Planning your Vegetable Garden

By Cory Collins, Conservation Garden Park

This time of year is probably not when you are thinking about your vegetable garden, but it is the perfect time to plan it out. Every January and February I start to think of the plants I will work with in my garden for the new year and review what worked and didn’t work the previous year.

I draw my garden plans, but often people are intimidated to use this method because they think drawing it out will be too difficult. Your drawings don’t need to be fancy to work, they are simply to help you think through your space and wish list.

Graph paper is ideal to draw the layout of your garden. Draw the outline of your garden, then make copies of the blank plan. Store all of them in the same place and use a blank one each year to add the plants—you’ll only have to draw it out once. Make sure to mark any changes you may make at planting time then keep each year’s plan for future reference. Making notes during the growing season about the garden also helps with planning later. As I am planning the current year’s garden, I look back on the previous couple of years to make sure I am rotating the location of the various plants. Crop rotation ensures good plant and soil health while reducing the chances of disease. I always plant my tomatoes and squashes in a different spot year to year- no verticillium wilt on my watch!

I like to grow some plants from seed myself. This allows me to grow heirlooms or other hard-to-find varieties. It’s not difficult to start seeds indoors with grow lights, but you should follow the instructions for each plant type on when to plant the seeds. There are many online resources to show you how to successfully grow starts indoors.

Looking over my notes, I have decided to not be such an overachiever this year. Sometimes I grow things just because it seems like a garden should have them. However, if you aren’t going to eat them, then they’re just taking up space and resources for no good reason. Stick to tried and true favorites for the bulk of your garden and maybe try a couple of new things just to keep it interesting. Of course, every year I tell myself I’m going to simplify and then end up with a wide variety of veggies anyway!

There are many great resources available to help you grow a great garden. Utah State University Extension offers extensive online resources and they are constantly testing new varieties to find which are best for Utah. Local nurseries are also a great source for information. We also offer classes here at Conservation Garden Park to help you succeed in your landscape. Our 2018 class schedule is now posted and registration for some classes is already underway!