Welcome to the second installment of the Planning Your Vegetable Garden Series. Today we will discuss how to begin your vegetable garden planning process. I guess it would really be more accurate to say I will discuss how I begin my vegetable garden planning process. I use several different methods to develop the start of my garden plan. I go through a series of brainstorming, wishful thinking, and even a little daydreaming in order to narrow down what I want in my vegetable garden into a usable plan. So without any more jabber, let's get started.

Measure Your Garden Area

The first thing I like to do is measure my vegetable garden area to get a good length and width dimension. I can then use the length and width to determine the square footage. The square footage of your garden area is important to know because you will need this measurement to determine how much compost, mulch, or fertilizer you may need for your garden later on. In case you have been out of school for awhile, the formula for calculating square footage is:

L (length) x W (width) = square feet

So, if you have a garden area that is 10' by 10', your square footage is 100 sq. feet. I have two garden spaces in my backyard - the largest being 50' by 20' (or 1,000 sq. feet), and the other is 40' by 10' (or 400 sq. feet).

If your garden space is an irregular shape then you can "square" up the dimensions and still get a good figure for your square footage.

Map It Out

Once you have finished your measurements and calculations, it is time to draw a rough map of your yard, or garden space. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, just a hand drawn sketch is fine. Remember, we are gardeners not Picasso, right?

Vegetable Garden Map

The main purpose of the map is to give you a visual aid when looking at the measurements later on and while finishing up the final planning. If you take your measurements on Monday, then sit down to start the actual plan on Friday, you might forget something. This map will serve as not only your measurement notes, but also the base for your garden plan. I like to draw the general location of my garden spaces in relation to other objects in my yard, and jot down the garden dimensions and also the square footage of each garden space on my map.


Now that you have the dimensions of your garden space and have drawn a measurements map, it is time for the fun part. The next step I take is to brainstorm what I want to grow in my garden. Get a piece of paper and a pen, or whatever you like to take notes with, and write out a list of every vegetable you want to grow.


It is a good idea to write out the vegetables, and specific cultivars of each vegetable in an outline form.

Here is an example of what your wish list could look like:

Vegetable Wishlist

You can add as many different vegetables and cultivars as you like. The important thing is that you make a list of everything you would like to grow in your garden. If you would like to do some more research on what vegetables you are interested in including on your list, then check out Gardenology.org. Gardenology.org is a wiki-style website that has information on thousands of different vegetables and plants. This is a great site for gathering information about your favorite vegetables.

There is also another technique that you can use to compile your wish list called mind mapping.

Vegetable Garden Mind Map

With mind mapping I start with my main subject, which is "vegetables". I write that in the center of the page and circle it. I then write the vegetables I am interested in growing around my main subject, circle them, then connect them to the "vegetables" circle. Now each vegetable becomes a branch of my main subject. For each vegetable, I write down what cultivars I am interested in growing. Once I have completed this I circle each one, and connect it to the corresponding vegetable. Mind mapping is a great way to spark your thinking process.

You can use either method that you would like, use both, or use something totally different. The important thing is that create a wish list of what you would like to grow in your garden.

Now you have found out the size of your garden space(s), drawn a map indicating the dimensions, and square footage, and created a grand wish list of vegetables that you are interested in growing in your garden. That is quite a bit of very useful information gathered!

You might be wondering what all this is for, eh? Tomorrow's installment of Planning Your Vegetable Garden will show you how to put all this together for a fun and fantastic garden plan.

If you missed the other installments to the Planning Your Vegetable Garden Series, you can browse them here:

Planning Your Vegetable Garden - What Is a Garden Plan?

Planning Your Vegetable Garden - Using a Garden Planning Tool

Planning Your Vegetable Garden - Purchasing Your Seeds

Planning Your Vegetable Garden - Start a Garden Journal