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Easy Vegetable Garden Planning

Vegetable illustrations1

Crop iconsPlan your vegetable garden on sticky-backed plant photos or plant sketches on Post-It Notes set on grid paper. This easy method will allow you to plan both initial vegetable crop sowings and plantings and succession crops before the weather warms and you get busy preparing and planting garden beds.

Here’s what to do:

1. Determine how large your planting beds will be and choose a grid paper to represent square inches or square feet in the garden. A grid of 4 x 4 to the inch cross-section will give you plenty of room to plot both large and small crops. Use a separate sheet of grid paper for each planting bed.

2. Cut photos of each crop from old seed catalogs or garden magazines or sketch each crop and tape or glue the photo or sketch on sticky notes so that they can be arranged and moved around the grid paper. On each sticky note, jot the size of the crop at maturity and note the days to harvest from sowing or transplanting into the garden. Be sure each sticky note fills the appropriate number of squares on the grid paper so that you have a clear vision of your planting bed.

3. Arrange sticky notes on your grid paper taking into consideration the space required for each crop at maturity. Also consider the number of days to harvest for each crop. Group crops so that they will be easy to maintain and harvest. Consider inter-cropping tall crops next to shade loving short crops or place quick growing crops between slower growing crops so that they come to harvest before the larger crops gain full size.

4. To plan succession crops and crop rotations consider the days to harvest for the first crop and the number of days to harvest for the succession crop; make sure there are enough days in the growing season for the succession crop. Keep in mind the importance of crop rotation to stem pests and diseases; avoid planting crops from the same plant family in the same bed successively.

5. Sticky notes can be used again and again to plan new planting beds and future seasons. Make a copy of each planting bed you design; leave room to note the date you planted and the date you harvested and any growing notes for future plantings of the same crops. Well-designed and successful plantings can be filed away to use again in future growing seasons.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.


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  1. I use One Note to sketch out what I need. You can change the background on sections to look like grid paper and just insert screen clippings from where you order your seeds or online. It’s very handy. It was a newer MS office program in 2007…maybe more people use it now.

    I could use help when it comes to timing plantings. Last year I had some things planted in early spring and then some planned for just after last frost, but the spring plants weren’t all quite ready to come off in mid-May so I had to adjust and be patient. Was last year exceptional in the time it took spring veggies to harvest, or was I just off?

    • Thanks for the great One Note suggestion. For those unfamiliar with One Note, it is an application found in Microsoft Office.

      As for your planning and planting, timing crop plantings is greatly affected by the weather and your climate and the variety of the crop you are planting. Cloud cover and dips in temperature from the norm can lengthen a growing season by a couple of weeks. Build into your planting and harvest calendar an extra 10 to 14 days for weather; if the variety of the crop you are growing is supposed to be ready in 45 days, allow 60 just in case the weather slows growing; this is especially true for crops planted in early spring when the weather and soil can be cooler than you expect. If you want to get a jump on the season or extend it longer see some of the tips for growing in cool and cold weather; check out the Season Extension section in the Topics Index for several articles that will help.

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