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Organic Gardening

Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.


Creating A Project Plan For Your Garden

If you are new to gardening, getting started can seem like a daunting task. But if you break it down into each of the small, individual tasks and use some of the apps available, it can be achievable in a relatively short amount of time.

After moving to a new house in the fall of last year, I dreamed of having a large vegetable garden. The yard was a completely blank slate, so I knew I would have to start small and build up to my dream garden one step at a time.

With a full-time office job, a 45 minute commute each way, and two young children (4 and 2), I also knew that I would have to be extremely organized so that I could make the most efficient use of just a couple free hours each weekend and perhaps a few minutes in the evenings after it started staying light out.

Around the new year, I read a friend's blog about making a New Year's Project instead of a New Year's Resolution. This gave me the idea of treating my garden like any other work project — I'd make a project plan!

Here is a sample from my project plan (which I made using Microsoft OneNote, part of the standard Office bundle):

Sample Garden Project Plan

Garden Project Plan Checklist

As you see, I didn't list "Raised Beds" as a single step. That would have been too much to wrap my head around. But I could accomplish the individual tasks of: 1) Select design of raised beds; 2) Determine and purchase required materials; 3) Build raised beds; 4) Order amended soil; etc.

I was able to use the evenings researching my tasks on Pinterest (my favorite place for garden ideas). I'd use a few minutes here and there at work to search for local retailers or online stores that had the materials.

By the time the weekend would arrive, I already knew what my target project and goal was for that weekend, and then I'd execute. Examples of weekend projects included:

• Clear the spot for the garden
• Buy potting mix and seeds and start seeds in pots inside
• Build raised beds (this was the toughest weekend project, but with my husband's assistance, we were able to build two 4-by-10-foot beds in one weekend)
• Have amended soil delivered and wheelbarrow and then shovel it into the beds
• Install drip irrigation
•Plant seedlings out and direct sow other seeds 

What, When and Where to Plant

Besides the actual construction of the garden, I needed to have a plan on what to plant and when. Living in Southern California, our growing seasons are weird and the typical Spring/Fall crop schedule does not work here.

I was having a difficult time determining what vegetables I could plant right away until I discovered the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Grow Planner app. Not only did it tailor my planting schedules to my zip code, but it was also easy to construct the layout of my garden beds and play around with where to plant each type of vegetable and how many of each I could fit in.

I am even using the Grow Planner app to show me month by month what to do next and log notes to a journal. At the top of this page is a sample of my garden plan for the month of April.

This app will also help me with succession planting and crop rotation. I can easily create next year's version of the garden plan, and it will know where certain plant families were from prior year plans, so I can avoid putting next year's kale where this year's broccoli, kale, or cauliflower was.

To see more posts on my progress against this Garden Project Plan, you can check out them out here. Happy planning!

Rachel Stutts began yearning for a simpler lifestyle more rooted in family and community after having two children and continuing in the corporate rat race. Following conversations with her husband over drinks one date-night, they agreed to search for a new property where they now work toward some serious gardening and "lite homesteading" pursuits. Connect with Rachel at her Amber Burst blog.


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