5 Tips for Garden Planning Success

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Can you believe it’s time to plan your gardens? I always get so excited this time of year knowing it’s time to start growing, but before you rush off to the store and start buying up every plant be sure you take the time to map out your vegetable and flower garden!

Garden planning is an important but often overlooked step, especially in beginner gardens. Mapping out and planning your garden allows you to spatially layout where and when you are going to place all your plants in order to keep your beds producing all season long to their best ability.

Here are 5 Tips for Garden Planning Success

  1. What are your Garden Goals
  2. Evaluate Your Garden Space
  3. Plant what you will eat
  4. Use a planner
  5. Map it out

Let’s dive into each of these tips a little more and figure out exactly what you need for garden planning success.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

5 Tips for Garden Planning Success

What are your Garden Goals?

There are a few factors I like to consider and questions I ask myself when first sitting down to set my plan for my garden beds.

  • What are your goals for the garden? Are you just supplementing regular grocery needs? Are you wanting to be as self-sufficient for veggies as possible? Are you wanting to share your bounty with friends and neighbors? These are the very first questions to consider when coming up with your plan because your answers will determine other cascading factors.
  • How much space is available/how big would you like your garden to be? This is also key in figuring out your plan, it will determine how many plants you can (or want to) physically fit. Determining if you have enough space will be helpful in determining what you can plant in your garden area.

Evaluate Your Garden Space

The next step in planning your garden is to evaluate your garden space. If you’ve planted a garden before, ask yourself these questions:

Do I want to plant in the same space as last year?

Do I want to add space or add more raised beds?

Do I need to reduce the space because it was too much to handle last year?

Or do I want to change how I grow, like planting more in containers or raised beds?

Whether you change anything or not, settling these questions is important and not to be overlooked.

Soil, Compost, and Mulch

Another consideration along these lines is your soil, compost, and mulch needs. Do you need to do a soil test? Learn more about soil testing HERE. Do you have an adequate amount of compost and/or organic matter or do you need to source some locally? Where will you obtain this year’s supply of mulch?

Trust me when I tell you, you’ll thank yourself when you’ve already done your homework and made your plans in this area. When you’re ready to plant in early spring, the last thing you want to be hustling to obtain is soil or mulch.

shoveling soil into a bag

If You’re Gardening in a New Place

Before you know what you want, you need to figure out what you have. Start by drawing a map of your yard with existing trees, shrubs, slopes, patios and whatever else is out there. The map can be as formal (a scale version on graph paper) or casual as your need for detail dictates, but the more accurate it is, the more thorough your garden plan will be.

Make note of the factors noted above that influence the kind of plantings that will follow. Locate areas with full sun and partial shade. Indicate places that are sheltered from the wind and where the best soil is. Also note the paths people take to get from one place to another. These might be actual paths of brick or stone, or just the routes that commonly get used. Are there places the kids like to play or the dogs use? And consider the viewing angles when placing plant groups and gardens. Where will people be when they are admiring your work?

Water sources are another important detail to add to the map, whether that means underground sprinklers or simply a spigot. Elevations are also important. Does the land slope towards its borders or rise in the center? Generally, you’ll want drainage to move away from your home, not toward it.

Growing vegetables requires ample sunlight; the bare minimum is 6 hours of hot, direct sun, but 8-10 is best. Ideally, your garden will also be away from standing water, any large root systems and tree canopy cover as these can hinder the growth of your crops.

Also, consider proximity to a water source – make sure your garden is easily reached by a hose so you can water your plants!

The other main thing you will want to know is your USDA Hardiness Zone and your growing season. This tells you your general last and first frost date. This is super important to know since many vegetables are “tender,” which means they will die in cold temps. Knowing your last frost date let’s you determine when you can plant out your veggies!

Plant What You Will Eat

Having in mind what you’d like to grow may affect the size and style of the garden you build. Grow what you and your family will eat, then add a few extras. If you’re the only one in your house that eats salads, don’t grow 10 heads of lettuce at once. If no one eats tomatoes, don’t grow an entire bed full of them.

Think of the things you currently purchase at the grocery store. Are you buying frozen green beans every week? Do you buy salad greens? Does your family love salsa? Are you routinely purchasing cantaloupe or watermelon? Give most of your garden space to things you know you’ll use.

Give a little bit of your space to try something new. The flavor of radishes completely changes when they are roasted. Rutabagas mashed with chives and sour cream are literally life-changing. Beets can be dehydrated to make a nutrient-dense powder to add to smoothies. All of these are lessons I learned from growing new things and figuring out how to use them.

Use a Garden Planner

A Garden Planner can help you to layout your garden like a pro. Draw the position of paths, beds and containers, include vital components such as compost bins and water barrels, and mark the location of growing aids, for example, drip irrigation lines and plant supports.

A well-planned garden is easier to care for. It saves time in the garden and is more productive than an unplanned garden. Start planning your garden well in advance so you will be ready to get to work when planting time arrives. If the soil was not tilled in the fall, that must be done early in the spring.

For the past few years, I’ve used a printable garden planner and journal that I created myself. It has been amazing in helping me keep track of our home garden. I am able to look back on last year’s vegetable garden layout and see what types of plants we planted and what companion planting we did. It sets our garden up for successful gardening.

Plan Your Garden with the

Garden Planner & Journal

Everything you need to plan your garden, stay organized, and reflect on the growing season!

Learn More!

Map it Out

Research Plant Spacing

Doing a little research, and even just reading your seed packets and plant tags, ahead of time will give you all the information you need; with little effort you can find a wealth of information on how exactly to space your veggies and flowers, which is necessary for drawing out your garden map.

Each veggie plant has different spatial requirements in order to grow to its fullest potential. For example, broccoli and tomato plants each need a 24″ circumference around them but broccoli stays shorter while tomatoes grow up to 6ft. tall.

Knowing your plant’s characteristics, especially as far as height and width, is integral when mapping out your garden.

Once you’ve done your research you’ll be better equipped to sketch an accurate plan!

Identify Large Plants that Need Trellising & Staking

When mapping out your garden be sure that you plant your tall trellis plants on the north side of your garden box. This includes anything that climbs such as peas, pole beans, zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes.

This is to ensure these plants do not shade the other plants by blocking them from getting the proper sunlight that they need.

Shorter plants like greens should be planted on the south side of the beds and medium-height plants like swiss chard and kale can be in the middle.

Quick Guide to Sketching Your Vegetable Garden

You’ll need some graph paper, a ruler and a pencil!

  1. Sketch your beds. On a piece of graph paper sketch each bed and note the size of the garden, I prefer graph paper and pencil so I can make my sketch to size and erase when needed. Pull out last year’s map for reference so you can make sure you rotate your crops correctly.
  2. Decide on Plants & Know Their Spacing. Refer to your plant list, decide roughly how many of each plant you’d like and begin arranging the crops in the garden map.
  3. Place Priority Plants. Once your boxes are sketched and you have your list, sketch in the plants most important to you. Make sure to place them with the correct spacing and proper placement for sunlight (north vs. south side of the bed). For me, this is tomatoes, peppers, and root veggies. These are plotted first on my garden map to ensure there is plenty of room to grow enough.
  4. Place the Climbers. Next sketch in those climbing plants, the ones that need trellis support. Peas, pole beans, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, etc. Put these at the north side of your boxes to ensure they do not shade your other crops when they grow tall.
  5. Place the Short-Season Plants. After the priority and the climbing plants are set, sketch in where seasonal plants will go. These are the quick-to-harvest plants that you will be succession planting so you can get several harvests throughout the season (crops like leaf lettuce, radishes, arugula, and spinach).
  6. Extras Crops. Once all the vegetables have been mapped out go ahead and see how much space you have left. If you still have the room you can sketch in some extras like companion plants – your herbs and even some cut flowers!

You are ready to start planning your garden. Make sure you check out our garden planner and get to work.

Plan Your Garden with the

Garden Planner & Journal

Everything you need to plan your garden, stay organized, and reflect on the growing season!

Learn More!