As you garden becomes larger and more elaborate, it becomes increasingly useful to plan out the space prior to planting each year. While there is software available online for this task, I find it far simpler to just take a picture of my garden from a high point, pop the picture into MS excel (or powerpoint, keynote, etc), and just use textboxes to label what I plan to put in each bed.
End of year
At the end of each growing season, take your picture, pop it into an excel file, and label each bed using text boxes with what you had growing in it in that year, and do this while you can still remember everything. This is also a good time to jot down any insights you gained in that season, or any “dos or don’ts” that you want to remember for the coming year.
Do a “Seed Census”
Take all your seeds, and lay them out on the floor. Try to organize them a bit according to whether they can be planted early or late, and also by broad category. For instance, I put kale, broccoli, radicchio, kohlrabi, and brussels spouts all together, because they are all in the mustard family. I put peas, carrots and parsnips together because they can all be planted really early.
Map it out
Now that you can see all of the things that you want to grow, open up your excel file and have a look at the space that everything will be growing in, and make your decisions. Carefully think it all through:
– What is tall, what is short? Don’t plant things that will block the light for other things.
– Is there anything that will accommodate companion planting?
– Was there a really bad pest anywhere last year? – put something resistant to it in that space this year.
– Was the soil poor in any of your beds? – put a soil builder in that space this year (peas/beans).
– Try to rotate your crops a bit – especially if you had blight problems or things of that nature.
A plan can really help to decrease the overwhelming feeling that you get each year when you have all these decisions to make that determine how everything will play out, and cannot be unmade. Still, just because you have a plan doesn’t mean that you can’t change your mind. The purpose of the plan is simply to think it all through, figure out a loose plan of attack, and try to maximize your yield. That said, I make a plan every year and usually stick to about 80-90% of what I planned to do – I doubt this year will be any different!
Special thanks to our podcast Partner, McKenzie Seeds.