My garden planning for the next year usually starts before my current garden has been harvested. Through out the season I am constantly taking notes, making lists of vegetables, and what I would do differently. Planning your garden and writing your plans down on paper will help make planting your garden much easier.
When to Start Garden Planning
Seed Catalogs usually come out in December, this is the time to sit down and begin your plans. If you are not receiving catalogs in the mail, then you should request them at the companies website. If a paper catalog is not something that you wish to get, simply start your planning using a seed company’s website.
The Garden Planning Process
Step 1: Figure Out Your Garden Specifics
Before you can begin to choose what vegetables you would like to plant there are a few things you need to know.
- What zone are you in?
- When is your last frost date and your first frost date?
- How much space do you have?
- What type of garden will you be planting? Read What is Your Garden Type for more in depth descriptions for each gardening type.
- Traditional Rows?
- Square Foot Garden
- Container Garden?
Step 2: Make Your Garden Planning List
Once you have figured out your zone, grow season and garden type it is time to start making your vegetable list.
- Decide what vegetables your family enjoys eating
- Think about how much space you have and which ones are important
- Figure out what types of seeds you will be growing in your garden. Yes there are a few, GMOs Heirlooms and Hybrids. (I plant Heirloom vegetables, to learn about these seeds take a look at Heirloom Vegetables for Beginners
- Go through your seed catalogs and decide if there is anything new you would like to try
- Finally, write your chosen vegetables down
Step 3: Plant Placement Research
When deciding where to place your plants, it is a good idea to research which vegetable plants help each other. I have found that this is very helpful when you are planning a square foot garden but can also be used when planting rows as well.
Start by getting your vegetable list out and opening your favorite search option. Search Companion planting (I have found that this gives the best results.) Look for a chart, graphic, or article that you feel is most helpful, I like to use charts that list my vegetable with a list of companion vegetables. When researching companion plants be sure to pay attention to the types that will be harmful as well.
Once you have completed your companion plant research, it is time to move on to step #5 designing your garden layout.
Step 4: Design Your Garden
The garden layout stage is when you get to see what your garden could look like. I have created layouts using a computer, but I prefer to use graph paper and pencil.
- Before starting the layout plan, it is helpful to have the list of vegetables, the plant placement information and the dimensions and spacing information.
- Draw out the total area that was figured out during the winter planning stage. (When I am using the graph paper 1 square is equal to 1 square foot.)
- Use the spacing information to place rows and walking path space.
- Wide Rows – 3ft
- Single Rows – 1.5ft
- Walking Space – 1.5ft
- 1 ft. between the garden and fence
Remember to look at the plant placement information as you decide where certain crops will go. Label everything! I like to label the dimensions, row width, length and extra walking space for future use. Label the crop placement as each row is created on the layout. I also like to write down the number of plants that will be in each row.
The layout can be as simple or as creative as you want it, this is your plan. Some layouts are color coded or have tiny plant drawings, but I like to keep mine simple. You want it to be easy to read with no confusion when you look at the layout later
Step 5: Buying Your Seeds
At this point everything should be in order, you have your vegetables and know how many plants you will need. The last thing you need to do is buy the seeds that you will need. Most seed packets come with 25 seeds or more, so unless you need a large quantity one seed packet should be enough to get you started.
You can buy your seeds many different ways:
In the past year there have been more and more people gardening and buying seeds. I would plan your garden and order your seeds as soon as you can. Once your seeds have been order, all you can do is wait patiently for your planting season to begin.
Your garden plan can be simple, detailed, color coated or a combination of different things. What ever your plan looks like remember that the information and design are there to help you when it is time to plant your garden. Make sure that it is something easy for you to understand and use!