Garden planning helps you make the most of your garden’s available space and sunlight. Each new season in the garden can seem overwhelming. Knowing what to plant, when to plant, and where to plant is a juggling act for even experienced gardeners. Taking the time to make a plan will help you be successful.
When you plan ahead, you can prioritize space for the plantings you want to be most successful. Planting crops in the best location and at the right time gives them the best chance of producing well. Rather than buying seeds and plants, you don’t need, when you plan your garden in advance, you know exactly what you need.
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Garden Planning in 5 Simple Steps
1. Draw out the layout of your garden
- Diagram your garden. Add as much detail as you can, including your raised beds, containers, and in-ground areas.
- Create separate “zoomed in” diagrams of each bed if desired.
- Label any trellises or vertical structures. This will help you to know where gardening vertically is an option.
- Label areas by the amount of sunlight they receive (full sun, part sun, afternoon shade, etc.) This may change depending on the season and if you add shade cloth to parts of your garden in hot summer areas.
- Assign each planting area a number or letter on your layout. This makes it easy to describe where certain crops will be planted on your Garden Planning Worksheet.
2. Make a list of what you would like to plant
List what you want to plant on your Garden Planning Worksheet using your local planting guide. (Download a free copy here). Complete as much information as possible. The more information you include helps later as you decide what to plant where.
Fill in the following information for each crop you would like to add to your garden:
- Whether you will plant from seeds or transplants.
- How many you would like to add to your garden.
- The spacing requirements for each plant. Allow enough room to provide adequate airflow. If you use square foot gardening, this step is simple.
- The sunlight requirements. This is especially important in hot summer areas like the low desert of Arizona. It is important to understand which crops can handle full (even afternoon) sun and which crops you need to provide shade for.
- If the crop grows best vertically, will it need a trellis?
3. Decide where to plant each crop
Take note of where you already have crops growing in your diagram. Where I live in the low desert, we garden year-round and there are many crops such as peppers and many perennial herbs that stay in place all year long.
Using the information you gathered on your Garden Planning Worksheet and your garden diagram, decide where you will plant each crop.
Write the area (the number or letter you assigned to each garden area) on your Garden Planning Worksheet. If you are writing it out, use a pencil – this is the step that takes some work. As you complete this step, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Rotate where you plant crops each season. Planting crops in the same location creates problems with pest and disease build-up in the soil. Rotate where you plant legumes, root crops, fruit crops, and leaf crops from year to year.
- Use the resources in my “Spring Garden Checklist,” “How to Prepare Your Garden for Summer,” and “Fall Planting Guide” to help you prepare for the upcoming season.
- Planting a variety of crops in each bed is an excellent way to increase the biodiversity in your garden. Diversity in plantings attracts a broader assortment of beneficial insects and pollinators. Resist the urge to plant all of one type of vegetable in one location. Add it to different areas around your garden. Read this article for more information about companion planting.
- Try planting different varieties of the same crop (squash, beans, tomatoes, etc.) in various parts of the garden. However, corn should be grown all-together to ensure adequate pollination.
- Pay attention to spacing requirements and do not over-plant. Adequate airflow is important for healthy plants.
- Adjust planting amounts as needed if there is not enough room or if you have extra room (every gardener’s dream!)
4. Purchase seeds and transplants
Let’s be honest, sometimes this is the first thing we do and then we have to figure out how to make it all fit! Look at your list and decide which plants you will start from seed directly in the garden, which you will start indoors, and which you will purchase transplants for. Some plants do best when started from seed directly in the garden. This blogpost can help if you are trying to decide which is best and when to start seeds indoors.
- Purchase seeds
- Start seeds indoors (this blogpost will help)
- Purchase transplants. Starting seeds indoors can be tricky; there is no shame in buying transplants.
5. Plant and enjoy your garden
Make changes and adjustments as needed to your plan. Note any changes you make on your Garden Planning Worksheet and garden diagram. Keeping that information accurate and updated is important for crop rotation later on.
If everything doesn’t go according to plan, that’s okay. Enjoy the process. Build on your mistakes and learn from your successes each season.
Learn other ways to become a self-sufficient gardener in this article.