Making a plan for your garden is one of the most important steps in success in growing. Each plant has specific sun, water, and size requirements in order to have optimal success. There are a few steps in planning that can save you a ton of heart break or disappointment later. Check them out below.
*The first step in planning the garden is to find your average last frost date in the spring. Click here to find your average last frost date. Once you have this date, you can start your seeds and seedlings accordingly. Your seed packets will tell you when is the best time to plant seeds and seedlings for tomatoes and peppers can be planted a few weeks after your average last frost date or when your soil temperature stays up above 50 degrees even at night.
*Next make a list of what you want to eat. There is no sense in growing things you don’t enjoy eating. Below is our list with the cold hardy or spring crops a the top and the warm season crops at the bottom.
*The next step is to make a list of when each plant can be planted. You can get a list of dates from your local extension office. I am in zone 7. You can look for Oklahoma Planting Times on Google to get the OSU extension list of planting times in Oklahoma. You can also click here to see how I keep my planting times straight.
*If you planted the previous year, you need to rotate your crops to a different area than that same type of plant was grown in the year before. Planting the same thing in the same spot year after year can cause pest and disease problems to reoccur. Draw out a map of where you had things planted last year so you can move everything you plant this year to a different area.
*Draw out a map to help you choose where to put your plants. You can use graph paper or do like we do and use the excel program to make a representation of your growing space. I like to have it be printable because I can reprint it and have a do over if I change my mind 100 times like I may or may not do. I use 1 square to represent 1 square foot of garden space. This way, when I look up how much space each plant takes to grow, I can mark off that many spaces on my map. I made the different spaces different colors so I would know the length of each bed when they are lined up in a row on the edges.
These are our two garden areas and the maps that represent them.
*Choose which plants to put together by their needs. Some plants retard growth in other plants, so you need to check out a companion planting chart before you plan your garden. Click here to see one. You can also get the book “Carrots Love Tomatoes” to have companion plant information handy all the time. In addition to companion planting, each type of plant also has certain water, sun, and nutrient needs. You can group plants together to help you care for them throughout the summer, such as planting carrots with tomatoes helps the carrots stay cool in the shade of the tomato plants as well as the carrots help repel bugs that eat tomatoes. But also, potatoes need less water than squashes and melons, so you could plant all of your melons, cucumbers, and squashes along one side of your garden and water that area more. Check out your seed packets to find out the requirements for each plant.
*If you want to plan to succession planting, or plant the same crop every two weeks for six weeks to spread out your harvest times, map that information on your map as well.
*Estimate the mature size of each plant and use your seed packets or plant information tags to find out how much space to block off for each plant.
*Write the names of your plants on your chart and then write down what you have decided to grow with the planting time next to each one. Then organize them in groups of the same time, so on that week, you will know what all you need to be doing in the garden.
*Track the varieties you end up choosing so when you find a favorite, you can plant it again the following year. A little bit of planning in the garden will go a long, long way in making your garden more successful and easier to manage. Do you have any tips or tricks for planning what you will grow?