How to Plan for a Garden
Doused in snow once again we are longing for spring to come. One thing that has helped us survive the winter "blahs" has been dreaming and planning for our garden. Last year we bought this house too late to plant much in the large garden plot, but have been anxious to get our hands in that rich dirt and watch God bring forth beautiful plants of every shape, color, and size that will produce fruit for our table that is delicious not only for it's freshness, but for the satisfaction of coming from our own labor. Now, a garden doesn't just happen on it's own. It takes a little planning and a lot of work to reap the benefits. Until the snow melts we can't do much for the work part, but the winter months are a perfect time to do your research so that when the time comes you will be ready and knowledgeable. Keep reading to learn how to plan for a garden.
In planning for our own garden there are several things we had to consider:
Types of Plants:
Knowing what kinds of plants you want to include will give you a great place to start when determining how much and what type of space you need. To be honest we wanted it all: every yummy vegetable and succulent fruit. But, there are certain factors that restrict us from doing so such as climate, our lack of experience, and space restraints (to name a few). So, come up with a list of what you would like to see on your table at the end of the season. Then, do your research and cross off the plants that do not coincide with your location, climate, and space.
Do a little research on what plants go together well. I've found the graphic below from Good to be Home to be very helpful.
Now that you've chosen your plants, you'll want to plot out a map either on paper or in your mind of where you will place each one. If you have a tiny yard (or no yard at all) you will have to consider a vertical garden such as this one here from DIY Show Off.
It is a good idea to plan in advance for a garden like this in order to collect supplies such as pallets and put them together by the time they are needed.
Space is not as much of an issue for us. We have a rather large garden plot which lends another problem: how to fill all that space while maintaining the ability to easily access each plant. I'm envisioning something with walkways, raised beds, and a fence. Something similar to this dreamy one from This Old House.
Again, if we hadn't planned this ahead of time, we would not have the supplies and funding needed by planting time. So, consider your space and gather materials needed to use it most efficiently.
Layout of the Garden
Are you going to plant in traditional rows or in square plots? Will your garden be one big plowed up plot of land, or small sections separated by walkways? Consider and decide on the layout of your garden and then draw it out. This will help you to organize your plants to better optimize their growing environment. Perhaps there is an area that tends to get more shade or where water will be more likely to pool. By plotting the layout of your garden in advance you will become more aware of these circumstances that can greatly affect your harvest.
Not all plants thrive on the ground. Some of my favorite plants are the ones that climb upward and grasp whatever they can to reach higher. Vine plants like cucumbers and melons do well with a trellis to climb on. Tomatoes need a cage to support their heavy fruit. By understanding the way different plants mature will allow you to plan ahead to create structures that will accommodate them.
For instance, we are going to build the structure below for our cucumbers and bean plants:
Some other structures you made need to consider are raised beds, greenhouses, potting stands, and decorative structures like the one below from Remodeling Home Designs that I'm anxious to build.
I believe a garden should serve more than just function, but it should be beautiful and pleasing to spend time in. Therefore, structures like the one above draw the eye upward and add aesthetic interest.
Are you going to buy plants or start them from seed? Seed starting is a great way to save money, but takes a little extra work. Now, during late February and early March is when you want to establish what you will use for containers for the seeds and where to put them. I've found this article frome Empress of Dirt to be helpful.
In all this garden planning, the most helpful tool has been the Burpee Garden Time Planner App. It is a free app that gives you information on how and when to plant each plant based on your location. This takes a lot of guess work out of your planning process.
So, while winter may drag us down, know this: there has never been a year (in my area at least) that it snowed every month. Spring will come, and with it the potential of gloriously beautiful and wonderfully delicious gardens. Don't let it catch you unprepared. Do all you can now to plan so that when the sun warms the earth, you will be ready.