Create a Vision Using Garden-Planning Lists


The garden plan comes together in the hoophouse
The garden plan comes together in the hoophouse.
Photo by Alexia Allen

‘Tis the season for seed catalogs to arrive in the mail, and I want you to have the tools to fully appreciate them without being overwhelmed on how to plan your garden. It’s easy to get swayed by the seductive lure of glossy pictures and glowing descriptions of plants. You might have even seen the widely-circulated picture of a sultry young man saying, “Hey Sweetheart, want to go upstairs and circle everything you want in the seed catalog?”

He has a point. Planning and dreaming are a big part of successful gardening. Here are some tips for effective dreaming as you gear up for the next growing season. 

Whether you have 1 or 30 years of gardening experience, there are some things you know—or can find out—about your garden. I’ll give you a few places to start in thinking ahead, so it’s not such a daunting task. Don’t make yourself do anything that won’t be fun, but I can tell you that thinking ahead even a little will yield big results.

Remember that the map is never the territory, and the certain thing about plans is that they tend to change. My garden spreadsheets start off precise for a few months, and then drop way off as I navigate the changing conditions of the growing season. Growing conditions such as first and last frost dates are usually available from your observations or from a local extension office or garden club, or numerous online calculators by ZIP code.

List What You Know You Know About the Site

While there are lots of great places to get advice, remember that you are the expert for some very important questions—such as which vegetables you want to eat. There’s no point in devoting garden space to beets or to turnips if you know you don’t like them! You also know the specifics of how much space you have to garden in, and how much sun it gets. This may take some observation, but that’s what makes you the expert.

Exercise: Make a list of what you know and what you don’t know about your garden-to-be. Make sure frost dates are on the “What you know” list, since they influence when and what to plant. You will never know it all, but over the years, the what-you-know list will get longer. You’ll also worry less about what you don’t know and can’t control. Life lessons from gardening!

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