Planning a garden takes time and preparation. Good preparation can be the difference between a lush, healthy, beautiful garden, and a wasted investment resulting in ailing, unproductive plants. Having the right tools for the job can make garden planning easier and more efficient. Whether you are starting your first garden or your have had many, arm yourself for success with the proper tools.
Before investing your time, money and sweat into your garden, test your soil. Good quality soil is key in a successful garden. Knowing what kind of problems your soil has will help you amend it when you begin preparing your garden plot. Some kits are designed for home use to quickly tell your soil's pH, phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium levels. Some kits enable you to send samples to a lab for analyzing. Lab reports are usually more accurate and offer recommendations for fixing your soil quality.
Space planning is important, no matter how large or small the garden may be. Keep a tape measure handy to measure your garden plot. Calculate your square footage. This will help you calculate how many plants you have space for. It will also help you when you are trying to determine how much top soil, mulch, or compost you might need. Use graph paper to create your garden design plan by creating a chart based on your square footage and making a diagram of where each plant will go. If you prefer, use computerized garden planning software tools to help you design your space.
A journal, date planner or notebook will help you keep track of many things, from the time you start planning until the end of the growing season. Keep a list of plants, plant care instructions, to-do lists, planting dates, and keep track of fertilizing all in your gardening journal. Be sure to make a note of your growing zone, which you can find by checking the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Plant Hardiness Zone Guide (see resources below). This can help you select plants that will thrive in your climate. Also keep track of the average first and last frost dates for your region (see resources) so that you can plan your planting dates.