How to Plan a Vegetable Garden: Design Your Best Garden Layout

, written by Wayne Trevor gb flag

A well-designed raised bed garden

Many of us will have drawn out our gardens, if only a rough sketch, to work out what space we have and to help us to select the plants we’ll grow. There are a few essential questions to ask to make sure that your time spent garden planning is as productive as possible.

How many plants can I grow in the space I have?

One of the most common mistakes gardeners make is trying to cram too many crops into their gardens, which results in overcrowding and poor harvests as the plants get bigger and compete for the best nutrients.

What is the best layout for my plants?

It’s usually necessary to rearrange the plants on a plan until you achieve the perfect layout. Make sure that you consider both the size of plants when they are fully grown, and their growing needs; for instance, sprawling squash should be at the edge of vegetable beds so they don’t smother other crops, leafy crops like summer lettuce can benefit from the shade cast by taller plants, and sweet corn should always be grown in blocks rather than a single row so that they can wind-pollinate properly.

What do I need to buy or order?

Carefully planning seed and garden supply orders is essential, so you can get growing as soon as the weather is right.

Seed catalogs

When should I plant?

It’s important to draw up a schedule of the best times for planting each crop in your local area. For best results some crops such as tomatoes and peppers should be started off under cover or indoors several weeks before your last frost. Other crops such as beans and squash can’t be sown until outside temperatures are reliably warm.

What might go wrong?

Consider what might cause problems.  For example, big blocks of single crops can easily be attacked by pests such as aphids so don’t forget to include flowering plants to attract beneficial insects in your plan, or a sudden hot spell might cripple young tender plants unless you have planned adequate irrigation or shade.

All this planning can be done using pen and paper, but this can be time-consuming. It becomes increasingly complicated the more plants you grow, particularly if you’re keeping track of several years of plans for crop rotation purposes.

Using the Garden Planner

The Garden Planner has been designed to solve many of the headaches of growing a successful garden by helping you to produce the perfect plan of what you’ll grow where and when.

The first step is to add all of the key items that you have or plan to include in your garden. The Garden Planner has lots of ready-designed garden objects such as sheds, fences and compost bins, which can be dropped straight into your plan. Many of them, such as raised beds and glasshouses can be adjusted to fit your space. For odd-shaped gardens you can mark boundaries with lines or fences, which can be curved if necessary.

To add plants, just click on the plant to pick it up, click on your plan where you want to place it, and then hold down your mouse button and drag to draw a whole row or block. As you add vegetables the space they require is clearly shown by the coloured area around each plant, and the tooltip displays how many plants will fit into the area.

Click on the ‘i’ button next to the plant in the selection bar for growing information. You can also use the Filter button to the left of the selection bar to only crops that suit your requirements.

You can plan traditional rows or blocks, or if you’re using the intensive Square Foot Gardening method, the Garden Planner has a dedicated SFG mode.

Perennial garden plan

More Useful Garden Planner Features

The Garden Planner has many other powerful features that make it easy to get more from your garden.

  • Personalised sowing, planting and harvesting times. The Garden Planner adapts to your location by looking up the average frost dates for your area in our database of over 5000 weather stations and using this to produce a personalised Plant List, showing how many of each plant you require and when to sow, plant and harvest them in your location. Twice a month the Garden Planner sends email reminders of what can be sown or planted now from your garden plans to help you keep on track and not miss key planting dates.
  • Succession planting. Organise which crops will follow on from others using the succession planting feature, setting in-ground dates for your plants and viewing them month by month to show where gaps will appear.
  • Crop rotation. Each plant has a crop family colour so you can easily identify it. The Garden Planner warns you about where you should avoid placing each vegetable based on what was in that area in previous years, helping to reduce the likelihood of soil-borne pests and diseases surviving from one year to the next.
  • Irrigation. Use the Filter drop-down box to select Irrigation, and then use the various components to create your system. The Parts List will create an easy to use shopping list of the items you will need, based on your design. Other garden objects from your plan will also be listed here.
  • Season extenders. Glasshouses, cold frames and row covers can all be used to extend the season. The Garden Planner automatically updates the sow, plant and harvest times for your vegetables when you add these protective structures to your plan.

Planning your garden will ensure you’ve got all the information you need to start your plants at the best time and give them the best chance of survival through the growing season. With good planning, some hard work, and a little help from Mother Nature, you can look forward to harvesting a bumper crop.

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Garden Planning Apps

If you need help designing your vegetable garden, try our Vegetable Garden Planner (for PC & Mac) or if you'd prefer an app for your mobile or tablet device, our iPad & iPhone app Garden Plan Pro is available on the App Store here.
Garden Planning Apps and Software

Vegetable Garden Pest Warnings

Want to Receive Alerts When Pests are Heading Your Way?

If you've seen any pests or beneficial insects in your garden in the past few days please report them to The Big Bug Hunt and help create a warning system to alert you when bugs are heading your way.

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