Vegetable Garden Planning Made Easy

by Tammy Taylor

Last week I shared a sneak peak at the brand spankin’ new raised beds we built in the veggie garden here at the ranch.  Now that the beds are built I’ve been spending time daydreaming about both warmer weather as well as what I’d like to plant in my new raised beds.  We’re located in Northeast Texas planting zone 8A so we enjoy a pretty long growing season but it seems spring just can’t come soon enough. I like to use primarily heirloom seeds but I still enjoying placing seedling plants in the ground each spring so I use an indoor greenhouse to get a jump on things.  But how do I decide what goes in the garden each year?

See How I Decide What Vegetables To Plant Each Spring Using Past Experience, Companion Planting Guides, Raised Beds, Three Sisters, Etc.  #TaylorMadeHomestead

Of course the most important decision on what to plant in the garden is deciding what veggies we’d most like to eat.  It doesn’t do much good to have a veggie plant take up valuable garden-area real estate for the year if we eat it only in moderation.  RancherMan & I love green beans and tomatoes, red potatoes and squash, jalapenos & onions so of course those things are a shoe-in for our garden  but how to decide what else to fill the garden with?  One of the biggest planting decision aids for me is a spreadsheet where I’ve entered my garden layout.  2010 was the first year that I decided to track my garden this way & it took a little time initially to lay it all out, but each consecutive year I simply add another tab for the current year and copy/paste the garden layout to the current year and start plugging in my planting selections.  Plus I have past year garden plantings right at my fingertips to compare, as well as what variety seed I’m using and whether or not it’s heirloom.

See How I Decide What Vegetables To Plant Each Spring Using Past Experience, Companion Planting Guides, Raised Beds, Three Sisters, Etc.  #TaylorMadeHomestead

There are some permanent beds in my garden such as the asparagus bed and the Concord grapevines but the other beds are mine to plant as I choose.  I know it’s wise to rotate your vegetables to a different location each year since different plants use different amounts of soil nutrition and attract or repel different pests.  By rotating your crops you can (hopefully) outwit those pesky bugs and also soften the nutritional drain from your soils.  Plus armed with my notes of last year’s garden I know what veggies didn’t do so well and which ones did.  Sometimes failure in the garden is because of a specific variety I’ve chosen to plant but oftentimes it’s all about location.  For instance there’s a large tree just south of my garden – the sun shifts toward the north during the summer and shade from the tree is not an issue in those deep summer months but in early spring when the sun is still somewhat southerly that tree can cast a shadow, keeping the soil from warming as quickly.  Seeing in a past year that this was an issue with growth vigor, I now keep this bed for my cooler weather early spring plants.

There are also certain plants that do not get along like squabbling children on the playground.  I found out the hard way when I planted my green beans between two short rows of onions one year even knowing those two veggies don’t get along.  I was lazy busy & didn’t want to dig up & replant my small onion rows on either side of the green bean bed so I figured “eh, let’s see what happens”.  Bad decision – my green bean plants were in sad shape and produced small misshapen pods until they finally gave up early in the season.  Lesson learned – no green beans next to the onions!  As a matter of fact this year I’ve planted almost all of my onions in their own bed, far away from my green beans.

See How I Decide What Vegetables To Plant Each Spring Using Past Experience, Companion Planting Guides, Raised Beds, Three Sisters, Etc.  #TaylorMadeHomestead

Just like there are veggie plants that don’t get along, there are other veggie plants that are best pals.  For instance, corn is a heavy feeder from soil nutrients but when you plant beans with them some of that nitrogen is replaced helping the corn to grow.  If you then plant squash amongst the corn & beans you’ve planted the “Three Sisters” garden, each one complementing the other.  Native American Indians knew the wisdom of the three sisters garden – the corn grows tall, the pole beans use the corn stalk for support and also stabilizes the corn plant from wind & provides nitrogen to help the corn, the squash vines aided by the nitrogen from the beans grow long to cover the soil both protecting it from the hot sun & preserving moisture.

And there are other benefits to best-pal veggie planting, some combinations actually protect each plant from pests.  Did you know that planting garlic throughout your garden repels aphids & beetles, or that planting onions & carrots together combine to help control rust flies & some nematodes?  Aaaahhh the plant world is remarkable indeed.

By using my garden spreadsheet all of this information is on a tab right there on my planner so I can refer to it to make sure I don’t repeat the green bean/onion fiasco of 2011.  Some years when planting season has sneaked up on me I’ve just rotated the beds – bed 1 was planted in bed 2, bed 2 planted in bed 3 and bed 3 planted in bed 1.  All my companion plants are already together and enemies are apart.  (c’mon now, play nice!)  But for the most part I like to plan what goes in each section and using this spreadsheet it’s a snap!

What are your tips for planting your veggie garden?

~TMH~

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73 thoughts on “Vegetable Garden Planning Made Easy

  1. Gaye @CalmHealthySexy

    I am getting very excited about garden season. We are planning to plant our “first shift” of plants this weekend. Thanks so much for sharing with the Let’s Get Real party.

    Reply
  2. Heather

    Wow I just LOVE your big garden!! When we buy our land & build our dream house, I’ve already requested room for a garden 🙂 I currently have a small raised bed where I’ve planted okra, kale, basil, parsley & oregano and my husband said he’ll build me another this year, too! Yay! Squash, peppers, strawberries & cucumbers will go in there 🙂 Good to know about the veggie friends & enemies! Hopefully all mine get along!

    Reply
  3. Jamie @ Medium Sized Family

    I never would have thought to plan my garden out on a spreadsheet! That’s a great idea, though, because my notes from year to year tend to get lost. I haven’t had even one raised bed for the past couple of years, but now that the baby will be a good 2 1/2 years old, it will be easier to get out there and work in the gardens this year.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Homestead Post author

      I’ve come to rely on this spreadsheet Jamie, especially since it always has several years running on it at a time. I note what worked well and what didn’t. I note heirloom or hybrid, etc. I’m able to make more well-informed decisions each year based on how the garden faired the previous year. I’m also thinking of adding some weather info (late freezes, extra wet spring, extra dry summer, etc) ~TMH~

      Reply
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  5. lisa M

    I wish I could figure out spreadsheets….yours looks awesome! Thanks again for linking up with Green Thumb Thursday! I hope you’ll join us this week too! ~Lisa

    Reply
  6. Terri Presser

    Thank you for taking the time to share this with us at Good Morning Mondays, because we are coming into winter you are giving us heaps of time to plan. I especially like the spreadsheet. Blessings to you and yours.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      A running start in garden planning is a good thing indeed, eh Terri? I almost waited too late to get started this year. Busy, busy, BUSY! ~TMR~

      Reply
  7. Julia@Happy House and Home

    Thank you for sharing this on Merry Monday! I always love reading your posts! I’m not very good at gardening, and I don’t have a lot of room, just half an acre, but I love fresh veggies in the summer. Maybe I’ll start slow and plant some veggies in containers this spring! Interesting about the beans and the corn too. 🙂 Julia

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Container gardening is a great idea Julia, plus it gives you the opportunity to put only as much effort as you have time for. Lots of time? Plant quite a few containers. Only a little time? Only plant a few. ~TMR~

      Reply
  8. Emily

    Garden planning in Excel? That is the best! I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that. Thanks so much for the idea!! I love Excel…so I really am excited about this. 🙂

    Reply
  9. Mindie

    Wow, you are way more organized then I am! I usually don’t make a plan till after I start my seeds (and I always start way to many.) Thanks you so much for sharing on the (mis)Adventures Mondays Blog Hop. I look forward to seeing what you share this week!

    Reply
  10. Monica

    Great idea to use an excel spreadsheet to help plan your garden!! I’m in the planning stages right now. It will be my first “epic garden” so I’m excited to see what this year’s garden season brings! 😀

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      How exciting Monica! I started out small and expanded over the years, it enabled me to get accustomed to the surprising workload of a successful garden. THIS year I’m trying something different – deep mulching the entire garden area with cold-weather grass hay. It’s said that deep mulching keeps the maintenance down as it doesn’t allow grass to grow in the walkways (and ultimately into my raised beds) OMGosh my fingers are crossed that this works the way they say it will! Check it out –> http://taylormaderanch.com/blog/march-garden-update-trying-something-different/

      Reply
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  13. Jamie

    Great tips!! Living in the mountains and only having a few months of growing season, we have to plan really well. Hoping for great crops this year! 🙂

    Reply
  14. Kristen from The Road to Domestication

    Just wanted to pop by and let you know that you’ve been featured over at the #HomeMattersParty – you can follow this link to check it out, if you like! http://theroadtodomestication.com/2015/02/13/home-matters-linky-party-24/

    Reply
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  18. Nancy W

    Great post! I can’t wait until I can get back in the garden, right now everything is buried under snow! Thanks for sharing your post on the HomeAcre Hop, hope to see you again tomorrow! – Nancy On The Home Front

    Reply
  19. Terri Presser

    I like your plans and ideas. My husband and I start discussing our planting in the winter and then move onto planting after the frosts have stopped. We are nearly at the end of our growing season now but we have decided to build a rather big moveable hot house so that we can get our tomatoes in earlier and hopefully generate enough heat for them to grow. Thanks for sharing another great post at Good Morning Mondays. Blessings

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      I’ve contemplated moveable hot houses but I have severe allergies at the end of the growing season until the first frost, so my best bet is to get an early start instead. I have an indoor greenhouse system I use so I’m able to plant seedlings instead of seeds in the garden. ~TMR~

      Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      LOL Carole, where in the world would I find the time?? Honestly, it’s something that’s been mentioned to me a few times before and something I thing I might consider… when life slows down a bit. (does that ever happen??) ~TMR~

      Reply
  20. Joy @ Joy Love Food

    Great tips! I wish our yard got more full sun so we could have vegetable gardens, for now it;s just flowers, herbs and blackberries. Thanks for sharing at What’d You Do This Weekend? 🙂

    Reply
  21. Margy

    I draw a simple diagram in my journal each year. That way I can remember what went where so I can rotate my plants the following season. With such a small space for my garden I need to squeeze a lot into four beds. – Margy

    Reply
  22. Lorelai @ Life With Lorelai

    I am impressed! I never thought of using Excel to draw a plan out like that before. This is awesome, and you have excellent advice and information to help our gardens grow. Thanks for sharing at the #HomeMattersParty 🙂 Hope to see you again next week. ~Lorelai Life With Lorelai

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Thanks Lorelai, in the past I’d always sketched up something on paper but the following year found me wishing I didn’t have to research all over again which veggies were companion and which NOT to plant near each other. I’ll admit I had a “DUH” moment and I put my garden layout on a spreadsheet – it’s so easy now to see what I planted last year (and the year before, etc) as well as what companion plants do well together. Sometimes I’ll simply rotate beds keeping the planting order the same – works GREAT! ~TMR~

      Reply
  23. M.

    Thank you so much for this wonderful idea of using Excel for garden planning! I’m a newbie gardener (have only tried it for the first time 2 years ago) and I’m reading all sorts of ideas and tips. I’ve looked at gardening apps, but they don’t seem to give me the customization I need as my garden layout is a bit unique. Your post pretty much slapped me in the face: of course! Back to basics with Excel – why didn’t I think of that? Is this system still working well for you? I also like that you have a tab for companion plants (very helpful). What other tabs do you have to keep your plantings organized? Thank you again! ~M.

    Reply
  24. Natasha in Oz

    I’ve just pinned this-your advice is excellent! Thanks. Thanks also for joining the Say G’Day Saturday linky party. Hope you can join us again this weekend. Best wishes, Natasha in Oz

    Reply
  25. Dawn

    Thanks for sharing this, it was chosen as a favorite on our From the Farm hop along with your post about pasta sauce…you’re pretty popular this week!

    Reply
  26. Erlene

    Thanks again for sharing your fabulous post on gardening. I’ve pinned this so we can plan a little better next year.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      That’s awesome Erlene, thanks. Ya know, setting up the spreadsheet does take a little time at first but then each subsequent year you’re just copy/pasting. The cold winter months are a good time to do the initial spreadsheet setup, then you’ll be all ready for spring planting. ~TMR~

      Reply
  27. Tanya @ Seven Springs Homestead

    Thanks for sharing this post at The Green Thumb Thursday Blog Hop! We hope you will join us again this week. These are some great tips on planning your vegetable garden. I also pick what my family loves to eat and fill in everything later. I like to experiment with something new every year but this ensures that we get our favorites in first.

    Reply
  28. Kirsten

    I like the excel sheet idea! I usually just lay mine out on paper five different times before settling on something. This looks a lot cleaner and easier to change!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Yes ma’am Kirsten, plus I like that I have prior year layouts at my fingertips too for proper rotation. Easy! ~TMR~

      Reply
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    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Why thank you Bethany. My dad whittled that dibble for me years ago out of cedar & it’s very sentimental to me – it always comes out when I’m planting. I’ll pass the compliment on to him. ~TMR~

      Reply
  32. Linda

    I can’t wait to get out in the garden. I’m planning mentally now. Thanks. for linking this to What’d You Do This Weekend. Linda

    Reply
  33. Erlene

    We don’t have a large place to plant veggies and plant in large containers instead. You have some good tips for what veggies to plant with each other and we’ll keep that in mind. Thanks for sharing your tips. Visiting from Marvelous Mon. Linkup.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Containers are an awesome way to enjoy fresh home-grown veggies Erlene, good for you! ~TMR~

      Reply
  34. Carole West

    My first tip…. Well I’m keeping it simple this year. Just waiting for the temperatures to stay above 40 before I think about putting anything in the ground. Our weather here in Texas is Crazy lately. This year though with all my planning some surfaced that I mentioned on my blog. As a result everything will be direct seed this spring and honestly I’m happy about it. Just like to keep thing simple and real I guess. Great sketch plan looks like you’re gonna be busy. -Carole @ GardenUp green

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Oh yes ma’am Carole, the weather here in Texas has been c-r-a-z-y! We direct-seed some things in the garden as well, but the indoor greenhouse helps pacify my need to get something planted after the brutal winter we’ve endured. C’mon spring! ~TMR~

      Reply
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  36. Lauryn

    I have not done a very good job of rotating my crops and I have paid for it. This year we are moving and so I’ll be starting over. In some ways I am excited for this change and the possiblity of more land. In some ways I am sad to leave my old garden as I was just beginning to get a feel for it. It will be a container planting type of spring for us:)

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Lauryn, I know what you mean about sadness of leaving an established garden behind, but your new garden will be awesome. In the meantime your container veggies will hopefully satisfy your urge to grow some of your food. Have fun with it. ~TMR~

      Reply
  37. Anne

    Thanks for sharing these tips! I’m excited to get mine started now! Found your link through Mostly Homemade Mom’s linky party.

    Reply
  38. Courtney

    I live in excel all day every day for my day job – and I never even thought of planning my garden using it. What a wonderful idea! Thank you so much!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      I use excel a lot as well Courtney, and the tab system sure makes for some convenient tracking of prior-year gardens as well as companion planting information. ~TMR~

      Reply
  39. daisy

    What a fabulous post on garden planning! I love your design. That must be something to see! Hope you get to start planting soon. Thank you for sharing this valuable information on The Maple Hill Hop!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Thanks Daisy – I don’t consider myself super organized so this system works really well in keeping all my data close each year and since it’s a single document there’s no going from document to document looking up past-planting data. Plus the companion-plant tab really helps! ~TMR~

      Reply
  40. Candy C.

    I do keep track of what I plant where so that I can rotate my crops. I did not know that about the onions and green beans, thanks! I don’t usually grow onions so it has never been an issue but I just put out some onion sets today so I will remember that! I did not plant a garden last year due to too much on my plate and I am really looking forward to having one this year. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Candy I know how it is when you’ve got so much on your plate that you’ve just got to cut back somewhere. I know you’re excited to have a garden this year – way to GROW! 😉 ~TMR~

      Reply

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