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The first step in creating a garden plan is measuring your planting areas. You need to know what size garden area you will be working with. While it doesn’t have to be exact, the more accurate you are, the better your plan will turn out.
If you are using framed or raised beds, you can omit the walkways. Once you have all your dimensions, grab a pencil and a ruler and some graph paper to sketch out your garden. If you have a small garden, you can usually use 1″ of graph paper for each foot (like the sample 4′ x 12′ plan pictured near the end of the post). If you have a larger garden (like I do) each inch of graph paper will represent 2 feet of garden space (see examples below).
Once you have the area of your garden sketched out, I recommend taking a pen or a marker and tracing an outline around the perimeter of the garden on your sketch. The reason I recommend doing this, is because you are most likely going to be erasing. Since the outline is in pen or marker, you won’t have to redraw it each time you change your garden plan. It usually takes me arranging and then rearranging my plan to get it just the way I want it.
Next, I find that it is easier to mark off the plan in one foot blocks. (See picture above.) If your garden is not square or rectangular, just estimate it as best you can. This way, you can figure out how many of each type of vegetable to plant in each space. It is easier to figure the number of plants you need off the square foot garden concept, so that is what we will be doing here.
If you have an unusual shaped garden, don’t forget to leave room to access your vegetables. Ideally, you need a small walkway every three to four feet of space. It would be awful to plant some delicious tomatoes at the back of your garden but not have a way to pick them!
PLANT SPACING FOR YOUR GARDEN PLAN
For illustration purposes, I am going to be designing a 4’x12′ plan. My goal is to use this plan for one of my framed beds this year. As the summer goes on, I will periodically update you with pictures of how it is doing in real life, successes and failures and all!
Since we are designing our plan for square foot gardening, I have listed how many plants of each type you can put in one square. However, a few larger crops (tomatoes, squash, and zucchini, for instance) will take up more than one square. They are noted in a separate list below.
Plants per square
- bell peppers-1
- bush beans-9
- pole beans-9
- peas-9 (trellised)
- cucumbers-2 (trellised)
- swiss chard-4
These plants need several squares for each plant:
- tomatoes-4 squares per plant
- squash-4 squares per plant
- zucchini-4 squares per plant
ROW GARDENING VS. GARDENING IN BEDS
If you are used to row gardening, you may notice that we are planting closer together. That is because in raised or framed bed gardening, you can plant more intensively. The plants will be closer together which will help shade the soil resulting in less moisture loss and less weeds. This means less work for us! Yay!
If you make out your garden plan, and have a few squares left over, I recommend adding a few flowers. Not only do they provide beauty for your garden, but they are great for attracting bees to help pollinate your vegetables. Several varieties, such as marigolds and nasturtiums, can help repel insects. I have included marigolds in this plan, since they are easy to find at garden stores and they are easy to grow.
One thing I still do like traditional gardening, is I plant my beans and peas in rows. I find it is much easier to pick them, and the peas have to be grown on a trellis anyway. But when I plant them, I plant them very thickly on either side of my trellis, so I really have two, wide rows instead of a single thin row like older gardens.
For more information on Square Foot Gardening, I highly recommend the book, “All New Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew. I don’t follow his advice exactly, but my plan is loosely based on his ideas.
SAMPLE GARDEN PLAN
Below is a sample plan I drew out for a 4′ x 12′ garden bed. The cucumbers and peas will need to be grown on a trellis. You can buy garden fence posts and trellis netting or welded wire fencing to grow them on. You will also need to purchase wire tomato cages for the tomato plants. Be sure to get fence posts that are at least 5 feet tall and wire tomato cages that are at least 54″ tall. (I recommend checking your local home improvement store for these items, as prices will probably be cheaper, however, I wanted to show you examples of what I recommend.)
If this garden plan interests you, you can find a complete list of plants and seeds to purchase along with a printable diagram in my resource library. If you aren’t already a subscriber you can sign up here. Subscribers can find the password in the weekly email I send every Saturday.
I recently added a 4′ x 4′ spring garden plan in the resource library too. I plan to add several more plans to this library soon. Be sure you are on my email list, so you’ll know when they are added.
Designing your garden area
As you are designing your garden area, keep in mind that taller plants need to be to the north or west side of the garden area so they don’t shade the shorter crops. This plan is designed to be flexible, so change out any veggies you don’t like with something you will eat, heeding the space and height recommendations above.
If you are purchasing your seeds from a seed catalog, and need some help understanding what all the terminology means in the catalog, check out my post on How to Understand a Seed Catalog.
If you have any questions about this garden plan or how to make your own plan, please let me know in the comments. I love helping others learn to grow their own food!