How to Plan Your Garden

Our family has made a major life change in leaving the corporate world to begin a vineyard in west Texas. With a large family (10 children, 8 still at home) living on savings until our house in Alabama sells, frugal living is a necessity. Having never been a gardener, I have learned from those who have had successful gardens by asking many questions. One piece of advice repeated many times is the importance of planning before starting.

So, here it is, time to start thinking about and planning your spring and summer vegetable garden! Yes, it is still cold outside, but now is the time to begin. Before we know it, we will be having fresh-from-the-garden produce, fresh tomato sandwiches, and fresh cucumbers and...I know what you are thinking, to get to that point there is a lot of hard work. But, even before the hard work comes the all-important planning stage. There are several factors to consider before planting your garden.

Space Availability

One consideration when beginning to plan is the amount of space which is available for your garden area. If space is limited, priority should be given to family favorite vegetables which would afford the most savings. If space is not an issue, then what vegetables does your family enjoy? Which do you like to eat and cook!

Growing Zone

Certain plants are adapted to particular areas of the country more so than others. Charts are available from various seed companies and on the backs of individual seed packets. These charts specify in which growing zone that particular seed grows well. These growing zones are based on temperatures, daylight hours, and general climate. It is important when making your selection to keep in mind your growing zone.

Seeds vs. Plants

Do I buy seeds or plants? In many instances, time is a key factor in deciding between seeds and plants. Some seeds may be sown directly into your garden soil. Others must be started indoors and once established, transplanted to your garden. These seedlings must be started early enough to be transplanted in a timely manner to your garden (usually after all danger of frost is past). Although more expensive, if indoor space for starting seeds is limited and time is short, plants are probably the better choice.

Where to Purchase

Once you decide upon seeds, plants, or a combination, the decision must be made as to where to purchase them. Local stores often carry seeds and plants specific to your local growing area. They may also be ordered from various companies. The advantages of ordering from a “seed company” are several. They deal exclusively with products specific to gardening thus the quality tends to be better. Also, often their customer service is available to answer any questions you may have and guide you in your decisions so that you will be a loyal satisfied customer. Once satisfied with service, you will be a returning customer.


Have you ever gardened before? If not, you might want to start small with easy to grow vegetables such as pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, and beans. I had no experience, but asked questions of those who did. As a result, I had a large successful garden which has provided food for our family.


Search out resource persons among your friends, family and acquaintances. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Most people are more than happy to provide information about a subject they are familiar with and even expert in. Read books on the subject of gardening. These are readily available at your local library, bookstores, and online. Another great resource is your local county extension agent. They often have quality information on all areas of gardening and are also willing to answer questions.

Crop Rotation

Crop rotation is generally thought of in relation to the large farmer. However, it is also important to the backyard gardener also. Some plants are more susceptible to certain insects and viruses. Rotating the crops discourages these from being harbored in an unnatural concentration. An example of this is the squash bug. Different crops also use nutrients from the soil in different amounts. Rotating the crops helps prevent soil depletion.

Are you ready to get started planning your garden?

This is a guest post by Dina-Marie. She can be found at Dimes2Vines where she shares her family's adventures starting a vineyard in west Texas. Read more by Dina-Marie:

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Guest's picture

I started tomatoes, peppers, and squash last week. I have a baker's rack in my kitchen that I clear off a few shelves for seedlings, and I start the seeds in cups for a few weeks indoors before moving them outside (I'm in California, so snow/frost isn't much of an issue). Previously I bought all of my seeds, but last year I decided to save some from what we grew and try to grow this year's plants from those seeds instead of buying new ones. As of this morning I have one squash poking out of the soil, so I'm hopeful that I'll get a crop without buying too many seeds (although I will have to buy things like carrot seeds, and my son really wants watermelon this year so I will have to buy seeds for stuff like that as well).

Another idea is to trade seeds if you have a friend or neighbor who gardens as well, since seed packets usually have more than you need (or at least more than I need since I have limited growing space).

Guest's picture

My husband and I have started our seeds in April for the past couple of years, but we rigged up a heat light /shop light this year and started on Feb. 28th. Here's hoping for tomatoes in August instead of picking them green in late Sept and ripening them in the back bedroom :)

Guest's picture

While you are getting your garden ready this year, don't forget about homemade compost. It is easy, organic and a lot of fun. I found this article really helpful for getting started.

Guest's picture

if you are looking for more detailed information on USDA plant hardiness zones, there is an interactive USDA plant hardiness zone map at which will allow you to locate your USDA zone based on zipcode or city.

Guest's picture

We have a really late last-frost date (May 15) but last year I started my seeds in an unheated sunporch (which we obviously don't use for much in February and March). What I found was that my seedlings were smaller, but more vigorous, than when I started them under heat lamps.

There are also cold-hardy greens that do really well started as soon as the ground is clear, well before last frost date - in Texas you could probably grow kale, broccoli, and cold-hardy beets all winter. I start mine about now and we eat them in early May.