There are many online tools and apps available to help you plot your garden. Each year I draw out my garden on graph paper, list the crops I want to grow, consult seed packets for spacing and start plotting.
There are four main things to consider when plotting out your garden:
Spacing: Your seed packets will tell you the ideal spacing for your crops. Planting too close together will lead to lower yields and stunted crops. Even if your tomato seedlings look way too far apart when you put them in the ground, they will get much bigger. If you plant them too close together, their yield will be lower and it will be difficult to tie them up, prune them, find and remove hornworms, and harvest them.
Companion planting: Some crops prefer to be planted close to others as they assist each other by repelling pests, attracting beneficial insects, providing structural support, nutrients or shade. There are lots of companion plant pairs but here are a few of my favorites to pair together: *
Tomatoes next to basil (basil improves flavor and growth of tomatoes)
Broccoli or Brussel sprouts next to nasturtiums and marigolds (nasturtiums repel aphids; marigolds repel cabbage moths)
Radishes next to cucumbers (radishes repel cucumber beetles)
Carrots next to leeks (leeks repel carrot flies)
Just as there are companion plants, there are some plants that inhibit each other’s growth (like kohlrabi and tomatoes). Do your research ahead of time to make sure you are plotting a garden that will thrive.
to fertilize, water, weed and prune certain plants to ensure they have a bountiful harvest.
Water: In 60 degree weather your gardens need about 1-2” of water every week. For every extra 10 degrees of temperature, add ½” of water to that number. Overwatering or under watering your plants can harm them. Water before or after the sun, so you don’t burn your leaves with with residual water droplets. You can go the hands off (after some up front labor) route and irrigate your crops with a timer or you can monitor rainfall each week with an inexpensive rain gauge to see how much rain your garden has gotten naturally and water accordingly. Seedlings and newly planted seeds need to stay moist and should never dry out so water these a bit more until they get established.
Fertilizer: Some gardeners fertilize every week using all-purpose fertilizers. You can go crazy researching fertilizers specific to each of you crops. I personally don’t use fertilizers. Occasionally I will add an organic tomato booster to my tomato crops and I usually top dress (spread compost in a circle around the base of a plant) all of my plants 1-2 times during the growing season. Sure, my beets and carrots are smaller than the ones at the farmer’s market but I still have bountiful harvests without fertilizing. Fertilizers are merely a tool to help grow bigger crops and produce higher yields.
Weeding: Even if you add weed barriers and suppressors, you will still need to remove weeds throughout the growing season. Weeds rob your crops of water and essential nutrients, and they can prevent your plants from establishing healthy roots. Be vigilant and don’t let weeds get too established. Established weeds are a pain to remove, while young weeds are easy to remove.
Pruning: Pruning is not just for fruit trees and bushes. Pruning tomato, squash and cucumber plants will help increase your yields. You can prune these plants by cutting off excess foliage. On tomato plants, remove any suckers that shoot up from the base of the plant, remove excess flowering, about 1/3 of the flowers, and remove sickly or deformed fruit on crowded vines so the plant can put its energy into the healthy fruit.