Experienced gardeners often tout garden planning as the key to their success. That’s because gardening requires careful consideration well before it’s time to start digging.
The good news is that learning how to plan a garden isn’t difficult. Work through the steps outlined below to get your next garden off to a great start!
Why Garden Planning is Important
Taking time to plan out your garden often leads to healthier plants and more abundant harvests. But what other benefits come with learning how to plan a garden?
- A well-planned garden is easier to maintain as they require less weeding, watering, and pest control.
- Garden planning can make your garden more sustainable, too. From applying water conservation techniques to composting, seed saving, and more, growing a greener garden requires just a little extra planning.
- Garden planning can help you maximize space and grow a greater variety of plants.
- Careful planning means you can set and work towards gardening goals. Being able to see your progress from year-to-year is a gratifying feeling you won’t want to miss!
Think of garden planning as your recipe for success. You’ll enjoy the entire growing season much more if you make time now to create a garden plan.
9 Things to Consider When Garden Planning
You don’t need to be an exceptional planner to grow a productive garden. You can get started right now by thinking through each of the following topics. Have a notebook handy to write down any notes, lists, or ideas as you go along.
What Are You Planning to Do With Your Harvest?
Start with the end in mind. Think about what you want to grow and how you’ll store or use it.
Will you and your family eat what you harvest as it’s picked? Would you like to preserve your harvest by storing, canning, freezing, or drying what you grow? Maybe you want to grow medicinal herbs to make homemade herbal remedies or natural beauty products.
Having a plan for your harvest ensures you get the most out of your gardening efforts. It’ll also help you plan for how many plants you’ll need, too.
Find Out About Where You Live
Gardeners are knowledgeable about the seasonal characteristics of where they live. Before you begin planting you’ll need to know a few basics about your growing area.
Hardiness zones help gardeners determine which plants grow well in their climate. You can identify your area’s zone using this USDA map.
Frost dates are also important for garden planning. You’ll need to know when to start seeds indoors and when it’s safe to transplant seedlings to the garden. A quick Google search for your area’s first and last frost dates should point you in the right direction.
Consider Your Garden Space
Now it’s time to gather a few more details about your growing space, starting with the size of your site. How much space do you have to work with?
A decent-sized garden is about 100 square feet. But use what you have. People create fantastic gardens in much smaller spaces.
Other aspects of your garden site to consider include:
- Soil health. Soil is the foundation for growing a thriving garden. Learn more about your soil’s makeup and how to amend it by analyzing it with a soil test kit.
- Water source. How will you ensure your garden receives adequate water throughout the growing season? Will you need to purchase hoses or watering cans?
- Sunlight. Knowing how much sunshine your site gets is essential to growing healthy plants. Creating a sun map can help you determine how much light your growing space receives.
- Planning for pests. Do you need a fence around your garden to deter critters from stealing your tomatoes? Should you plant extra veggies to ensure there is enough for you and the wildlife? Will you use companion planting? It’s a good idea to have a recipe on hand and ready for a natural pesticide, too.
- Pathways. How will you access the plants in your garden? Consider where paths will go in your garden to avoid disrupting the beneficial organisms in the soil around your plants.
Knowing your site’s characteristics well before you even start digging makes it easier to troubleshoot any gardening obstacles as they arise—improving your chances of growing a thriving garden.
Choose the Right Plants for Your Garden
How do you choose which plants to grow in your garden? First, make a list of plants that grow well in your area’s hardiness zone. After you’ve created a master list, narrow it down to what you have time and space to grow.
Think about the produce your family eats often. Do some research on preferred growing conditions to make sure those plants will grow well in your area.
This is the tricky part for most gardeners since we tend to want to grow it all. Remember that starting small and expanding as you gain more experience is the best way to grow a successful garden.
Decide If You Will Start Plants Indoors Or Outdoors
Determining how to start your garden depends on the plants you want to grow. Some plants (like cucumbers and tomatoes) transplant well. You can easily start seeds indoors if you have a place in the house that receives ample sunlight.
Other varieties (like carrots and beets) prefer not to be disturbed once they’ve started growing. These often fare better when seeds are sown directly in the ground.
Where Will You Harden Off Your Plants?
If you’re starting seeds indoors, you’ll need to plan to have a space for hardening off your seedlings. This just means you prepare them for the outdoor elements by placing your seedlings outside during the day.
They need a spot that receives morning sun and afternoon shade so they don’t get too hot and dry. You’ll also want to place them in a spot with good airflow. A gentle breeze will strengthen them to withstand hard rains and wind.
Some plants grow better together than others. Yet, companion planting is often best learned through experience. Here are a few companion planting basics to get you started.
- Marigolds, zinnias, cosmos, and nasturtiums are excellent to plant in the garden to attract pollinators and ward off pests.
- Place shorter, shade-loving plants near taller, sun-loving plants to maximize your growing space.
- Aromatic herbs like sage and mint are fantastic for deterring pests from fruit and vegetables. However, mint spreads quickly, which is why it’s often grown in containers.
- Rotate seasonal crops in spring, summer, and fall gardens to fix nutrients into the soil. For example, spring peas can add nitrogen to the soil benefitting the next season’s crop.
There are so many different ways to practice companion planting. Now’s the time to learn which plants grow well together and which don’t to create a more resilient garden.
Choose a Way to Record Garden Notes
Keep garden notes to track your progress and gardening goals from year-to-year. Garden notes can also help you remember what works well and what you should try to do differently next season.
A specific garden journal or planner is one way to keep garden notes. But, a simple notebook will work well, too. Figure out a garden note-taking system that fits your needs and be sure to keep it updated as you move through the growing season. If you’re looking for a garden journal, check out these:
Garden Planner – This planner is in-depth and exactly what you need for a well-organized garden!
Garden Journal – This journal will help you plan and record observations each year to establish an amazing garden with less stress.
What Garden Tools Will You Need?
Lastly, it’s important to consider what tools you’ll need to get started gardening. If you are just beginning your gardening journey, here are a few essentials to consider buying or borrowing:
- Gardening trowel
- Pruning shears
- Water cans and/or hoses
- Gardening gloves
There are many other helpful garden tools like wheelbarrows and weeding tools. But if you are starting a small garden, you can manage just fine without those things.
Garden Planning Equals Garden Success
Now’s the time to gather supplies, map out your site, read up on companion planting, and so much more. When spring rolls around you’ll be so glad that you are prepared to grow your most successful garden yet!
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We’d like to know—what’s on your garden planning to-do list?