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The key to having a successful garden is having a garden plan. Without a plan, your garden might not have a bountiful harvest. It’s worth taking the time to learn how to plan your vegetable garden.
I look forward to this time of year. There is something so refreshing and rejuvenating about working in the dirt, even if it is inside. It reminds me that winter doesn’t last forever.
Before you even buy your seeds, you have to come up with this plan. I’m going to walk you through step by step how to plan your vegetable garden.
I promise; it’s not as hard as it sounds.
How to Plan a Vegetable Garden
Figure Out How Much Space You Have
Before you even pick out the seeds you want to grow, I suggest you determine how much space you have. A gardener can have space for a few containers or 1/2 an acre to devote to their garden. No matter how much space you have, you can grow some vegetables.
Take a walk around your property, and if you have time, take with you:
- Small Stakes
- Measuring Tape
Now, walk the space you want to use for gardening and use the stakes and twine to plan out the size of your garden bed. Typically, the beds should be no more than 4 feet across.
You aren’t building the beds yet; you’re just plotting where they will go and determining how much space you do have.
This step is handy for when you start to diagram your garden. You’ll have an idea about the size of your beds.
Grow What You Use
My next step is to think about what our family consumes on a regular basis. What veggies do I purchase every week at the store? Do I purchase certain frozen veggies and canned goods? Then, I think about what I need to grow to replace those items.
For our family, we grow quite a huge variety. While I have listed just tomatoes, I grow, on average, five to seven different types of tomatoes. I grow over seven varieties of peppers.
This step is unique for everyone. You might use a lot of green beans but hate tomatoes. Think about the foods you eat on a regular basis. That’s what you need to grow in your garden.
Your goal is to replace the foods you buy at the grocery store. Don’t waste space growing things you’ll never eat.
If you must try something new (because it’s fun sometimes), try only 1-2 plants of it.
Order Heirloom Seeds
Now that you know how much space you have and what you want to grow, it’s time to order seeds. I only grow heirloom seeds for several reasons, and I try to save as many seeds as possible from the previous year.
Whatever I haven’t saved, I need to order and I do try a few new varieties each year.
Here are a few suggestions to help you pick the best heirloom seeds for your vegetable garden.
- Look at the days to maturity. That helps you determine when you should plant the seeds in your growing season.
- Read the description to see if it originates from a specific location. Does that region have a climate similar to yours?
- Look at when the nursery recommends starting the seeds and where.
- Determine sunlight needs. Does it need full sunlight, partial sunlight or partial shade?
Learn Sunlight Needs
Now that you ordered your seeds, you can take a look at how much sunlight each plant requires. That’s going to help with the next step.
Some plants require full sunlight, which means a minimum of 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day. If your seed packet indicates that your plant can handle partial shade, then that plant needs 4-6 hours of sunlight each day. Partial sunlight means your plant needs 3-5 hours of sunlight each day.
Draw Your Garden
Don’t laugh at my inability to draw.
While my diagram looks slightly ridiculous, the reality is that this drawing is typically just for my eyes. It’s going to help me when I go to plant everything.
My final copy of my garden sketch might be more detailed. Sometimes, I count out how far each plant will be and color code the diagram.
Now it’s time for you to do the same. Draw your vision for your garden. You can include as little or as much detail as you desire.
Learn When to Plant Everything
The USDA split up the USA into Hardiness Zones. You can discover yours, and then look up your first and last frost date each year.
This date is just an average, so you don’t have to stick to it like hard facts. For the last few years, our last frost date has been earlier in the season than the average for my hardiness zones.
I suggest that you look at the temperatures for the last few years. All you need to do is google “Your City Temperatures Month Year.” Go back the last few years to figure out what the real average is.
You need to know your last frost date to determine when you should start seeds indoors. If the seed packet says to start indoors 8-9 weeks before the last frost date, you take a calendar and count backward from that date and mark when to start your seedlings.
Many seeds need to be directly sown into the garden after the last frost date. Examples include zucchini, corn, and green beans. Now that you know this last frost date, you can better plan when these seeds will go into the ground.
Plan Your Vegetable Garden
Gardening is, generally, forgiving. If you don’t have the perfect dates, everything will work out fine in the end. To avoid stress, take an hour and plug in the dates on your calendar.
Making time to plan your vegetable garden maximizes your output. You can take the time to consider each plants’ individual needs, ensure they get the right sunlight, and even adjust soil as necessary. Planning is worth it.