Home & Garden

7 Tips for Planning a Vegetable Garden

Our garden planning is beginning to be underway! Each spring, since we’ve moved into our new house, we plant a rather substantial garden in our backyard. The previous owners already had a space prepared, so we just use that area for our garden as well.

Even though it is in our backyard, it is visible from the road in front of our house. One of my favorite things in the summer is when we are picking veggies in the garden and someone drives by and beeps their horn. We usually don’t realize who it is and just wave anyway, but I find that so enjoyable!

My husband is the main garden planner. I give some input, but he gets the final say about the placement of our plants.

Some of you may already have a specific way of planning your garden. And that is great! But for those of you who are looking for ideas about where to begin, I hope you find this post helpful!

Consider what you would like to plant.

My husband and I have a few standards, but every year, we make a few adjustments to what and how much we plant. We need to take a few things into account to make these decisions.

We take inventory of what we have leftover from last year. There are years when we have lots and lots of green beans left in the freezer. In that case, we will ease up on the bean plants. Or, if we know there is something we go through quickly, we may plant more than previous years.

We also take the results of our plants into consideration.

Occasionally we have tried plants that we haven’t had a whole lot of luck with, like watermelon. We tried it, we failed, we learned our lesson!

Keep maps of your garden from year to year.

We live in an area with a lot of farms, and the farmers frequently rotate their crops so the soil does not get depleted of key nutrients. We take a cue from them, and switch the areas where we plant out vegetables.

Each year, we make some form of a map of our garden. Some years, it is simple and hand-drawn. Other years, we create something on the computer. Either way, we have records of what we did in previous years. Because if it were up to me to remember what the garden looked like from year to year, we would be in big trouble!

Bear in mind, as you map out where you’d like to plant your various vegetables, the best-laid plans don’t always work out as we’d like! Be prepared to be flexible!

Take weed and pest prevention and management into account.

Everyone has different weeds and creatures that plague their gardens. The two main problems we have are Japanese beetles and weeds. And when I say weeds, they completely cover the garden. I’ve truly never seen anything quite like it! And it is no fun at all to deal with!

Over the past few years, we have attempted some different weed preventing methods. We put grass clippings on the soil. That worked pretty well. We’ve laid newspaper down and topped it with mushroom soil. That worked better than the grass, but it was very costly.

This year, we are going to try covering the garden in black fabric to keep the weeds at bay. It is worth a try!

The first year we planted a garden, the Japanese beetles did so much damage to our green beans! Many of the leaves were completely chewed up; the only parts left were the veins. We’ve found that Japanese beetle traps, which lure the insects away from the garden and catch them in a plastic bag, work very well for our situation.

Check soil pH.

I’ll be completely honest with this one. My husband handles all of the garden chemistry. Even though I am less than helpful with this tip, it is something to keep in mind when you are planting vegetables.

Research plant pairings.

There are some plants that are great neighbors in a garden, while others do not exactly play nice. I am no expert on good or bad plant combinations, but there is so much information on the internet! Find a credible source and try to keep compatible plants near each other and fussy plants separated.

Know when to plant your veggies.

Different planting zones have different planting times. Thankfully, most of the seed packets out there have a map and planting times right on the back to make life easy! We always plant our peas and beets early. We usually have them in by now actually, but this year had been exceptionally cold and wet and our garden is like a mud pit.

We plant everything else a little later, and sometimes even stagger rows of beans so they don’t all come in at once,

It never fails, our tomatoes always seem to be coming in when I am trying to get ready to go back to school…I haven’t found a way around that yet!

Seeds or plants?

There are some veggies that we purchase plants for at a greenhouse or our local farmers’ market, while others we plant seeds straight in the ground. Consider how you want to grow your plants. Start your own under a grow light? Attempt to grow them from seed in the garden? Buy plants?

A lot of this is trial and error. We generally buy plants for sweet potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and acorn squash. Everything else comes from seeds. It may take a few years, but eventually you’ll figure out what works best for your garden!

Gardens are a lot of work. But it is all worth it when you can grab a bag of homegrown green beans from the freezer or put some freshly picked spinach on your salad!

What steps do you take to plan and prepare your garden? Feel free to share your helpful tips with the rest of us!

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