Now is the perfect time to start planning the layout of your garden for the coming season. The days are getting longer again, the sun is beginning to shine more, and we start dreaming of picking those first fruits from the garden once again.

I don’t know about you, but my gut is telling me it’s going to be an early spring here in Minnesota. This last weekend I forced myself to sit down and finalize the plans for my gardens. I say finalizeĀ very loosely as I tend to make changes to those plans once planting begins. However, putting pencil to paper now will save you a lot of time, money and frustration later.

So let’s start by talking about the benefits of laying out a garden plan ahead of time.

01 | Knowing how much of a specific plant or seed to purchase.

If you are new to gardening, it’s very easy to over or under purchase plants for the garden. A huge benefit to making a garden plan is learning how much you need to buy to fill in the space you’ve allotted to a specific crop.

For instance, let’s imagine you pop on here to look at tomato varieties. Suddenly, you’re wooed by 20 different varieties and purchase one of each. You pick your plants up later this spring, begin planting them in your garden only to realize that part of the area you were going to plant them in doesn’t get as much sun as you thought and now you only have space for 15 of those tomato plants. Just like that the $15 you spent buying those extra tomato plants goes to waste. And to think, you could have purchased more lettuce, kale, and carrot seeds to plant in that space instead.

02 | You learn so much about how to garden when planning a garden.

Planning a garden forces you to look up important growing information that will help you when laying out your garden plan. Once you have a general idea of the types of plants you’d like to grow, here are some key points to consider before making plans.

  • How much sun does it need?
  • How large will it get?
  • Will its shade out certain areas of the garden as it grows?
  • How much water does it require?
  • How long will it take to mature?
  • Is it cold/frost tolerant?
  • What temperatures does it prefer?
  • Will in need a structure to grow on such as a fence, trellis, bean tower, or cage?

Answering these questions prior to the growing season and planning accordingly will give you a definite head start on growing a bumper crops this year. We’ll talk about the importance of answering these questions in the next blog posting. Look for, How To Plan a Garden Well, later this week.

03 | Creating a garden plan is a great resource to have throughout the season and in the coming year.

How many times have you planted something and then wondered what variety that was you planted? Now you aren’t sure when it’s ripe and you have no idea what variety to purchase, or not purchase, next year. I have an excessively large memory when it comes to garden things and I still reference my garden plans regularly throughout the season.

04 | You are not a commercial farmer and your garden will thank you if you don’t plant like one.

Now, I realize that living in a community that exists solely because of commercial agriculture, I am stepping into sensitive territory here, but here’s the honest truth. Just as commercial farmers take the time to plan out what they are going to plant where, if they need to add anything to their soil to provide the right nutrients for the crops they plan on growing, and if they are going to plant a cover crop after they harvest; you also should be planning similar things. Now, I may not agree with many things happening in our food system and how things are grown, but the good news is, as a home gardener you can change how you grow your food.

You can choose to leave space for plants that will attract and give habitat to beneficial insects and pollinators. Make decisions on how you can inter-crop and succession sow your plants. This leads to a more abundant harvest and less maintenance throughout the gardening season. Plan for how much compost/manure you may need to add to your garden and find a local way to resource that if possible. Planning your layout ahead of time also gives you the ability to know how much mulch you may need for your garden in the walkways and around your plants. It also gives you time to source them. This mulch can consist of different things. I like to use wood chips in my permanent pathways, grass clippings (that haven’t been sprayed) or straw around my plants and a biodegradable landscape fabric in my walkways between crops.

There are so many decisions you can make ahead of time that will save you so much headache in the long run. You’ll have time to actually enjoy your garden and maybe a long vacation or two.

05 | If your garden is planned well, you don’t have to be a slave to maintaining it throughout the summer.

I love traveling. I also love being able to enjoy my time in the garden and not always feel like it’s work. Now don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of work to be done in a garden. But I promise that if you take the time to plan your garden well, and put that plan into practice, there will be plenty of time to go on those week long vacations. Your biggest worry won’t be how large the weeds will be when you get back or who will water. Rather it will be who do you trust to pick the produce that’s ready while you’re gone. And I promise you that it is a hundred times easier to find someone who’d love some free green beans, cucumbers or tomatoes.

By mid summer, about the time most people start letting the weeds take over, your garden will be filling out with plants producing food for your family. Those pesky weeds? Very few and far between as there just isn’t enough space for them to take over. And watering all the time? Forget that. The mulch you put down and the soaker hoses you laid, if needed, are protecting the ground from heat/evaporation and watering for you by simply turning on the faucet. Utilizing your planting space well means when those large rains come, there’s enough diverse plant life to drink it up quickly.

So, I would challenge you to sit down with a sheet of paper and start answering some of those questions you read before about the plants you plan on growing this year. Then begin laying out how those would be best utilized in the space you have. It’s a fabulous way to be productive with your time when you’re dreaming of the garden anyway.