Garden Planning 101

Garden planning is always a highlight of spring for me. I have a gardening notebook where I lay out my plans, compare my notes to last year, decided when to try new things (peanuts this year!!). This is a good time to start planning your gardens as you can begin to start some seeds indoors and gathering your seeds and supplies so that you will be able to plant spring vegetables when the time is right.

The first step to any garden plan is selecting the right site. You will want a site that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight. If you are concerned about sun, try growing some shade friendly plants this year and measure the amount of sun you get. Don’t put your garden directly under a tree. Also look for areas with loose, well-drained soil and good drainage.

I recommend planting in raised beds. Raised beds provide many benefits for home gardening: increased soil compaction and drainage, creating a barrier to pests and slugs, reduced erosion, and easy access. If you’d like to learn more about raised bed gardening, check out our online workshop ‘Building and Planting in Raised Beds’. The workshop will be held on April 7th at 6:30 pm. It is $10.00 per e-mail to attend. Register here:

Next, determine your garden size. Even a small garden can have big yields if it is well-planned. If it is your first time gardening, start small and work your way up as your gardening skills improve. Don’t have a yard? Try container gardening. There are many plants that do very well in containers. I had an expansive container garden on my back balcony before I moved into my house.

Then, decide what to plant. Things to consider: how much space you have, expected yield, nutritional value, and of course, what you like to eat. However, it’s always a fun challenge to try to grow something new. I tried ground cherries last year. I only had two plants and it seemed like every day I was gathering hundreds of ground cherries. It was a fun experiment, but I realized I really prefer them as a once in a while treat rather than every day snack.

After you’ve decided what to plant, you’ll want to lay out your garden. If using containers, do you have the right size? If using a raised bed, try the square foot gardening method. Keep in mind where the sun is and plant taller crops on the north and west sides of your gardens so they don’t shade shorter plants. It’s helpful to lay out your garden plan on some graph paper before you “dig in”.

Also, consider the timing of planting. In Binghamton, NY, we are in zone 5B. While it might be tempting to start panting on the first warm day of spring, it is too early. Get to know your zone and when to start or direct sow your plants for best results.

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