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10 Tips for Planning Your Vegetable Garden

Updated on July 23, 2013

Planning Your Vegetable Garden

Here you'll find some tips for planning your vegetable garden - from making lists and drawing your garden design to rotating crops, companion planting, and choosing varieties that suit your climate and your needs.

Some folks like to plan their garden ahead of time, but other people prefer to just play it by ear. I'm in the first category since I find that, when planting time comes, things go much more smoothly when I've planned ahead.

Veggies from my garden.
© Photo taken by the author of this article.

1. Decide What Vegetables to Plant

My first step in planning my garden is to decide which vegetables to plant.

This may seem obvious, but only plant vegetables you and your family like to eat and only plant the amount that your family can use - or that you can give away, can, or otherwise store for the winter.

Do you know anyone who plants tomatoes just because they're a popular garden veggie, even though they either don't like them or can't eat them? I do and maybe you do, too! Or how about those four zucchini plants that someone I know planted one year - and then they tried to give away the surplus. Oops. (No, it wasn't me!)

2. Decide Which Varieties to Plant

For each type of vegetable, I try to choose one variety that's good for fresh eating (either raw or cooked), one that stores well in the root cellar, and one that is especially resistance to the type of insect pests and diseases I have in my garden. Sometimes a single variety will meet more than one of these criteria.

Your criteria are probably different than mine, so it's a good idea to identify what qualities are important for you and then choose varieties that work for your situation.

3. Make a List of Vegetables to Plant

For each vegetable, I list the following:

  1. The vegetable variety (for example, Red-cored Chantenay Carrots)

  2. How many weeks it should be planted before or after the Last Frost Date in the spring (for example, 4-6 weeks before the Last Frost Date). You will find this information on the seed packet.

  3. Taking the last frost date for my area, I count back (or forward) to the actual day for planting - and write that down, too.

  4. Lastly, I write down the ideal soil temperature for planting that type of vegetable. This information should also be shown on the seed packet.

Listing Seeds to Plant Indoors

I make a separate list for seeds that I'm planting indoors. This list includes both the date for starting the seeds indoors and the date for transplanting them into the garden.

If I'm buying any seedlings (instead of starting the seeds myself), I put those on the list, too, so I won't forget to go buy them.

4. Design Your Garden

Draw a sketch of your garden and where you plan to plant each veggie. Some people use graph paper for this and draw to scale, so it is easier to tell how much space is being taken by each vegetable. But using a plain piece of paper can work well, too.

Check the seed packets so you'll know how much space to allow between rows and between plants.

If you prefer not to design your garden with pencil and paper, there are numerous software packages and websites that can help with this process.

Poll: Planning Your Garden

Do you prefer to plan your garden ahead of time?

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Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener's Handbook - Make the Most of Your Growing Season

The Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener's Handbook: Make the Most of Your Growing Season
The Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener's Handbook: Make the Most of Your Growing Season

This is a great little book to help with garden planning. It has week-by-week todo lists with simple tasks that need to be done in the garden. Includes lots of tips for making the most of your gardening efforts.


5. Rotate Your Crops

When designing the layout of your garden, it's important to take into account where the various vegetables were planted in previous years.

It's generally advised to rotate your crops, so plants from the same family of vegetables are not planted in the same place more than once every three years. Some people wait five years, which is harder to do unless you have a fairly large garden or are only planting a few types of vegetables.

The two main reasons for rotating crops are 1) to help avoid insect and soil-borne diseases and 2) because different vegetables take different minerals from the soil. If crops aren't rotated, insect pests and harmful soil organisms tend to build up in the soil and, also, the soil can become depleted of important minerals.

6. Successive Plantings

When designing your garden, take into account the possibility that you may be able to successively plant more than one vegetable in the same spot during the season.

For example, when you're done harvesting your lettuce, you could plant a later crop of carrots in that same place.

7. Companion Planting

Some plants do well when planted next to each other and some don't.

When deciding which plants to grow in your garden and where to put them, consider whether they will be good companions to each other. You may also want to plant some flowers and veggies solely for their role as companions.

For example, I plant marigolds in quite a few spots within the garden because of their tendency to ward off insect pests and soil diseases. They also attract some pests, which then keeps those critters from bothering other plants.

Other examples would be planting basil near tomatoes to help the tomatoes grow better or planting radishes near squash, melons and cucumbers to deter insect pests.

Here's a helpful article from Backwoods Home:

Companion Planting

8. Plant Hybrids for Pest & Disease Resistance

I used to plant only vegetable varieties that were open-pollinated, that is, varieties whose seeds would grow "true" to the original plant.

Now I've found that it's helpful to plant some hybrids that are resistant to the insect pests and diseases that tend to show up in my garden. If my garden gets severely affected by a certain type of pest or disease, this gives me a little insurance against my entire crop being wiped out.

For example, if powdery mildew hits my garden really hard, it could have a big effect on the productiveness of my squash, melons, and cucumbers. Having some hybrid varieties that are resistant to powdery mildew could save the day.

9. Consider the Plant's Need for Sun & Soil Type

Some vegetables do better when grown in full sun and some do better with a bit of shade. You can find this information on the seed packet.

Remember that plants that grow tall will shade other smaller plants behind them, so put those tall ones on the north side of garden, if possible. On the other hand, if you have plants that don't tolerate direct sun very well (such as lettuce), you can use tall plants to shade them.

So, when planning your garden, plant according to the needs of your veggies in regard to sun or shade. Also, be sure to pick varieties that are suited to your climate and soil conditions.

10. Buy Plant Supports Ahead of Time

For plants that use supports, such as tomatoes and peas, I find it best to put the supports in the ground before planting the seeds or, when transplanting seedlings, before they get very tall. Otherwise, the seeds may be displaced or the roots of the seedlings may be disturbed.

For this reason, I make sure I've bought or made all the supports I need before planting time arrives.

Copyright and Photo Credit Info

All text was written and images were photographed by the author of this article, who retains the copyright.

Or, if you don't have a garden, would you like to?

All comments are greatly appreciated.

Thanks for stopping by and happy gardening!

Do you have any tips to share about planning a garden?

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    • sha-ron profile image


      4 years ago

      We love gardening but our weather goes from 51 celcius to - 4 in the winter therefore its hard to succeed and often end up with dried out plants. great lens

    • Rosanna Grace profile image

      Rosanna Grace 

      5 years ago

      Thanks so much for sharing your photos and your tips. They're wonderful! : )

    • GardenIdeasHub LM profile image

      GardenIdeasHub LM 

      6 years ago

      I enjoyed your lens about planning a vegetable garden and I did pick up some good tips.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Planning ahead and designing my garden, especially when it's a small balcony container garden, means I don't overspend, and buy too much of anything. A great collection of tips!

    • diy-plan profile image

      Jim Brown 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Oh Yum! We're big gardeners and enjoyed more more than you what you've shared with us.

      Best to you, my friend :)

    • Onemargaret LM profile image

      Onemargaret LM 

      6 years ago

      I really need to eat more vegetables! You have such wonderful ideas!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Growing up, my Dad always planted a family veggie garden. Each year I couldn't wait to pick and eat the vegetables we grew. I wish I had a garden now. Thanks for a nice lens.

    • marlies vaz nunes profile image

      Marlies Vaz Nunes 

      6 years ago from Amsterdam, the Netherlands

      Very informative lens! Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great lens! Well done

    • flicker lm profile imageAUTHOR

      flicker lm 

      6 years ago

      @dc64 lm: Oh, that's wonderful! A good example of what determination and ingenuity can accomplish.

    • dc64 lm profile image

      dc64 lm 

      6 years ago

      I live in an area full of red clay and quartz and could not get any kind of vegetable to grow. I finally cut the tops off plastic milk jugs, put holes in the bottom, filled with potting soil and put one plant per gallon jug. I now have a lush garden with no weeds and a family of frogs living amongst the jugs to eat the insects. I can't wait until harvest!

    • flicker lm profile imageAUTHOR

      flicker lm 

      6 years ago

      @favored: Very interesting. I didn't know about this trick. I might test it out this year. I've heard of people using old nylons to tie squash plants to the supports when growing them vertically, but didn't know about the "static." Thanks!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great information, perfect for those wanting to have a vegetable garden.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 

      6 years ago from Land of Aloha

      Your pictures along with all this information should give anyone a heads up when planning their garden. Excellent!

    • earthybirthymum profile image


      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      This is a very detailed Lense, great work. You inspire! Cheers and many blessings.


    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      6 years ago from USA

      I didn't know about the basil; will have to try it. I use old nylons cut into pieces about 8" long to help make static on the tomato plants. Tie it on the stake used to hold the plant. Farmers told me this secret. I'm not sure if it works, but I've gone it for years and have great tomatoes.

    • arcarmi profile image


      6 years ago

      Wow! You have a beautiful garden!

    • JackieBlock profile image

      Jackie Block 

      6 years ago from SE Michigan

      I am anxious to get my garden going this year. Thanks for sharing your tips!

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 

      6 years ago from Concord VA

      Thanks for these great tips for planning a garden. I love the photos! Makes me hungry for some fresh veggies!

    • Cinnamonbite profile image


      6 years ago

      I figured out why I can't grow tomatoes here! I read last year that tomatoes flower or set fruit once the temp goes above 80. Well, I don't go outside until the temp is above 80. But that's ok, our soil is so poor all Florida tomatoes taste like crap. The very first thing I do when I leave the state is order a BLT at a restaurant.

    • SilmarwenLinwelin profile image


      6 years ago


    • jethrosas profile image


      6 years ago from Philippines

      I think the game harvest moon is something like this. You will enjoy that for sure. :)

    • jacinto888 profile image


      6 years ago

      Great info, thanks for sharing!

    • ProFromGoSEO LM profile image

      ProFromGoSEO LM 

      6 years ago

      Beautiful looking plants, love how you included them all in this lens.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      we have a bio garden. we never plan. nice tips, thanks.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 

      6 years ago

      Yes, I noticed that rotating is a positive technique... at lease in my case worked.

      thanks for a great lens

    • dolphin7720004 profile image

      Eleanor Candy 

      6 years ago from Australia

      I would love to have my own garden one day, great looking lens

    • GirlLovesNature1 profile image


      6 years ago

      This is really helpful. I'm about to start a vegetable garden and have been wondering where to start. Thank you!

    • futurefocus57 profile image


      6 years ago

      Tomato time...can't wait.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Seeing your picture of the cherry tomatoes really brought back lot of memories. I used to take a salt shaker and go out into the small garden, wipe them off shake a little salt and eat them right there and then.

    • top-notch-shop profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice lens-well presented

    • savateuse profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice lens, thanks

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 

      6 years ago from Topeka, KS

      Wonderful article! I've bookmarked this to refer back to when I get ready to set my vegetable plants out. :)

    • theholidayplace profile image


      6 years ago

      Very nicely done, congrats for such a good lens

    • blessedmomto7 profile image


      6 years ago

      Beautiful pictures and great subject. I have a small square foot garden.

    • Rangoon House profile image


      6 years ago from Australia

      I wish I had this success with vegetable gardens. Spring Blessings to you.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      @Redneck Lady Luck: hi am a young man in need of work pleas can you take me as one ok my number is +2348067082687 my email is, my facebook is sympathy chiemeka thanks am waiting

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice lens, nice pictures. Looks like you have a very well-cared-for garden.

    • Mickie Gee profile image

      Mickie Goad 

      6 years ago

      Your tip on plant rotation is a must do! I found out the hard way that not rotating my tomato plants was not a good thing. I wish I had the ground space that you do. I am forced to do most of my gardening in containers. (Linking you to my "tomato growing tips" page, by the way.)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice lens! Thank you

    • chezchazz profile image


      6 years ago from New York

      A nice, clear introduction to vegetable gardening.

    • InfernalCombust profile image


      6 years ago

      Your plants are gorgeous! I don't have space for a garden right now, but we had a huge vegetable garden as a kid, and I wish I could have one.

    • abb1fan profile image


      6 years ago

      I love to garden

    • dahlia369 profile image


      6 years ago

      Your garden looks very fruitful and you made a nice lens about it!! :)

    • N Beaulieu profile image

      N Beaulieu 

      6 years ago

      Beautiful pictures on your lens. Like you, I prefer to plan my garden ahead of time. You listed some great tips. Congrats on getting featured!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      What a great lens, itâs so full of helpful information. Thank you for sharing,

      Congratulations on making Popular Pages - Featured Lenses.

    • KamalaEmbroidery profile image


      6 years ago

      This is great. I'm just starting to plan my garden for my new apartment. Thanks for the ideas.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for the information. I will begin planting soon.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice lens, thanks for all of the advice on starting a vegetable garden.

    • Didijudy profile image


      6 years ago from Canada

      I can't wait to start my garden. I always grow herbs during the winter but it's not a garden..... My compost is ready and waiting for the warm weather!!!

    • Wedding-Music profile image

      Matt Warren 

      6 years ago from Cheshire, UK

      Thank you, this is great! :)

    • BestRatedStuff profile image


      6 years ago

      Great tips, I am one step closer to planning that garden.

    • profile image


      6 years ago


    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Congratulations for being featured on Squidoo's 2012 Spring Gardening Showcase and Blessed by a fellow Gardener and Squidoo Angel

    • Scotties-Rock profile image


      6 years ago from OREFIELD, PA

      Beautiful Garden and great tips!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Some great vegetable tips here, going to try these out at the weekend

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      What a wonderful garden! Thanks so much for the tips! Blessed!

    • kindoak profile image


      6 years ago

      Lovely photos! You tomatoes look like they are doing great,

    • julescorriere profile image

      Jules Corriere 

      6 years ago from Jonesborough TN

      really enjoyed all of the pictures and ideas. Congratulations on making the Best of Squidoo 2012 Gardening Lenses. Blessed!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      The pictures of your garden are very colorful and beautiful. Great lens.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I like planting veges but my soil is no good

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Someday I hope to have a flush garden with many of the items you displayed here, enjoyed seeing this. *blessed by a squid angel*

    • elsiesflat profile image


      6 years ago

      Very informative lens. thank you!

    • lasertek lm profile image

      lasertek lm 

      6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing these tips.

    • cajkovska lm profile image

      cajkovska lm 

      6 years ago

      Useful informations...Thanks!

    • dwnovacek profile image


      6 years ago

      Incredible photographs and so very information. Angel Blessed!

    • Country-Sunshine profile image

      Country Sunshine 

      6 years ago from Texas

      Beautiful photos! I'm envious, as your garden looks so much better than mine! Perhaps I should plan better? Great tips! Thanks so much for sharing

    • suzy-t profile image


      6 years ago

      Great ideas and tips...Planning ahead is one of the keys to a successful garden.

      Thank you for sharing them.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Oh, you gave me breath of fresh air!

      You garden is superb, and I love this!

    • cynthiannleighton profile image


      6 years ago

      Great pictures! How do you get such great ones on your site?

      I'm learning about pictures and Microsoft's "Paint" and all...



    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice page... my garden is tiny, just a raised bed... but it's enough for the fresh tomatoes and herbs I love

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      I LOVE this page! What an excellent resource for anyone planning to garden, especially if they are new to the task. Best I've seen on Squidoo.

    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 

      6 years ago from Connecticut

      I can't wait to get outside and beginning planting. Your vegetable gardens are beautiful, and the plants look so healthy and bursting with veggies. Wonderful!

    • Einar A profile image

      Einar A 

      6 years ago

      Good ideas for effectively planning a garden, and I love your photos--they make me want to get out and get my hands in the dirt!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      You are so lucky to have your own vegetable garden

    • chezchazz profile image


      6 years ago from New York

      Beautiful and inspirational lens! Wish I had a larger garden...

    • flycatcherrr profile image


      6 years ago

      Ah, this reminds me to plant more squash than last year - we ran out part way through the winter. I can't wait for the rest of the snow to go away, and for gardening season to start!

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      6 years ago from Canada

      Oh your garden looks so very beautiful and well cared for. I can hardly wait for spring and to get outside clearing up our weed tangled garden patch. This is the year that our garden gets tamed.


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