Tips to Get Your Garden On: Planning and Plotting

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Robyn Jasko

Robyn Jasko › Robyn Jasko is the creator of, which is all about food independence, diy-style. She ...


Now that the holiday rush is over and you’ve had a chance to scope out your favorite seed catalogs, it’s the perfect time to start planning your garden. But, before you start ordering seeds or digging up a new garden bed, it’s helpful to make a plan of attack.

Here are a few guidelines to get you started, and help you make the most out of your space:

Scope It Out

First, check out your yard or growing space—do you get full sun, or part shade in the afternoon? Is there a fence that you can use as a trellis for cucumbers? If you have a lot of sun (6 to 8 hours a day), you’ll have no trouble growing asparagus, beans, celery, cucumbers, melons, peppers, onions, tomatoes, winter and summer squash. If your spot is shadier (getting 3 to 6 hours of sun) plan on planting beets, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, lettuce, peas, Brussels sprouts, radishes, and greens like Swiss chard and kale.

Growing for Your Space

Now that you know what you can grow, you can start figuring out how much you can fit in your space. Plants that need the most space (12 inches to 24 inches for each plant) include asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, corn, eggplant, melons, peppers, squash, tomatoes.

Cucumbers, potatoes, Swiss chard, and kale only about 6 to 12 inches of space in between plants, while beans (bush), beets, celery, garlic, onion, and spinach need about 4 to 6 inches of space for optimum growth. Carrots, radishes and lettuce can be grown in just 2 to 4 inches of space.

Growing in containers? Make sure to give your plants plenty of room by sizing up your pots (18 inch to 24 inch pots for tomatoes, etc.)

Sketch It Out

To help visualize what your garden could look like, or how much you can fit in your space, it helps to draw out your garden plan (in pencil) first. This is also very helpful if you are starting a new garden bed or area, so you’ll have a vision before you break ground and start planting. Then, as the season goes on, you can note what varieties did especially well, and have a good reference point year after year.

Interplanting and Companion Planting

If you are short on space, interplanting can help you get more out of your garden by matching up of plants based on light requirements, root systems, and growth speed. (It also means there is less room for weeds!)

Companion planting takes it a step further, pairing up vegetables that improve each other’s growth patterns and their ability to fight off bad insects or diseases. Check out the book Carrots Love Tomatoes for an excellent, in-depth overview of interplanting and companion planting.

Don’t Overthink It

Following every single rule or recommendation can be paralyzing to even the most seasoned gardener. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new varieties. Pumpkins up a trellis? Sure, why not? Every season is a learning experiment and you’ll only get better in time!

Have you started planning out your garden? What are some of the steps you go through before planting?

Photo Credit: Robyn Jasko