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How to Start Planning Your Garden

Last updated on January 21st, 2023 at 02:47 pm

Many believe that the gardening season begins in the spring when the first seeds are planted, the truth is it starts many months before the last frost.

Planning your garden is just as important as the actual act of planting it and the sooner you start the easier the job will be when the time comes to put your seeds in the ground. In fact, my garden planning never seems to stop. Throughout the season I am constantly taking notes, making lists, and considering what could be done differently.

There is no one size fits all garden plan, as many factors should be considered when you are planning your own. That is why I have created this general idea of a garden planning process for you to follow while you start planning your own garden.

When to Start Garden Planning

As I mentioned earlier garden planning doesn’t start in the spring, you should be making plans and ordering seeds months before you plan on planting. Seed companies start sending their catalogs out at the end of December, this is the time you will want to sit down and begin your plans.

If you are new to the world of gardening and are not receiving catalogs in the mail, then you can request them at the company’s website. My current heirloom vegetable catalogs come from Seed Saver Exchange, Baker Creek Heirlooms, and Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

Note: If a paper catalog is not something you wish to get, start planning using a seed company’s website.

How to Start Garden Planning

How to Start Garden Planning

Step 1: Garden Planning Specifics

Before you can begin to choose what vegetables you would like to plant in your garden there are things that you will need to know.

Garden Planning Specifics include:

1. What zone are you in?
Your gardening zone is what will help you determine what vegetables and fruits will thrive in your specific climate. You can find your gardening zone by checking out this hardiness zone map.

Note: When you are looking at seeds the catalog or package should tell you which zone they grow best in.

2. When is your last frost date and your first frost date?
Knowing your frost dates will give you an idea of how long your gardening season will be. Your last frost date will indicate when your planting season can begin in the spring and the first frost date will indicate the end of your gardening season in the fall.

These dates will also give you an idea if you have a long enough season to direct sow your seeds into the ground or if you need to start your seeds indoors and transplant them later.

3. What type of garden will you be planting?
Before you pick your vegetables it is important that you understand how much space you will have in the type of garden you are planning. There is no one size fits all garden type and the good news is you can choose one type or a combination of them all.
Different garden types can include:
– Traditional Rows
– Raised Beds
– Container Gardening

This really depends on the space you have and what your gardening needs are. Here we use a combination of them all, root vegetables go in raised beds, herbs in containers and everything else is in traditional rows.

How to start Garden planning

Step 2: Make Your Garden Planting List

Once you know your gardening specifics it is time to decide what vegetables you will be planting in your garden this growing season. When you are making your list the first thing you do is decide what types of vegetables you will be growing in your garden.

Will you plant GMOs, Hybrids, or Heirloom varieties? We plant heirloom vegetables in our garden for a number of reasons that you can learn more about by reading Heirloom Vegetables for Beginners.

After you know what type you will be looking for the easiest way to start your planting list is to think about all the vegetables your family enjoys eating. Next, go through your seed catalogs and decide if there are any new varieties you would like to try.

Write all of the vegetables you came up with down on paper and start prioritizing your list based on which ones are the most important, what you have space for, and which ones will thrive in your growing zone.  Now you have your list of vegetables to plant this growing season! 

Step 3: Planning Plant Placement

Plant placement is an important step in your garden planning process. It is a good idea to research which vegetable plants will help or harm each other. This is especially helpful when planting in smaller spaces like containers or raised beds.

The best way to start is by sitting down with your vegetable list and opening your favorite search option. In the search bar type “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 personally 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 designing your garden layout.

Step 4: Design Your Garden

Once you have completed your companion plant research, it is time to move on to designing your garden layout.

The layout stage of the garden planning process is when you get to see what your garden could look like. You can create layouts using a computer, but I prefer to use graph paper and a pencil. When you are ready to start drawing grab your list of vegetables, plant placement information and know your garden dimensions.

Start designing your garden by:

  1. Drawing out the total area of your garden, raised bed, or container. (When I am using graph paper 1 square is equal to 1 square foot.)
  2. Use your plant spacing information to place rows and walking path space.
    Example spacing for a traditional row garden:
    Wide Rows – 3ft
    Single Rows – 1.5ft
    Walking Space – 1.5ft
    1 ft. between the garden and fence
  3. Remember to look at the plant placement information as you decide where certain crops will go.
  4. Label everything! 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 your layout to be easy to read later when it is time to plant.

How to Start Garden Planning

Step 5: Buying Your Seeds

At this point everything should be in order, you know what vegetables you would like and how many plants you will need. The last step in planning your garden is to buy the seeds you will need in spring.  

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 ordered, all you can do is wait patiently for your planting season to begin.

Is It Time to Start Planning Your Garden?

Your gardening season may start in the spring but it is never too early to start planning. Your garden plan can be simple, detailed, color coated, or a combination of different things. 

No matter what your plan looks like remember that it is there to help you when it is time to plant your garden. Make sure that it is something you can understand and use when your planting season starts.

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