Garden Bed Tips: How Much Sunlight Does a Vegetable Garden Need?

After having a great time growing vegetables in the indoor garden with our daughter, we started thinking about building an outdoor garden as well.

Garden bed is the best choice.

Building an outdoor garden involves more logistics.

The following is the first question that comes to mind. How Much Sunlight Does a Vegetable Garden Need? Where should you put your vegetable garden? How do we create a successful garden environment?

It all comes down to sun exposure.

How Much Sunlight Does a Vegetable Garden Need?

Before we looked into sun exposure, we picked our backyard for our future garden.

We thought it would be a great place to grow, weed, and tend plants. Our dream is to have a zen garden in our backyard.

Other reasons to choose a backyard include:

• it is isolated from the street

• Semi-Private: Back in our neighbor's yard

• Flat ground

• plenty of space

Those reasons are good, but will this location get enough sunlight?

How many suns are enough?

It turns out that you need a space with at least 6-8 hours of sunlight per day for vegetables to thrive.

Some vegetables may grow in partial sun, which means 4-6 hours a day.

Vegetables will die in partial shade, i.e. 2 hours or less of sunlight. That is sad.

Method 1 – Map the sun for your vegetable garden plot

The first way to figure out where you get the most sunlight is to paint. Take a piece of paper and draw your house, trees, shrubs, and sidewalks to scale.

Draw circles around the area where the sun sets around your home at 8am, 12pm and 4pm. Shade in all areas where you see shade.

raised garden bed

By the end of the day, you'll have a bunch of sun circles drawn around your home. Where these circles overlap is where you want to place your vegetable garden.

Honestly, our drawings are not the best. It's hard to see where there is overlap, and we don't have a 100% sense of what we're seeing.

As far as we can tell, our drawings point to the right side of our house, not the backyard. Unfortunately, the house and trees blocked the sunlight from reaching the backyard.

The backyard is again a poor choice because it doesn't drain well. After heavy rains, the area may turn into a swamp (as it is located at the foot of the mountain). Instead of a beautiful garden with lots of vegetables, it might turn into a soggy mound.

Method 2 – Use the app to calculate when and where you will get sunlight

The second and our recommended method is to use an online tool called Suncalc.

We wish we knew this tool first. It is free and can display sun position, altitude for any date, time and any location. This is a time saver!

Find Your Utility

Before we prepare the garden bed, we need to make sure it won't interfere with our utilities. This is good advice from a friendly neighbor.

It's important to know where your utilities are. What if there is a gas or plumbing problem and the utility company needs to dig the area where you put your garden?

All the time and money building the garden will go to waste because they have to dig it all out.

Would that be devastating? This is worse than setting up a garden in an area that doesn't have enough sunlight. Some crops will grow even in partial sun, just not at their full potential. You will lose everything as the garden interferes with utility lines.

Let's avoid the latter case.

How to Find Utilities on Your Property

Search Google for MissUtility in your state. For Virginia, we used

This tool will allow you to submit a ticket to the utility company. Each company will then come out and flag the places you plan to dig for if there are problems.

Utilities include: Energy + Water + Sewer + Internet FIOS + Natural Gas

Go to and click the green "Submit Ticket" button.

You will select the "Homeowner" option and enter your street address.

After submitting your ticket, please wait a few days.

The utility company will come out and mark your yard with flags or spray paint. These markers let you know where utilities are located in your yard.

If there are any conflicts with the utility and your proposed excavation site, these will show up in the final report. You will receive an email notification with the full assessment.

Fortunately, our reports were conflict-free, so we're happy!

Get kids excited about your sunny garden

We took this small but big step in planning our garden and it felt good and fulfilling.

Our daughter enjoyed watching us build the garden beds.

raised garden bed
In Conclusion
We're glad we took the time to do the solar survey first.

As idyllic as it would be to have a backyard garden, our crops won't thrive. This will be disappointing. It doesn't make sense to spend all your resources in one location if it's not the best environment for your plants.

Our garden will be open to the public which is pretty cool and amazing. We hope other families will see what we are doing, ask questions, and hopefully get started in their own home.

Growmuse's goal is to help families grow their own food, so having a garden that everyone can see can be idyllic.

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