Planning a Garden

Ready to start planning the garden of your dreams? You’ve made the right choice to get started with a solid plan. My first year of gardening was chaotic–I missed several key dates to start seeds and plant fall crops, and my harvest all came at the same time. I didn’t understand the basics of starting seeds or succession planting, which made my life complicated. Follow these tips to avoid mistakes when you start planning a garden. If you’re overwhelmed, you can always purchase our garden planner to hold your hand through the whole garden planning process.

When planning a garden, you need to think about several key things: your soil and space, what you want to grow, how what you want to grow works well with other plants, and timing. Timing is everything. You can come up with the perfect garden plan, but if you don’t schedule when you’ll plant each plant, you’ll end up getting lost somewhere. Follow these steps to planning a garden to avoid making mistakes.

The Basics of Planning a Garden

Much like planning your interior design scheme, it’s important to pick a garden style that suits your home and yard. Your garden should be an expression of your personal taste. For example, if you have a minimalist home, find a modern, sleek vertical planter for lettuce and herbs, rather than kitschy pots from thrift stores. If you have a historic victorian home, add some flowery trellises and strawberry planters. Gardening should be a form of creative self-expression. There are several key factors to think about when it comes to planning the overall design of your garden: color, height, texture, harmony, and creating an oasis to enjoy.


What colors do you want to see in your garden? Maybe you’re dreaming of veggies in your garden–consider some playful and colorful varieties. Can you plant rainbow swiss chard? Carnival carrots? Rainbow beets? Find ways to bring some color to your veggies. The motto is helpful: eat the rainbow! Flowers are also a great way to bring a variety of hues to your garden–consider some colorful companion flowers.


It’s very easy to forget that plants are going to grow–some will grow to be six feet tall and require a trellis! Don’t forget to account for this in your garden. Trellises can even add eye-catching dimension to your garden. Be sure not to plant plants that will grow to be tall in an area where they might block the sun from shorter plants. Generally, you’ll want to plant tall plants toward the back of your garden.


When it comes to adding some style and nuance to your garden design, start thinking about texture. Can you add some mossy foliage, flowering shrubs, or even garden sculptures and gems? Add a variety of textures to make each feature pop.


Everything has to come into balance and unity. Some people prefer symmetrical gardens. This is completely optional, but it’s always a good idea to consider how to make each part flow together. Sometimes it’s helpful to have certain themes–maybe you plant lavender around several beds. Consider adding some patterns or filler flowers to bring everything together.


What do we mean by oasis? You garden should be a stunning masterpiece that you can recharge and reflect in. Account for your body and where it can fit into your garden. Maybe you can plant a trellis over a wooden table and chairs. Maybe you can just sneak in a little bench. Use whatever you can make work in your space that allows you a sanctuary to sit and be in your garden.

Consider Your Resources

First things first, learn your garden zone. This will help you know when to plant. Gardening zones are regions divided by their optimal growing seasons. Your garden zone will tell you when your last average annual frost date is, which will indicate when you should start seeds and when you should put plants in the ground. You can find your garden zone on this gardening zone map.

You should also consider your shade. If you are planting your garden bed in a shady backyard, you’ll avoid planting plants that need full sun, things like tomatoes, peppers, corn and sunflowers. Instead, you’ll want to focus on shade tolerant veggies like arugula, beets, and carrots.

Everyone needs to come up with a budget. For beginners, we suggest allowing yourself a few hundred dollars per season. Use this toward good soil, good fertilizer, and some starter veggie plants. Avoid planting annual flowers, as these are pretty for a month or two, but will not come back on their own.

Decide What You Want to Grow

Now that you know what factors to think about: shade, gardening zone, and budget–you can think about what you want to grow. Dream big! If you love salad, plan a variety of greens to enjoy. If you love herby sauces or main dishes, plant herbs. If you love strawberries and blueberries, get started with some berry bushes (bear in mind that some berries take several years to produce). Peppers, onions, squash, tomato, carrots, radishes, broccoli, sage, beets, pumpkin… Get creative and think big! There is no harm in trying out a lot of veggies and then honing in on certain vegetables later.

Find Companion Plants

One of our biggest tips for beginner gardeners, is to discover companion planting. Companion planting is a method of planting plants alongside one another that will mutually benefit one another. These plants often share soil needs. Some will provide needed shade for others. Learning the basics of companion planting will also help you learn what plants can bring harm to one another. Some plants might attract a pest, or compete for the soil’s nutrients. Companion planting is very complicated, but as long as you do some basic research as you go, you can reap its many benefits.

Draw Your Garden Layout

Once you know what you’re going to plant and what you’re going to grow next to eachother, start sketching your garden layout. Remember to think about height and layering your plants well. Think about color and variety and texture. Think about creating shady spots to sit and rest. This is the fun part!

Plan When You’ll Start Seedlings

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: timing is everything. Start seedlings (per package directions) weeks before your last average annual frost day. This will typically require a few different dates, so be sure to mark your calendar. Start some seeds, like radishes and carrots, in the ground at the earliest sign of spring after you’ve prepared your soil.

Account for Succession Planting

Account for succession planting so that you can most optimize your garden space and keep your harvest going in a manageable succession. Succession planting is a strategic gardening method that typically involves planting cool weather crops in the early spring, and then swapping these out with warm weather crops in the warmer summer months. You can also sow seeds indoors continuously, and transfer them outdoors every four weeks in succession for a harvest that lasts for months.

So, once you’ve established the layout of your garden with your sketch. Add some notes and annotations of any plants that you can grow in succession. Some easy and popular choices include starting with leafy greens, carrots, and beets, and swapping these out in warmer seasons with herbs, tomatoes, and peppers.

Make a Harvest Plan

No matter how much you focus on planning a garden, there will likely come a time when the harvest starts yielding at a rate that is hard to maintain, which is why we recommend having a harvest plan in place. For example, if I know that my tomatoes will start to yield in late summer at a high rate, I can plan to make some salsas and pasta sauces and do some canning. If I have more broccoli, beets, and kale than I can’t go through quickly, maybe I’ll dehydrate the veggies into veggie chips. There are so many options when it comes to preserving, so it’s best to have a plan in mind for when the time comes.

Enjoy Your Beautiful Garden

Last but not least… enjoy your ravishing garden! This might be the most important point to make when planning a garden. Don’t let yourself get stuck in a mentality that things need to be all work and no play– plan to soak up the sun with your plants. Spend some time sipping tea in the garden, or throw a garden party with crudité from your harvest. Don’t forget to reap the rewards of your garden and savor every moment of the process.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply