How to Plan a Garden

How to plan a garden for efficient use of space, and your time. Since its getting to be that time of year for seed starting (at least in the northern hemisphere) I thought I would provide a quick example of how I plan my plantings here on the farm.

Suzie hard at work. I just take the pictures ;-)

The instructions here are intended primarily for those intending to start a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) market garden, but the same approach applies to other market gardeners and even home gardeners who want to be more efficient in their garden planning.

Lesson 1 in how to plan a garden is to determine the quantity of each crop you plan to feed your CSA customers. For this example, let's assume I am planning for 30 full CSA shares.

Now let's figure out how many weeks of delivery I will need for beans.

I direct seed snap beans around my last frost date. For this planting, I would use a dark-seeded variety like Provider that will germinate in cool soil. Days to maturity (i.e. before I can start picking) varies from about 45 days to 55 days, depending on the variety and the time of year. Let's take 50 days as an average.

If I allow a few days for germination, I expect to pick beans from my first planting around the first week of July (May 10 plus germination time plus 50 days).

Most varieties of snap beans will produce for about 3 weeks. So that means I will replant beans every three weeks until 50 days before my last frost (Realize that you may lose a few beans if the frost date is exactly October 5 or earlier, unless you protect them with row cover).

Last planting date therefore is around August 1 (October 5 minus 50 days minus a few days for germination) to hopefully get a couple weeks of picking before frost hits.  So I will make about 4 plantings in all. You can read more about a seed starting schedule here

Lesson 2 in how to plan a garden is, how many seeds in each planting? Typically a snap bean plant will produce about 1/4 pound of beans over its 3-week useful life. So if you are providing 2 pounds of beans each week to each share, you will need to start about 2 lbs/share divided by 1/4 lb per plant times 30 shares times 3 weeks = 720 seeds planted every three weeks.

To be on the safe side, I would plant at least a thousand seeds each planting, especially early in the season.

Lay out your beds the same size for easier planning

Lesson 3 in how to plan a garden is to figure out how much space your crop will take. Snap beans work best for me when planted 6 inches apart in all directions. So a 30-inch wide bed could hold 4 rows. 1000 seeds would therefore need (1000/4/2) = 125 ft of bed, or 2 1/2 50-ft beds.

That's the math, folks, you need to do that for each crop to plan your garden. Keep good records about yield quantities and dates to adjust your planting for next season.

You might like these

My Garden Planner Spreadsheet

2020 Edition of my Bootstrap Market Garden Planner

I created this software tool to take the 'guesswork' out of planning your garden crops. The Bootstrap Garden Planner will tell you:

  • how much of each crop you have to grow, on a week by week basis, to meet your customer demand
  • when you need to start the plants
  • when you can expect to harvest them
  • how much each crop will yield
  • how many garden beds/rows you will need for each crop
  • how much space your garden will take

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Bootstrap Market Gardening, my first Bootstrap Book, shows you step-by-step how to start-up, market and manage an organic market garden based on CSA principles.

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