June 5, 2013

The Green Pinky: How to Plot Your Garden

If you have followed through my blogging history you know that I love to garden! I have received many Questions about how we plan out our garden, what we plant, when to harvest, etc. so I decided to created a mini series called “The Green Pinky”.

I would not consider myself a “Green Thumb” at this point in life. That is definitely a term I hold to high standards and well… if you ever saw my Mom’s gardens back in Delaware you would say, “Good God, she has such a green thumb”. That Woman knows her stuff and it shows.

I am merely still learning, but have endless information I can share from running my own green house as an Agriculture teacher, working as a garden intern at a DuPont estate, and being a manager at my Colleges Horticulture Department for 2 summers, and lets not forget the good ol’ Trial by Error approach.

This first post is merely on how to plot a garden. How to decide what will go where, how large to make it, and some helpful hints that I’ve learned over the years.


What do I plant!

First things first: You need to decide what it is you want to plant and how much space you are willing to use for the garden. Most homeowners just want a small plot to grow a couple tomatoes, some peppers, maybe some squash, and well peas cause their fun!

Based on those facts last year I made a 12 foot x 12 foot garden.

I wanted to grow:

  • Beef Steak Tomatoes
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Green Peppers
  • JalapeƱo Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Rhubarb was already there.

The key to figuring out your garden size is to look at the seed information on the back of the packets. They will tell you how far apart each seedling needs to be. Now I don’t stand out there measuring with a ruler to be exact but the information is helpful.

Note: If this is your first garden start small. You may end up with more Tomatoes then you know what to do with! I would advise: Two of anything you wish to grow is plenty enough for your first garden. If one dies you still have the other as back up.

What size do I make my garden plot?

My garden had mostly compact plants that grow upward. You NEED to consider how the plant grows. If you are wanting pumpkins or melons you need a bigger area to let them sprawl out. I did not plant any last year so my 12’ x 12’ garden worked great.


This year {G} and I went LARGE. The garden below is our 2013 garden that is probably 6x’s the size of my mini garden from last year. Why?

We decided on:

  • Slicing Tomatoes
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Jalapeno Peppers
  • Pickling Cucumbers
  • Two varieties of squash
  • Sweet Corn
  • 3 Varieties of Water Melons
  • Jack-o-Lantern Pumpkins


We needed the extra space for the sprawling veggies and of course Sweet Corn. But now how do we decide where everything goes? Well, usually people will draft up a scale drawing of where they want to plant each item. I didn’t draw anything up because I knew how much space things took in previous years and could picture it in my mind how I wanted things to look.

For your sake I did a quick draft of our Garden Plot:


Placement and Direction:

Vegetable gardens need to be in direct sunlight so choose wisely. You also may want to consider your nearest source of water for your plants. Pulling out hoses and carrying gallon containers makes a hassle when watering daily.

Our Garden Plot was pre-determined when we bought our house. We could tell (even though there was no garden at the time) that there had been one previously because the soil was not as compact and the grass was more weedy then full. There is a watering spicket at the top of the hill so watering is a little more strenuous. My future goal is to have rain barrels near our garden to ease the job a bit more.


The direction you plant items in your garden is going to also impact the plant growth. In my draft above you can see that we planted our sweet corn in the North West corner of our garden with rows going from East to West.

This is done purposely because as the sun rises during the day we did not want our corn to shade out the rest of the garden. If we would’ve planted them from North to South in short rows this would’ve made shade covering plants to the (right) or east.

Row Width/Pathways

Now you have an idea of what you want to plant, how large of an area you have to plant it, where to plot the garden, and have designed a rough idea of how you want to lay out your garden plot… what’s left?

One thing I have learned by trial and error is the width of how far apart to make your rows. On the seed packets it will tell you seed spacing but no one ever says anything about walking between your plants.

Here is my tip for you: Take a rake with you when you go to plant your seedlings. When your ready to start the next row use the rake as a width marker. 108

Why: One word…. WEEDS. I like to rake out or hoe the soil between rows every couple of weeks to keep the weeds down. In last years garden I even laid planks in the rows to suffocate weeds. The amount of space the rake width gives is also adequate for me to move through the rows with a water bucket or a basket during harvesting time without damaging crops.



Tomato row spacing: After last years garden I doubled the width between my tomato rows. Those puppies get huge and last year I felt like I wasn’t able to maneuver too well in order to harvest my crop.  I had the space to do so.


Um… what are those weird circles around your plants?

This is a trick my husband showed me a few years ago. As we plant our seedling we create a little bowl around each plant. When we water we use bucket to pour water around the plants. This also keeps weeds down and helps on water usage because we aren’t watering every square inch of the garden, only the area around the root systems. When you pour the water in the bowls around the seedlings it fills to the brim and you know when to stop. They are like little motes until the water seeps into the ground.



Hopefully for those of you deciding to start your own garden this helped a little. If you have any questions I am more than willing to try answer what I can.


My next post in the “The Green Pinky” series will be about

How to Stake Tomatoes

instead of buying tomatoes cages.


No comments:

Post a Comment

I'd love to hear from you... Please comment!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...