Now Is The Time To Plan A Summer Garden

We’ll explore how to get started on your summer garden plan.
Feb 17, 2010 10:19 AM ET

Now Is The Time To Plan A Summer Garden

In the first of a 4 part series, we’ll explore how to get started on your summer garden plan.

If you want to plant a vegetable garden this spring, some advance planning will ensure a bountiful harvest. Check out these tips that every beginner should consider before embarking on the task.

Part 1: Start a garden journal.

Keeping a garden notebook will be an invaluable tool to you as your garden project progresses.

There are four things you want to keep track of in your garden journal:

1. Environment. Observing the area in which you will plant your garden will give you practical information about the environmental concerns you face - things like water, sun, shade, and pests.

2. Planning your garden space. Next, you’ll use that gathered information to plan your garden on paper. It will be important to deciding what to plant where.

3. Yield refers to the amount of produce you receive from your garden. By keeping track of how much you get from your efforts, you’ll know how much your garden actually costs, and which plants thrive in your garden and which don’t.

4. Lessons learned. At the end of the growing season, you’ll use this section to evaluate how your garden did. In this space, record any unexpected problems you encounter and how you deal with them. Record also your thoughts on your garden experience and what you did and didn’t like about gardening. This will help you become a better gardener over time. But even if you decide in the end that gardening is not for you, it will be a wonderful reminder of all you accomplished in one summer.

1. Start by observing the area where you want to plant your garden. It may seem unnecessary, but this is one of the most important - and most often overlooked - steps. Don’t think you can just break ground and start growing what you want, it won’t work out. There is important information about the location of your garden that you’ll need before you start planting. This information can help you decide how large an area you want to tend and what plants to choose for the best chance of success.

2. Next, check the temperature of the area. Check the temp in all areas as it may differ depending on shade of trees, strength of sunlight, and time of day. It’s a good idea to check the temperature over several days or weeks to be able to accurately predict temperature variations.

3. Then consider water availability and concentration. Don’t just check how much rain falls in the area, but consider how that water flows within the space. Is there pooling or flooding? Does nearby shade effect water evaporation?

4. Take stock of wildlife. What insects, birds, deer or other animals will share the garden space with you. Where do they live? What do they eat? How will you protect your crop from them? You might also consider ways to promote healthy partnerships with insects. For instance, how can you attract bees and butterflies to your garden?

5. Consider sun and shade. Does your chosen area get enough sunlight for the crops you intend to plant? How does the sun move across the space? Are there shade problems? Can you redefine your garden plan to include plants that grow well in shade to make use of shaded areas?

6. Analyze your soil type and quality. You might think dirt is dirt, and that it doesn’t make any difference to the plants. But plants will grow best in nourishing soil that feeds their particular systems. It’s a good idea to have your soil analyzed to find out what, if any amendments you need to make to ensure your garden’s success. If you are starting with a small garden space, say a 6’ x 12’ raised bed,(more about this next week) now is the time to think about sowing plants that like the same type of soil, so you’ll have a better chance of success. In a larger garden, adjusting the soil content might allow you to have different types of crops - maybe veggies and herbs in one area, flowers and fruit in another - throughout your space.

Taking the time to observe and record information about your garden is time consuming and can take effort, but your hard work will pay off.

Once you’ve noted your observations, you’ll want to analyze them before planning your vegetable garden on paper. What do your observations mean? How can you use them to ensure that you will have a thriving garden?

This is the time to assess challenges you face in beginning your garden and make adjustments in how you plan your plantings. For example, if you have a spot in your garden that regularly floods, note that the water needs to be channeled elsewhere or has to be prevented from collecting there in the first place. Or, if roaches are gathering in your garden at night, you need to find ways to prevent them from coming, or to neutralize them when they arrive.

Don’t decide on any firm solutions just yet. Keep your mind open so that you can be more creative - and green - when solving them during the planning stage. Think of the problem of the roaches, for example, and then just make a note to yourself to refer back to the issue to resolve it. It’s enough right now to say you want to "neutralize or prevent" the roach problem. Don’t jump ahead to “pesticide”. There may be another ways to deal with the problem.

This week, investigate your garden area and spend some time reviewing and analyzing your observations. And spend a little time dreaming about all those wonderful tomatoes your going to have, and all the ways you can enjoy them. After all, gardening is about having fun, too.

Next week, it’s time to sketch out your garden plan and get your hands dirty as we explore planning and planting.

Read more about summer gardening at is dedicated to our users. We focus our attention on changing the world through recycling, waste-to-energy and conservation. We reward our users for their sustainable behaviors on our website, through our Greenopolis Tracking Stations and with curbside recycling programs.


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