Vegetable Garden Planning: 3 Steps to Get You Started

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From the time I started planning my first backyard vegetable garden until now, I’ve learned more and more how crucial garden planning is to the success of a garden.

I end up tweaking my planning process a little every year, and it seems each year I streamline the little details better. This has led to a more organized, efficient garden.

What I’ve noticed is that sometimes we jump into choosing our crops and designing the layout of the garden way too fast. But if we take step backward and work through these three steps, we’ll find not only will the rest of the vegetable garden planning go more smoothly, but we’ll end up with a more successful garden overall.

Identify Your Garden Goals

Identifying your garden goals may well the most critical yet most overlooked aspect of planning your garden. Why?

Goal-Setting for Beginning Gardeners

Especially for beginners, your garden goals are the foundation of your garden. Everything you do and every decision you make needs to serve your core garden goals.

Let me give you a practical example. In my free Facebook Group, the Beginner’s Garden Shortcut, I polled the members asking what their primary goal was for their gardens. To my surprise, the top answer was fun and enjoyment. Let’s look at what that might mean in a practical sense for garden planning. Do you want to know what’s NOT fun and enjoyable? Growing more than you can handle. So your garden goal will dictate the size of your garden, how many plants you grow, and even whether you decide to plant in a raised bed, land, or containers.

As you can see from this small example, identifying your garden goals sets the course for your garden planning.

garden planning steps

Goal-Setting for All Gardeners

What about those of us who aren’t in our first-year? Why do we need garden goals?

We can get what’s commonly called “Bright Shiny Object Syndrome.” You know what I’m talking about. Maybe you’re imagining the stack of dog-eared Seed Catalogs right now.

Let me give you an example. Those long Armenian cucumbers look so fun to grow. But growing specialty cucumbers doesn’t serve my garden goals. Growing pickling cucumbers does, though.

More Help with Goal Setting

Identifying your garden goals and setting up your garden to serve those goals is a big part of my online gardening course, the Beginner’s Garden Shortcut or my eBook The Beginner’s Garden Shortcut QuickStart Guide. 

Beginner's Garden Shortcut QuickStart Guide eBook But to get you started, ask yourself this question:

“What would a successful garden look like?”

Answering this question will take you far in setting garden goals and using those goals to plan an efficient, organized, successful garden.

vegetable garden layout

Evaluate Your Garden Space

The next step in planning your garden is to evaluate your garden space. If you’ve planted a garden before, ask yourself these questions:

Do I want to plant in the same space as last year?

Do I want to add space or add more raised beds?

Do I need to reduce the space because it was too much to handle last year?

Or do I want to change how I grow, like planting more in containers or raised beds?

Whether you change anything or not, settling these questions is important and not to be overlooked.

Soil, Compost, and Mulch

Another consideration along these lines is your soil, compost, and mulch needs. Do you need to do a soil test? (Here’s why I think it’s important.) Do you have an adequate amount of compost or do you need to source some locally? Where will you obtain this year’s supply of mulch?

Trust me when I tell you, you’ll thank yourself when you’ve already done your homework and made your plans in this area. When you’re ready to plant, the last thing you want to be hustling to obtain is soil or mulch.

If You’re Gardening in a New Place

backyard gardening plan

What if you’re in a new place?

You need to walk your property and look at different areas to see the best place for the garden. Take note of trees (you don’t want a lot of shade, unless you’re in a very hot climate). You don’t want to plant in a low area where rainwater will collect and not drain in the early spring. I talk more in detail about garden placement in the Beginner’s Garden Shortcut, but know that it’s important to decide before you begin planning your crops where the best place for your garden will be.

Establish a Garden Budget and Track Expenses

A third overlooked step in garden planning is to establish your garden budget and track your expenses. My Garden Planner

I admit, this wasn’t something I did until last year. But when I started tracking my expenses, I learned so much about how I could make my garden more budget-friendly.

For example, last year I spent $35 in seed starting mix. Could I make my own for cheaper? It’s something I am considering for this year. I also spent 27% of my budget in seeds. How could I save money on that? And along those lines, since I spent $34 in plants, could I grow more from seed?

Maybe you want to set a budget so you don’t go above a certain amount in gardening expenses total or by month. Maybe you need to list our major expenses (like this year I bought a new grow light). That way, you can plan for bigger expenditures.

In my printable garden planner, the Complete Garden Planner, I’ve included both a Budget Tracker and Expense Tracker to help you keep track of where your money is going.

Before you even place your first seed order, I recommend these three garden planning steps to get you started in your garden planning in the most efficient way possible. I talk about these steps in more details, including more examples of how to incorporate these steps in your garden planning Episode 66 of the Beginner’s Garden Podcast. Click to listen:

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