Planning your garden can seem daunting, but as long as you are organized and plan so that nature can do its work, it is a pretty simple process.
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When we moved in, there was already a beautiful garden full of raised beds in the back by the chicken coop. After some TLC of weeding and tilling, we were ready to get started on our garden. Which means planning out what to plant and where everything will be planted. As someone who has notoriously had a pretty brown thumb in the past, I felt I had a lot to learn but planning is my strong suit so here we go :)
Determine Your Gardening Zone
Where you live determines your gardening zone which determines when and what you can plant. Find you gardening zone here. Your gardening zone gives you your average first and last frost dates which effectively gives you your growing season. Now that you know your growing season and zone, you can find out what plants, fruits, herbs and flowers grow best in your zone. We live in Zone 8 and I love using the Old Farmer's Almanac website to see what plants grow well in my zone.
Determine What You Want to Grow
Now it is time to narrow down. Think about what veggies, herbs and fruits you and your family love to eat and compare those to the list of plants that grow well in your zone. For example, we use peppers and onions in nearly every meal so that definitely made our list. I bought all my veggies from Botanical Interests.
Here are some other things to consider when choosing what you want to grow:
Companion Plants - some plants go great along side each other to replenish soil nutrients, act as a natural insecticide, etc. Check out this list of companion plants to see what goes with your favorite veggies.
Pollinator-Friendly Plants - tips to make your garden bee-friendly
Natural Pest Controllers - Here is one list of plants that are natural pesticides.
Determine How You Will Plant
There are different ways to plant your garden including planting in rows and square foot gardening. I chose square foot gardening because I have a lot of raised beds to utilize. Here is a useful guide for plant spacing when planting a square foot vegetable garden. This will help you maximize the space you have.
Plot Your Garden
To plan your garden, you will need to plot out your garden space to scale. You will need paper (graph paper works well for easy scaling), a pencil, a ruler and a measuring tape.
First, measure your garden space. I measured each raised bed and assigned each section a number. Make note of which beds get full or partial sun.
Next, use your ruler and pencil to plot a to-scale drawing of your garden space on a piece of paper. TIP: Save this digitally so that you have your blank template each year when you come back to start planning.
For square foot gardening, draw lighter lines in each bed to show how many square feet are in each bed. You can even use string and staples to mark the square feet in your garden if you wish.
Make your list of plants you want to grow and group them by companion plants. I do this in an Airtable (or an excel sheet) with columns for all the info I'll need to know about each plant (sun needs, watering needs, soil pH preference, when to sow in my zone, how deep to plant seeds, how far apart to plant seeds, etc.) This spreadsheet doubles as my gardening journal during planting so I know exactly what variety I purchase, when I started seeds, planted and harvested.
Next list how many of each plant you will want to plant. For square foot gardening, be sure to note the spacing for each plant for square foot gardening.
Now that you have your list of plants and how many, you can determine how many square feet you will need.
Before plotting what will go where, it is time to soil test. I ordered this DIY soil test kit from Amazon. Once you have notes on soil pH, Nitrogen, Potash, Phosphorus as well as any sunlight notes about each bed, you can determine which plants to place in each bed.
Plot where you will plant your veggies, herbs, fruits and flowers! Save this as reference for harvesting and future years so you know what was planted where.
Remember to do this planning yearly and switch which beds you plant in so that you are not planting the same crops in the same place year over year. Rotating beds deters pests and keeps the soil healthy!
What are you planting this year? Tell me in the comments!