When you sit down to do a garden map, planning is key. There are a few very important things to consider. Planning the map is knowing how much to plant which is the most important part for me to avoid waste.
The space you have, the crops you want to grow and the elements in your garden all contribute to how you plan a garden map. So grab a piece of paper and let the steps below walk you through how to design a map for your garden layout for this year!
How to start a garden map
When I begin my garden map, I have 3 items with me:
- The list of seeds I want to plant (vegetables and flowers)
- My list of maturity dates (to determine how long it takes for the crops to be ready for harvest)
- Plant notes (including: plant spacing, start dates and so on)
These items will help you plan a garden that produces a productive garden. As a matter of fact, that is exactly what we want! A productive vibrant garden full of beauty and healthy abundance!
I have found a remarkable easy place to approach the garden map. Start with your limitations. It is a challenge for me to have nothing and make something. When I start with things that are already set in place, I can use these limitations to my advantage.
For example, we have 4 long beds that are 3 feet by 60 feet. They run parallel to one another. On the left side of the beds there is a tree at the edge of beds 2 and 3. I know that the tree will fill in throughout the spring and summer and cast a shadow onto the beginning sections of these beds. Therefore, I sketch the tree into my garden map so that I can be mindful of this when I’m plotting my crops onto the map.
You may have a tree beside your house that shade off nearly half of your yard. Sketch this into your garden map. That way, you can plan to plant shade loving crops in this area. This will work beautifully for your lettuce and kales, which will enjoy some shade mid-summer.
Trellis sections and arches
Next on my map, I sketch in where I have a trellis set up or an arch trellis already in place. With these trellises already set up, I know that this space should be for my vine crops that loves climbing using their tender tendrils or suckers to cling onto the supporting poles.
If you don’t have a trellis set up, you could sketch where you plan to add a trellis. Watch how we set up a PVC garden trellis here, and find the tool list and directions here.
Plot in vegetables and flowers
Finally, it’s time to plot in the crops. I start with my vegetables because they form the base of my garden. I then follow with flowers.
On the garden plan the vegetables form the foundation or backdrop to the garden and the flowers dress it up. Not that vegetables need any dressing up, their plants can be just as beautiful and unique. However, it is nice to see blossoms of colour amongst the mostly green vegetable plant foliage.
Mapping out a vegetable garden
With my list of start dates and maturity times, I start to add a crop here and there.
I also write in what date the crop will be planted in the garden and the date it more or less will be at full maturity. This is based on the time it roughly takes for the plant to mature.
Seeing the start and end dates on paper help me think through what plants can be followed by another crop. This helps me see where I have a “quick crop”, meaning there is time left in the season to plant something else in its place. For example:
1) Carrots: March – May, which is then followed by 2) Sweet Potatoes: May – October.
Mapping out a flower garden
Once I have the crops roughly placed where I think they will grow well, I scatter my flowers amongst them. Like a bush of cosmos by the zucchinis and a flock of hollyhocks by the carrots. Sunflowers here and there, keeping in mind that the tall varieties could shade out certain crops underneath them.
To be honest, the flower part is all a guessing game for me. At this point, I’m not experienced enough with growing flowers to know exactly what they all look like in full maturity and plant shape.
Since vegetables is our primary focus in order to produce and preserve food, flowers are taking second place in my garden. The level that I can experiment with them is to scatter seeds amongst my vegetable crops. This is not a negative things, because I have found that flowers and vegetables do really well together.
Doing it this way is beneficial for attracting pollinators and also distracting bugs from my vegetable crops. Or at least that is what I found in the last garden season, which was my first time combining vegetables and flowers this way. I guess time will tell as we experiment with it more and more.
If you follow these directions, you will have a basic garden map in a short time of planning:
- Outline your garden space
- Note your limitations
- Plot the vegetables
- Finish with flowers
This outline helps to get a rough idea of what the garden space may look like for the garden season ahead. Although, there is an approximate 85% chance that it will all change by the time I plant my full summer crops.
Unfortunately this happens because, by the start of summer, the spring crops are nearly or fully mature. The design elements begin to change and offer new possibilities. Just like I need to move the furniture in our house to see if it would look good in a particular arrangement, in the same way I need to see parts of the garden to fully envision the next elements of design. Regardless, there is great benefit in making a garden plan to have a something tangible to work from.
Benefits of a Garden Plan
The benefits of a garden plan is similar to the benefits of a calendar. To name a few good things that come from making this map, you:
- can approach planting seeds with a rough goal for the end product
- make companion plant decisions ahead of time
- determine how much of a crop you really have room for
It is a common understanding that having a goal is setting yourself up for success. This same strategy applies to your garden. With a picture in mind of what you expect your garden to look like and produce, you can aim to achieve it.
This post is already lengthy, so I will tackle companion planting another day. For the purpose of making your garden map, check out these resources of what other gardeners have found to be great companion plants:
- The helpful companion planting guide West Coast Seeds
- Companion planting chart from The Spruce
How much to plant
Knowing how much to plant is the most important part of making the garden map for me. Mostly because I have a lot of crops to fit into 4 beds, but also because I have experienced having too much of one thing and having it go to waste. None of us want crops to go to waste. Having a map of my garden helps me balance how much I am going to grow this season, based on the variety of vegetables and flowers I am aiming to fit into the garden.
Seeing the average date that a crop could be ready directly on my map, forces me to think through how much of that crop I need to be ready for around that time. I then also see which other crops could be ready around the same time, and plan preserving strategies ahead of time. This ensures that I don’t have to deal with more than I can manage at once.
Watch Garden Plan 103: Map a vibrant and productive garden
Pin this post with your garden map
All the best with planning your garden map. Leave me a comment if you find any other helpful tips while you make your map that would be beneficial for me or other readers.
This was so informative! Makes me excited for my gardens this year. I don’t usually plan very well, so this was great!
Awesome, thanks for sharing your tips on planning a garden. I will be doing mine soon as I plan to grow vegetables this summer (a total newbie though).
Very exciting, growing your own vegetables is one of the great rewards of life. All the best with your gardening journey!
Spring seems so far off because we have so much snow here still, but the days are getting longer. I always forget to plan my garden ahead properly before it’s time to plant the garden in a rush. But I received some flower seeds I ordered in the mail, so I really need to get on that. Thanks for all the helpful tips!
Watching the days get longer give me a renewed hope also! May you have a great gardening year with beautiful flowers 🙂