How To Plan A Garden

how to start a garden

Garden Plan Organization

Planning your garden can be overwhelming if you are not organized right from the start. Winter is the perfect time to write down your ideas, organize your thoughts, and draw a map outlining your future garden design. 

If you want to be serious about gardening this year, there are a few things to consider before you buy your first pack of seeds. 

  • Type of Garden
    • Raised Bed Gardening
    • Container Gardening
    • Vertical Gardening
    • No Dig Gardening
    • Combination Gardening
  • Planting/Harvest Dates
    • Frost Dates
    • Hours of Sunlight
    • Crop Rotation
    • Crop Pairing
  • Plant Types
    • Soil Needs (To Compost or Not To Compost)
    • Structures/Support Frames
    • Space Needed Per Plant
    • Plant Variety
      • Heirloom vs. Hybrid
      • Cross-Pollination
      • Crop Yield
  • Garden Tools
  • The Amount of Time You Can Put Into Your Garden Each Week

Garden Bullet Journal

Organizing your ideas in a planner is the best way to succeed in your gardening goals. I recommend using a dot journal.

I have used the LEUCHTTURM1917 – Medium A5 Dotted Hardcover Notebook for several years. I like using a dot journal rather than a lined one, but that is my general preference. The only downside to using this journal is that it doesn’t fold flat. For this year, I plan on using a wire-bound journal instead. I found one on Amazon that is a little cheaper than the LEUCHTTURM1917. 

How To Set Up A Garden Journal

The first few pages of my garden journal are dump pages. Dump pages are where I write down all my ideas in no particular order for the upcoming garden season. This is the space for me to get my thoughts out on paper. 

Garden Journal Page Ideas

  • Rain and Temperature Tracker
  • Hours Spent In The Garden
  • Money Spent on Seeds, Plants, Tools, Etc. 
  • Seed List
  • Daily, Weekly, & Monthly Observations
  • Pictures/Sketches of Your Garden
  • Crop Pairing Notes
  • Individual Plant/Seed Information
  • Bloom/Harvest Dates
  • Lunar Calendar
  • Tips & Tricks
  • List of Websites For Plant Reference
  • Zone Information

Your garden journal is a tool you will use for years to come. Reap the benefits of your labor, track your progress, and maximize your harvest. To read more in-depth about preparing a garden journal (as well as page examples), check out the blog post below: 

How To Create Your Garden Journal Using The Bullet Journal Method – Life Design by Cynthia (

Determine Your Garden Type

There are many different types of gardens. You can go the traditional route: till a plot of land and plant directly in the ground. Or you may want to start a no-dig garden. You could plant a container garden or build a few raised beds. The options are limitless for what your garden will look like.

Some questions to ask yourself: 

  1. How much are you willing to spend?
  2. How much do you want your garden to produce?
  3. What types of supports do your plants need?
  4. How much space are you going to devote to your garden?  

All of these factors play a big part in the overall plan of your garden. If you are looking for a few fresh tomatoes each week, you might plant 2-3 plants. However, if you want to preserve enough tomatoes to feed a family of 4 for a year, you may want to grow 50-70 plants (depending on the type and yield of the plant you choose to grow). 

Traditional Gardening

Genesis 2:15 (KJV) And the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. 

Traditional gardening requires a little more muscle than the other methods, but it works well when you want to produce high yields of crops. My dad has had a traditional garden for as long as I can remember. Each year he feeds into the soil, and the earth gives back just as much as he puts in. Traditional gardening requires a multitude of tools. The ground is tilled at the beginning of the season, and compost is mixed in with the soil to provide nutrients for future crops. 

You can use mulch, leaves, or weed block carpet to help control the undergrowth while your plants grow to fruition. If done correctly, the plants themselves can help to keep the spread of weeds to a minimum. Although I have used this method in the past, it is very time-consuming and requires a fair amount of yearly upkeep. 

If you have virgin dirt, you may need to invest in a rear tine tiller. I have a lot of red clay. Although clay is nutrient-rich, it can be difficult for a standard cultivator to handle. A smaller cultivator may be all you need if you have lighter sandy soil.  

Raised Bed Gardening

Raised bed gardening is perfect if you use the square-foot garden method. This method is the least time consuming and produces just as much variety and crop yield as traditional gardening if proper crop rotation is followed. 

I purchased 4 raised beds during Amazon’s prime day sale. The Galvanized Raised Garden Bed Large Metal Outdoor for Gardening Planter Raised Bed Flower Bed Garden Boxes Outdoor, 8x4x1ft was easy to put together. There are 32 square feet per bed, and it is wide enough for me to put a trellis down the middle for vertical plants. This is a good idea if you have limited space but want a large yield and variety of crops. 

Container Gardening

If you don’t have a plot of land to set up a garden, you can always plant in containers or grow bags. I used the Gardzen 10-Pack 10 Gallon Grow Bags, Aeration Fabric Pots with Handles to plant potatoes and determinate tomatoes. This size bag holds 1 cubic foot of dirt and is durable enough to be moved after filling. Grow bags are great for patios, porches, or sunny windows.

No Dig Gardening

No-dig gardening is great if you can get your hands on a lot of mulch, cardboard, and soil. To set up a no-dig plot, you first lay down something like cardboard or paper on top of the ground. The material needs to be compostable as it will serve as your base. After establishing the base, line the perimeter with a thick layer of mulch. This helps to keep the overgrowth of weeds in check. In the center of the mulch, place 6-12 inches of soil. No-dig gardening follows the same method as traditional gardening without the need for a tiller or cultivator.  

Using craft paper as a base, I used this method to grow melons and ground-running crops like winter squash. This worked well for those crops as the root system didn’t need much growing space, but the vines needed ample room to run. The craft paper worked well, and when the season was over, I used the lawnmower to mulch it into my compost pile. 

Combination Gardening

You can use more than one method of gardening. Mix and match depending on the needs of the plants you want to grow. Also, consider how much space each plant needs to reach maximum yield and what type of support you may need for plants with long vines.

Another factor to consider is the type of weather you have in your garden space. I only want to use a few trellises on the east side of my house as that side gets the most winds. The west side of my house is better for trellises as the wind is blocked by my home and the tree line. 

Seed Organization

After a year of gardening, you may notice an overflow of seeds. Making a seed list is a great way to organize your beginning garden plan. Having a list can also ensure you only buy the seeds you need. 

Heirloom Seeds vs. Hybrid Seeds

When picking out the seeds for your garden, you must first determine whether you want to use heirloom, hybrid, or a mixture of both.

Heirloom seeds are not genetically modified. They are seeds that have been past down through the generations. Heirloom seeds can be saved and planted year after year. 

Hybrid seeds are genetically modified for a specific purpose. Some seeds can be saved and regrown the following year, but most cannot. 

Hybrid may work well for you if you plan on buying seeds year after year. However, heirloom is the way to go if you plan on saving your seeds and becoming seed-independent. 

I have struggled to find a convenient method to store all my seeds over the years. I have used boxes, bags, bins, and even a five-star notebook. All of these methods are doable, but I wanted something better. I stumbled across a youtube video where a lady used a picture organizer to save her seeds. This method is excellent! My seeds are organized by the month they will be planted, so I am only working out of one small case at a time rather than a large book or bin. 

After you purchase your seeds, read the packets’ instructions to determine the best time for you to plant. Are you going to direct sow or transplant plugs? 

Direct sowing seeds is when you put the seed directly into the ground. When you plant plugs, you plant a seed in a planter and transplant it when it is strong enough to survive the weather. 

I have used MIXC 10 Pack Seed Starter Trays, Seedling Tray Plant Grow Kit Mini Propagator with Humidity Vented Dome and Base for Seeds Starting Greenhouse (12 Cells per Tray), and had favorable results. The plastic is sturdy, and the lids are vented, so you don’t burn your seedlings on hot days. 

If you are planting before the last frost date, use frost covers to protect your crops. I have used the Garden expert Plant Covers Freeze Protection Floating Row Cover Thickened 1.2oz Fabric Frost Cloth Plant Blanket for Plants & Vegetables in Winter(8FTx15FT) with much success. This was especially helpful last year when we had a late frost, and my lettuce was already 3 inches out of the ground. If not for these frost covers, I would have lost my whole crop and had to start over. 

Having a plan and using a journal is a great way to ensure a successful gardening year. Write down tips and tricks you learn along the way and take notes on what worked and didn’t work so you can make changes for the following year. 

Most of all, remember that over time your garden can evolve. It can be different from year to year. Experiment and try new things. 

Please Be Aware I May Earn A Small Sum From Any Amazon Purchases Made From Links Within This Post. 

Published by Cynthia Brandel

Published author and founder of, Cynthia has captivated the world with her works of fiction including The Sanctorian Series and her latest work, The Revenant City Series. Lover of young adult reads and fantasy reads, Cynthia has transformed her passions into a full-time career.

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