Simple Gardening Step #2: Have a Plan

by emily on January 24, 2013

Now that you’ve got a way to keep animals from eating your crops, your next step is to create a plan for your garden. Where are you going to plant what? How many of each crop are you going to plant?

When I first started gardening in earnest, I had read a book written by a biointensive gardener who was apparently so excited about the process that he didn’t bother to give much detail about where to plant each crop in relation to the others, or how many to plant. He gave examples of planting patterns, but didn’t go much beyond that except to emphasize that you could plant things a lot closer together than in traditional row gardening.

So I did the best I could, and that year my garden was almost a complete failure.

Beginners need a specific garden plan. Intermediate gardeners need a specific garden plan. Master gardeners need a specific plan – that is, if they want to make growing food simpler.

Don’t get me wrong. I am all for experimentation. I am all for letting plants seed themselves and volunteer in unexpected places. But for the most part, having a simple garden requires a plan. How many broccoli plants will you grow? Will they be next to the lettuce or (for northern gardeners) the tomatoes? How will you space them?

The easiest kind of garden plans to design are those based on the square foot gardening method, a kind of biointensive growing technique. Divide your garden beds into one-foot squares, then use a sheet of graph paper to plan your garden. If you are unfamiliar with how to space plants using the square foot gardening method, skim over this page. Then as you write out your plan on the paper, keep a few questions in mind:

  • What is the orientation of the bed/s? Generally, you don’t want to plant taller crops such as tomatoes and okra where they will shade other shorter, sun-loving crops, like hot peppers, green beans and squash.
  • How many of each kind of crop do you think you need?
  • Can you interplant crops to use space more efficiently, such as planting three carrots in between two lettuces?
  • Are you going to incorporate companion planting – in other words, add herbs and flowers to your beds?
  • How big does each plant ultimately get, on average?

If you are new to either vegetable gardening in general, or biointensive gardening specifically, designing your garden will take a lot of time at first. But believe me: in the long run, having a plan will make gardening a lot more simple.

If you would like to save time in designing your growing area, I have a PDF download of 22 such plans geared toward small backyards of various sizes. Click here to check it out.

Feel free to use the Share Bar on the top of this post if you liked this article, and many thanks!

Stay happy and healthy,


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