Designing a Specialty Vegetable Garden

Grow what you can't buy, and cultivate your taste buds with specialty vegetables from the garden. Design a vegetable patch for your own heirlooms, local favorites, ethnic cuisine ingredients and perennials such as artichokes and horseradish.


  • Ask about seed and plant sources where you shop for specialty vegetables - a local grower may share starts of locally adapted varieties.
  • Share your surplus with friends, or sell it for profit at ethnic restaurants.


  1. List the plants you want to grow, and learn about them. Investigate their needs and compare these to your growing conditions, then set realistic goals.
  2. Pick a sunny site with ready access to water for your specialty vegetable garden. Be sure the soil can be amended to drain well, or plan to build a raised bed.
  3. Measure the space available and draw it on graph paper. Lots of room? Make it 6 feet square with a 1-foot path down the middle to create two planting beds each 6 feet long and 2 1/2 feet wide.
  4. Draw those two beds and their path to sketch a total growing space 12 feet by 2 1/2 feet - room for five staples of Caribbean cuisine and your uncle's heirloom beans plus a few artichokes. Design for just one favorite or make your own combinations.
  5. Estimate the number of plants you can fit in based on their mature size. Then design for the longest harvest possible - draw in early varieties interplanted with later ones.
  6. Design trellises into the garden to maximize space for snow peas. Add permanent hoops to support floating row covers, shade cloth or plastic-film season extenders.
  7. Modify a popular design: Chinese specialty vegetables plus perennial favorites horseradish and asparagus. Double dig the northeast corner of the garden for the longer-lived perennials.
  8. Cultivate delicate local favorites that are grown for unparalleled flavor but are impossible to ship.
  9. Design a space in your garden to leave room for the unexpected package of pass-along peas.

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