Garden Planning 101

A sample garden diagram from our workshop

As an educator, I am always trying to come up with better ways of teaching my new gardeners.  Especially when they are starting the program with zero gardening experience, it can be overwhelming to know where to start with their gardens.  With the first Planning a Garden workshop of the year, I’ve tried to distill garden planning down to the most basic concepts.  Hopefully when the tiller finally gets through to everyone’s gardens, they will have useful garden diagrams and crop plans to help them get plants in the ground, spaced properly and in quantities that are usable for the family’s needs.

I have each of the participants answer 3 basic questions:

  • What do you want to grow?
  • When does it need to be planted?
  • Where are you going to plant it?

For the first question, I have them consider what they like to eat, what they spend the most money on at the store, and if they want to eat something fresh or if they want to can or freeze it for later.  Once they have a list of what they want to grow, I show them the Plant Cheat Sheet I’ve created, which lists the number of plants per person that can be planted.  If they want to can or freeze a crop, I suggest that they double or triple the suggested amount.

For the second question, I discuss cool and warm season crops and succession sowing.  I divide crops into three categories: ones that are planted once and harvested all season, ones that need to be occasionally replanted, and ones that need to be replanted weekly or biweekly for a steady harvest.  This can maybe be a little confusing to the true beginners, but I explain that things will make more sense as they get out there and really do it.

Finally, we break out the graph paper and colored pencils and start drawing garden diagrams.  It’s important that they come to the class prepared with the dimensions of their gardens and knowing where the sun rises and sets relative to their yard.  I provide tips for how to lay out their gardens and then they get to do some math to see if the number of plants they want to grow will actually fit in the space they’ve got to grow it in!  This is probably the toughest part, but again, the Plant Cheat Sheet comes in handy for crop spacing recommendations.

Check out my full workshop on this YouTube video:

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