown without pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and your food will taste better, with more intense flavors. A kitchen garden also gives you the opportunity to spend time with your children outside and teach them to grow and enjoy plants. 

What is the best vegetable to grow?

There’s no one best vegetable to grow for everybody. There’s a mix of criteria that gives a different answer for each person. The best vegetable for you is the one you absolutely love eating and that’s easy to grow in your climate and soil type.

What is a good way to grow vegetables in a small space?

When growing vegetables in a small space, it’s a good idea to use vertical space as much as possible. Plant in wall planters and hanging baskets and pots. Use trellises to get vine veggies off the ground. 

Start your vegetable garden today with help from a pro

Begin with a container, a raised bed, or a large garden. It’s more important to take your first step as a gardener than to keep on fidgeting with design ideas. You and your garden will grow and change together. 

For large or difficult spaces, consider hiring a professional gardener to help with design and installation. Lawn Love can connect you with licensed and insured gardening pros in your own backyard.

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Sinziana Spiridon

Sinziana Spiridon is an outdoorsy blog writer with a green thumb and a passion for organic gardening. When not writing about weeds, pests, soil, and growing plants, she's tending to her veggie garden and the lovely turf strip in her front yard.