If you are a new gardener, or just trying to improve and expand the garden you already have, I hope my how to plan your vegetable garden ideas help to get you started gardening more efficiently for your family.
I will be including printables in the Resource Library to help get you started and show what I typically record in my journals.
Planning is Personal
Planning your garden should be a very personal experience. Your garden is not going to look like mine or the neighbor down the road’s garden. Your garden should be planned and planted with the goal of supplementing your family’s grocery budget and health over the growing season. So the first step in planning your garden is to make sure that what you plant is all things that you and your family will consume.
Let’s face it. Planting an entire row of eggplant when no one in your family will eat it is simply a waste of time.
Some vegetables are much more easy to work with than others. You will probably want to start growing some of the simpler crops of tomatoes, peppers, onions, cucumbers, green beans, summer squash, any leafy greens, and carrots. As long as you make sure to purchase varieties that are aimed at your growing zone, these are the easiest to grow. They grow in most regions, and they require little to no pruning, maintenance or hands-on time to get a good crop.
The first step to a great garden is getting your soil prepared. I already have a 3500 sq. ft. garden that my Redneck plowed up for me last year. It is essentially a field by most people’s standards. And actually, by measurement, my garden is larger than most houses that I have lived in over the course of my life. I am so not going to complain!
You may want to go with raised beds if you live in an area with a high clay content in your soil. A lot of suburbs seem to be built on a backfill of horrible, unclean fill dirt. Having the raised beds and the ability to purchase clean compost or top soil for the garden beds can make a world of difference in the health of your plants.
Live in an area with healthy soil? Then you just have to till up your garden to get started. I know people who have only tilled their garden the first year and then just allow the dirt to settle. You could add in compost. Cover with amendments over the winter to aid in weed prevention and to give back some nutrients to the soil. These could include compost, manure, straw or even grass clippings.
Learning As You Go
As you brainstorm your garden, record your plan in a garden journal. This can be a simple spiral notebook or a detailed digital journal with maps. I typically use composition notebooks. They are sturdy, cheap, and easy to store. Using a journal will help your learning curve be less daunting. Include a list of the varieties you’ve planted. Make sure you keep notes throughout the year on what you are doing. Record what works and what does not. You will also want to make sure that you record your yields, preferably by weight, throughout the growing season.
I also keep track of things in my Garden Planner, available in our Resource Library. If you are new to gardening, or even just new to tracking your garden for maximum yeild, using this planner will help you get an idea of what works and what does not in your own garden.
A lot of people ask me, “Why is it so important to know how much I pick?”
This is so you will know how much each separate variety produced so that you can plan better for the next year.
I will use tomatoes as my example. Based on what the use will be, I plant a variety of types. We both love tomato sandwiches and BLTs. So I plant a lot of these, and I would like to make sure that I have enough to eat myself and to share with my family. So I record how many I plant and how many I harvest.
I also can a lot of tomato sauce, salsa, and ketchup for use over the winter months. For this, I use a variety of paste type tomatoes (Roma, etc.). I want to make sure to note how much yield I get from each variety so that next year I can plan based on which variety performed the best in my soil and growing zone. It makes the entire process easier from the start when you know what grows well in your garden from the get-go.
Planning For Change
Even with a solid plan in place, sometimes you will have too much or too little of something. You may have an infestation of mold or insects that just destroys your summer squash. You may be attacked by rogue rabbits or squirrels. Here in our neck of the woods, it is not uncommon to be sharing my corn with a herd of deer. So we just adapt based on what seems to be the most common.
Your area may be affected by a drought or a flood. Any number of environmental factors can affect even the best-laid gardening plans.
My hope for your alterations is excess. Having too much of a good thing can be a blessing. Share with your neighbors, friends, or co-workers. There are a lot of people I know who would love to have fresh produce. Especially homegrown! Find a charity or a food bank in your area that will accept some fresh donations. Maybe a homeless shelter or a church who has a free meal program. Giving to those who would love to have it is so much better than letting it go to waste.
Or go a step further if the demand is there. Set up a roadside stand to allow for others to just stop and get what they need. It’s like an open air market. You can sit out with it, or set up a lockbox and use the honor system. Whatever works in your own locale.
Seed Inventory Sheet
There is a free printable with this that I have to share with you. It is included in our Garden Planner (available in our Resource Library). The Seed Inventory sheet is to help you to organize and keep track of your seed purchases. Seed can last a long time if properly stored, but you will still want to know when you purchased it as well as when to start it each year. Make note of what the package says about when to start the seed, but make sure to track it for yourself in your own soil and conditions.
Free printable seed packets
While you are in our Free Resource Library to grab the Seed Inventory Sheet, don’t forget to grab our Free Printable Seed Packets so you can start saving your own seeds instead of having to purchase them every year.