Home For The Harvest’s free garden planner will help you create the annual vegetable, herb, and flower garden you’ve been dreaming of. Have you always wanted to grow juicy heirloom tomatoes? What about a delightful crop of flowers to share with friends? Maybe a bumper crop of basil for homemade pesto? Let’s get planning!
Download your copy of the free garden planner from the email sign-up page.
The free garden planner guides you through planning out your garden in a handy, hard-copy format. It includes an easy step-by-step garden planning process and is supported with gardening tips sent right to your email. Join over 10,000 gardeners who have already downloaded this helpful planner!
“Planning ahead can help you to get the best results from growing vegetables, put your fantasies into practice, and harvest fresh produce all year round. Thinking about the whole year ahead also helps to spread the workload.”Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Complete Guide to Natural and Chemical-Free Gardening, by Anna Kruger, Maria Rodale, and Pauline Pears
The 8 Simple Steps to Garden Planning Success
The free planner includes a section for each of the 8 basic steps of starting a garden. The steps include everything from choosing the right things to grow, drawing a proper layout, and scheduling out your crops. Each section in the planner includes a corresponding companion article with detailed background information to support you through each step.
- Set Your Garden Goals
- Find Your Garden Mentor
- Discover Your Growing Zone
- Pick Your Type of Garden
- Choose Crops You’ll Love
- Determine the Right Number of Plants
- Draw Your Garden Map
- Create Your Planting Calendar
Once you’ve printed your planner, go through it step-by-step, referring to the companion articles for background information. When you finish the steps, you’ll have a handy seed shopping list to keep you on track at seed swaps, a clear garden layout map for when you plant your garden, and an easy-to-follow schedule for when each crop needs to be planted.
I have my garden planner printed on cardstock each year at the office store down the street. The heavier paper keeps nice and sturdy throughout the year. I prefer to keep the pages loose, but I’ve seen some beautiful planners that have been bound at a printers or tied together with garden twine. Make it your own!
Planning Your Dream Garden
What do you dream of growing in your garden? Take a moment and really think about your dream garden. Imagine it. Take a walk in your imaginary dream garden. It’s hard to make something real without a picture of what you’re looking for.
“There are so many possibilities when first starting to grow vegetables that it is helpful to ask yourself a few questions, set priorities, and then plan accordingly. Would you like to produce staple vegetables, or unusual types not easily available in stores? Do you have facilities to store vegetables over winter? …How much time do you have to spare?”Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Complete Guide to Natural and Chemical-Free Gardening, by Anna Kruger, Maria Rodale, and Pauline Pears
Here are some of the most popular annual veggie plants to grow in a garden:
- Butter Lettuce
- Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes
- Mini Cucumbers
- Peas in a Pod
- Lacinato Dinosaur Kale
- Brandywine Heirloom Tomatoes
- Sweet Carrots
- Peppers, both Sweet & Spicy
- Curly Green Kale
In addition to vegetables, most gardeners like to add in a few annual flowers and herbs to their garden plan. Popular flowers include zinnias, sweet peas, and marigolds. Gourmet gardeners love growing basil, parsley, and cilantro. Without getting overly specific, create an overall goal for your garden this year and write it down in the free garden planner.
Gardeners Love Helping Gardeners
You’re not in this alone! Fortunately there are boundless resources (far and wide) for both planning and growing a garden.
Here are some places to look for extra help if you’re feeling like the support would be helpful:
- State co-operative extension office (USA)
- Local seed companies, garden centres, and plant nurseries
- Regional gardening club or permaculture group
- Facebook groups about gardening
- Quora, Twitter, and other online forums
- Online gardening courses!
There are people in every town who know the ins and outs of gardening in their area. Ask about when the last frost date has occurred during the past few springtime seasons (and write it down in your free garden planner!). Inquire about what grows really well where you live. A little bit of local insight goes a long way in the garden!
“The cheapest gardening education can be had in the pages of plant and seed catalogs. If you are not welcoming the New Year in possession of a pile on the bedside table and another on the dining table, make it the first resolution to order some now.”A Way To Garden: A Hands-On Primer For Every Season, by Margaret Roach
Plan Your Garden For Your Local Climate
The worst gardening fails seem to happen when I try to grow things that just don’t love my local climate. Knowing your local growing zone is key to choosing plants that will thrive in your garden.
If you already know your growing zone – great! If not, here is an article that will help you determine your local growing zone.
“There exists no stronger connection with the living soil, the earth, and the changing season than eating food you yourself have sown, nurtured, and harvested.”Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Complete Guide to Natural and Chemical-Free Gardening, by Anna Kruger, Maria Rodale, and Pauline Pears
Choose a Garden Type (or Types)
Outdoor plants are generally planted directly in the ground or in container pots. Raised beds, which are like giant container gardens, are a very nice happy-medium type of garden. Consider what will work best for you (and remember you can mix and mingle containers with in-ground plants!).
“Before planning your cutting garden on paper, it’s important to know what you’re working with. This includes how much space you have to grow in and what kind of sunlight it receives during the day.”Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden, by Erin Benzakein
In-ground gardens will need to be measured so you can get an estimate of the amount of growing space you have available. You’ll also need a soil test. If you’re using containers, consider how much space you have available for them. Use this information to fill in Step 4 of the Free Garden Planner.
Remember that most annual garden plants do like some sun. Also keep in mind that waterlogged ground is not good for vegetables. Try container gardening or raised beds instead of fighting the natural tendencies of the area. Here is a detailed article on the pros and cons of different types of garden structures.
Choose Crops for Your Annual Garden
Now its time to get specific about what plants you’ll grow in your garden this year. I love this advice from gardening expert Margaret Roach:
“To try to get real and filter “everything” down to “doable,” I list what I enjoy eating most often and most of all, which may still be too many things to fit in my available space.”A Way To Garden: A Hands-On Primer For Every Season, by Margaret Roach
Also be real about the conditions of your garden. Do you have wonderful loamy soil? Or is it more like heavy clay? Will your plants bask in morning sun….or is it more of a full shade situation. Be real with yourself about the environment and conditions in which your plants will be growing before getting your heart set on a certain thing.
“Deep shade will severely limit the growth of vegetables, but some can tolerate light shade, including lettuce, chard, beets, and kohlrabi.”Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Complete Guide to Natural and Chemical-Free Gardening, by Anna Kruger, Maria Rodale, and Pauline Pears
And one more thing – WRITE IT DOWN! There is a nice page in the free garden planner for you to write down the crops you’ve decided to grow in your garden. This page will become your shopping list when it comes time to buy seeds or go shopping for seedling plants.
Ok ONE more tip – Do not be intimidated by botanical Latin. Every single plant has a fancy Latin botanical name. Go ahead and write ’em down. Try and speak them to the staff at the nursery. Above all, don’t worry about your pronunciation of botanical latin. Its only written language anyways! Go for it. There is no “correct pronunciation”.
“Botanical Latin, it turns out, isn’t a real spoken language at all, not the mother tongue of ancient Rome, but a system of nomenclature (or naming) invented by Carl von Linne, also known as Linnaeus, in 1753.”A Way To Garden: A Hands-On Primer For Every Season, by Margaret Roach
Figuring Out How Many Plants Will Fit In Your Garden
I didn’t estimate how many plants I’d need for my first few gardens. Then I came to know the pain of finding exactly the right thing to grow….and not buying enough. Seeds and seedlings are generally only processed and sold once each year. Don’t be like beginner-me. Make sure you buy enough!!!
The free garden planner includes a workbook section to help you figure out how many plants will fit in your garden. Also check out this detailed post on determining the right number of plants for your annual garden.
Tip – Varieties that have been bred to be “mini” or “baby” often do well with a very close spacing and are perfect for space-restricted gardens.
Drawing a Garden Layout Map
Oooh now the fun really starts! Drawing a layout map of my garden makes me so happy each and every off-season. Nothing is better than imagining rows upon rows of heirloom tomatoes when your days are full of shovelling rows upon rows of snow. Ugh. I dream of tomatoes.
The free garden planner will guide you through the process of drawing a layout map for your annual garden. There’s also this detailed article all about how to how to draw a veggie garden layout map.
Make a Calendar for Your Garden Crops
Now that you know what you’re growing, how many of them you’re growing, and where they’re going to go, its time to decide when to start growing them! Each crop has a different lifespan from seed germination to harvest. Make a calendar in your free garden planner so you remember when to plant each crop and when its estimated to be ready for harvest.
Some leafy greens can be planted outside while it’s still frosty and will be ready to harvest at the beginning of summer. Big heirloom tomatoes might not be ripe until after the kids go back to school in September!
Use the information on the seed packets, seedling labels, and in this article about how to make a schedule for your annual garden.
“Whether you grow vegetables in a community garden with the companionship of other gardeners of in the seclusion of your own yard, nurturing your own crops to harvest can provide a peaceful, satisfying, and healthy respite from the stresses and strains of everyday life.”Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Complete Guide to Natural and Chemical-Free Gardening, by Anna Kruger, Maria Rodale, and Pauline Pears
Using The Free Garden Planner Throughout the Year
If you’ve followed along using the free garden planner, you’ll now have a basic plan for this year’s garden! Keep your garden planner handy throughout the season to jot down notes and observations. Weather patterns, fertilizer applications, and the timing of various garden maintenance tasks can be hard to recall. There will be lots of things to remember for next year’s garden plan.
“Growing vegetables organically is a positive, empowering, rewarding, and (for some) spiritual experience. Above all it is deeply satisfying, enjoyable, and fundamental to our very existence, with many health benefits.”Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Complete Guide to Natural and Chemical-Free Gardening, by Anna Kruger, Maria Rodale, and Pauline Pears