Nutrition Articles

How to Create and Follow a Garden Plan

5 Steps to a Successful Fruit and Vegetable Garden

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Think you’re ready to get your nails dirty in the garden? Before you begin planting, the best way to keep organized and execute your dream garden is to create and then follow a garden plan. This will usually include a list of what you are planting, when you planted it, and where. Such a plan can help you time your harvest for optimal yield, provide a reference point for next year's crops, track plant growth, and aid you in cataloging your successes and failures in the garden.

How much space do you have?
Begin by reflecting on the space you have available and sun exposure your plot receives. Space and sunlight will ultimately determine how much you can grow—and where. While it might be enticing to attempt something exotic from outside your hardiness zone, it is very difficult to make up for climate differences; a plant will not reach peak production if the sun isn’t compatible with its needs. Take a look at the plot you have and compare that to the special needs of what you might want to plant. Some plants require a lot of space; melons can take up to 20 feet, for example. However, if the foods you want to plant are bigger than the plot you have, some can be grown up a trellis to save space. Cucumbers, pole beans, dwarf melons, peas, squash, or non-edibles work well that way. What you don’t want is a space too crowded. A seed packet or starter plant will always come with instructions on planting, spacing, and thinning. Trust the packet! Plants will never be a bountiful when crowded or "competing" will too many others nearby, so let your plants stretch their roots out by spacing them wisely and thinning as necessary.

How much sunlight is available?
Next, consider the sun exposure needs of the plants you want to grow. "Full sun" means exposure for at least six full hours per day, and partial sun/partial shade is between 3-6 hours per day. This bit of information will help you plan the arrangement of your plants and the location of your plot. The tallest and most sun loving of your garden, like corn or anything grown vertically up a trellis (beans and peas and the like), should be on the north side. The next section of your garden should include medium-tall edibles such as tomatoes, peppers, and cabbage, followed on the south side with the shortest varieties like radishes, carrots, and other tuberous plants. This method ensures that the taller varieties do not shade the other plants around them. To help you determine the space you need for different varieties of edibles and the possible yield, check out this handy calculator from plangarden.com.
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About The Author

Jenny Sigler Jenny Sigler
Jenny is a stay-at-home mom to her young children, Augustine and Olive. An avid gardener and baker, she enjoys writing about health and childcare topics to empower people to make healthy choices. See all of Jenny's articles.

Member Comments

  • Thanks I had a container garden last year, the next season there will be even more effort out in to it, Pat in Maine
    . - 11/10/2013 3:59:38 PM
  • If you live in the mountains, as I do, you want to do two things. One is to take a sample of your soil to get it tested or but a simple test kit from your garden store. Mountain soil tends to be very base and may need something to neutralize it. My soil is also very deficient in Phosphorus reslulting in poor growth. Additives may be necessary.
    The second thing is get the first and last expected frost dates from the local weather bureau or nearest airport. My growing season can be as short as 60 days but usually runs 90 to 100 days. If that is your case choose varieties that produce fruit in the shortest time. Start everything you can indoors.
    I sure miss living along the Great Lakes where I could throw a seed in the air and it would grow wherever it landed for a good long time.
    Contact the local Master Gardeners group for help with local conditions for help and advise. That is what we are here for. - 9/5/2012 10:34:41 AM
  • I am in year two of an adapted square foot garden. That is, it's not square, some beds are less than a foot, but I'm following the basic principles. For the first time I got a great yield from my vege garden. And although I have compromised about sun, the garden is more productive because I have placed it by my back door where I see it several times a day, so remember to water and just can't resist stopping to weed and harvest. I've been eating from it all year, including now which is the dead of winter and where we have snow at the moment, for the first time in 35 years! - 8/16/2011 2:19:27 PM
  • We also tried a square foot garden this year and the results were amazing! Great for smaller plants, not so great for cabbage since it sheltered it's neighbor from the sun. We're planning on planting a fall crop of some cooler weather plants soon. - 9/11/2010 6:36:18 AM
  • Could have used this article a few months ago... but maybe now I will be better prepared and follow directions better next year! We had plentiful basil, cilantro, jalepenos, and tomatoes but everything was smooshed together. Our onions didn't get big, and our strawberries, rhubarb, and raspberry and blueberry bush didn't grow, or do anything :o( Hopefully next year we can do a better job. Thanks for the info! - 8/9/2010 3:23:00 PM
  • RE2BAH
    As we live in a new house with poor soil, I started square foot gardening. I am so looking forward to see if the raised beds arranged as described can really grow more food! - 5/16/2010 11:20:19 PM
  • Thank you for this information! This will definitely help me plan and plant my garden for an abundant garden. - 5/10/2010 11:00:32 AM