One of the most important things you can do to help ensure a successful vegetable garden happens well before you ever sink a shovel in the soil.

Proper vegetable garden planning is key when it comes to preparing for the new season and helping you avoid common mistakes when setting plants out in Spring.

Skip the planning process and you can end up with an organic nightmare by the time you get into mid-June. Here are three tips to help get your vegetable garden planning off on the right foot so you can have a productive harvest later in the year.

Assess the Garden Space

When starting on your garden plan, the first thing you need to do is assess your garden space. Pick a decent day and take measurements of your garden area. This will determine how many square feet of garden space you have.

The square footage is useful for knowing how much compost and mulch you will need.

It's also important for determining how many plants can fit comfortably in your vegetable garden without overcrowding.

If you created a garden plan the previous year have it with you to make it easier to remember where certain varieties were grown last year.

Make note of any problem areas you encountered last year. Maybe you had an area with heavy clay soil, or an area where water seemed to puddle up at during a storm.

Use your notes so you can correct the problem areas when preparing the garden space this year.

If you are starting a new vegetable garden from scratch, you still want to assess your proposed garden area. Make sure the area gets at least six to eight hours of full sun each day. Determine the layout and orientation of your garden - placing your garden in the southeast corner of your property with rows running north and south is optimal, if possible.

Decide whether you want to use raised beds, containers, or just grow directly in the soil using rows.

Incorporate Crop Rotation

Crop rotation is a very important part of successfully growing vegetables. It can help limit common garden pests and diseases, and keeps the soil from becoming overused from growing the same crop in the same space after a number of years.

Crop rotation is simply not planting the same plants, or same plants in the same plant family in one location in consecutive years. For instance, if you grew corn in the same location as you did the previous two years, plant this year's corn in a different area.

Pests and diseases that attack the corn can accumulate in that same area if it's grown there all the time. After a few years you will begin seeing more disease and pest issues. If you plant the corn in a different location each year those issues will have a far less impact.

Rotating crops can lessen the impact on soil nutrients as well. Some crops, such as root crops, can really use up a lot of the soil nutrients in a season. For instance, if you grow potatoes in an area one year, grow green beans in that same area the following season. The green beans will help replenish nitrogen in the soil.

If you have a small garden space rotating crops can be very limiting. You may want to grow some vegetables in containers to avoid growing the samer crops in the same locations. With a small vegetable garden, it is important to replenish the soil with good compost at least once a year. This will help keep your vegetables productive and healthy.

Use Garden Planning Software

You can create a vegetable garden plan in a notebook, but it's hard to beat the versatility of garden planning software like GrowVeg.

With GrowVeg you can easily create great looking garden plans in just a few minutes.

GrowVeg gives you the ability to lay out your garden and place your plants exactly where you want them. It even provides the proper plant spacing for your particular crops automatically. You'll never need to worry about figuring out the correct spacing yourself.

This will be my third season using GrowVeg and it is by far one of the most useful tools I have. I can go back and look at my plans from previous years and it even gives me crop rotation recommendations based on my previous plans.

If you are interested in trying GrowVeg, they off a free 30-day trial with no obligation. I highly recommend you try it out for your vegetable garden, and you can read my full review of it here - GrowVeg Garden Planner Review.

Planning a vegetable garden isn't rocket science, but taking a few minutes to create a good plan is very important for a successful season.

Do you create a vegetable garden plan each season? Tell us about your garden plans in the comments!