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Planning the Garden

Updated: Sep 7, 2022

It’s January. Which means it’s been almost four months since I’ve had anything to do with the garden. And this past fall I didn’t start any veggies inside to have over the winter, so I REALLY haven’t gardened at all. The garden beds are still blanketed with snow. But right on cue, the itch to begin planting has hit me.

I feel like my planning process is a bit involved. And I probably overthink things way too much. But I thought I would share my process with you here in case you need some ideas to help you plan your garden.

My 2022 Garden Journal. I have a TOC in the front.

The first step I take is to look back on the previous year’s garden. I haven’t always kept a garden journal, and really, I’m still not that great at keeping one, but I did better last year than I have in previous years. In my journal for last year, I took notes. Notes on what grew and how well they grew, notes about the weather, notes about varieties I liked and if I wanted to try them again or not.

After I look back, I make a list of everything I know I want to have in the garden this year. And then I decide if I want to have enough of each to try and sell whatever extra we have or if I want to grow it just for us and preserve the extras. That helps me decide how many of each plant I want and spacing requirements.

Each page starts with things to remember about each plant.

My garden journal isn’t very fancy. It’s just a spiral notebook with one page dedicated to every plant variety. And if I’m really organized, I’ll enter them in alphabetical order. But usually what ends up happening is I add more to my garden after I’ve done this and then have to add the new items to the back of the journal, which drives me crazy. I have not figured out how to overcome this yet, but I’ll keep you updated.

My seed storage. Clearly I need another one :)

Anyway… This is also about the time when I start looking at seed catalogues, considering what new things I want to try planting and end up ordering way too many seeds.

Once I have a list, I create a graph of my gardens and make a rough draft of everything I’m considering planting to see if it will all fit.

Next, I start planning out the garden. Even though there are still some unknown factors in my mind, it helps me fill in those blanks when I can visualize it. I grab all the information I’ve collected on the things I’ve grown in the past to figure out row and plant spacing.

Then I look at companion planting charts. I don’t get too involved in this, I basically just want to make sure I’m not inhibiting the growth of any of my plants by putting them next to another plant they don’t like.

I record as much info as I can on each plant variety.

I also like the idea of camouflage gardening – placing plants strategically to ward off pests as much as possible. I mainly look at the brassica family for this though since I always have an issue with aphids.

Once I’ve figured out which plants can’t be planted in the same place year after year, companion planting, and camo planting, I redo my garden graphs, taking more care to mark plants on the graph with all the spacing requirements for each plant as I go and double checking all my notes. This is also when I revisit my list of plants I want to have more of so I can sell the excess because inevitably I run out of space and need to reconsider some of my choices.

Final garden plan #1 on graph paper.
Final garden plan #2 on graph paper.

Once this is done, I let it sit. In the writing world, this is called “letting your work rest”. The purpose of this is to come back and see it with fresh eyes. Sometimes I come back to it and I’m satisfied other times I come back, and I realize I need to change some things.

I realize this probably sounds like a lot for most people, but I tend to be a perfectionist and it’s satisfying to do all the research and learn new things about the plants I’m growing. Plus, there is a creative element in planning a garden, and I love letting my creative juices flow!

I’d love to hear how you plan your garden – let me know in the comments, maybe I’ll implement some of them into my routine!

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