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Publications, Videos & Other Resources - Planning a Home Vegetable Garden

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Prepared by Richard J. Brzozowski, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Gardening is not easy, but it can be very rewarding. A good first step for the beginner or experienced gardener is garden planning. Garden planning is fun, and the time spent planning pays off. Consider the location of the garden first. Is your garden located in the best place available to you? The location can make or break an energetic gardener. When you choose a garden site, consider the following points.

  • Soil type — Is the soil good for gardening? You can improve the soil by adding organic matter, lime and nutrients.  Select a garden site with soil that is well-drained and rich in organic matter.
  • Levelness of ground — Does the ground slope, swell or have lots of gullies? A level garden is not necessary, but it sure makes gardening easier.
  • Sunlight — All vegetable plants need light. The best and most efficient source of light is the sun. The sun also warms the air and the soil. Choose a site that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day.  More sunlight is even better. Prune or take out trees that hinder the sunlight from hitting the garden.
  • Water — Water is a must for plants. It is especially important at transplanting time or when a plant is making fruit.  Locate your garden near a water source.
  • Convenience — Plant your garden at a site that is convenient to you. A garden that takes time to get to usually doesn’t succeed. The need for weeding, watering, pest control and harvest means frequent visits to the garden.
  • Size — How large of a garden do you want?  Consider the site, your family size and your appetite for gardening when you plan your garden.
  • The Growing Season — The growing season in New England is quite short compared to other parts of the country. You can extend your growing season (spring and fall) using transplants, plastic covers, row covers, mulches, cloches, and other techniques.
  • Family likes and dislikes — Choose vegetables that your family will enjoy eating.  Eating produce from the garden is one of the best rewards from your hard work.  Don’t plant more that you plan to eat, sell or give away. If you plan to preserve some of your harvest choose plants that can be easily processed, preserved or frozen.
  • Variety Selection — Select varieties that are known to grow well in your area. Choose those that fit the growing season; check the days to maturity on the seed packet. Consider the varieties resistance to common plant diseases listed on the seed packet.

Plan your garden on paper before you plant one seed or transplant. Your garden plan will save time and increase your chances of success.  Here is how you might create a garden plan:

  1. Make a list of all the vegetables you plan to grow. List them by plant family.Knowing the vegetable families will help in planning rotations.
  2. Sketch your garden site to scale if possible.
  3. Consider trellising to allow for more space and get fruit off the ground. Realize that trellising shades other plants so place them so that all plants capture as much sunlight as possible.
  4. Divide your garden into sections by plant family. Label the sections by family and by specific crop.
  5. Mark the crops with an “S” or “T” to designate which plants will be seeded or transplanted.
  6. Figure out the days to maturity for each crop. Count off the days on your calendar from planting to harvest. Sometimes working backwards from harvest date makes planning easier.
  7. Mark the estimated planting and harvest dates on your garden plan. You want to set up planting so that the crops are ready when you are. Some gardeners want certain crops to “come in” all at once for easy processing. Others like a continuous supply of vegetables all season. If you are such a gardener, you may want to stagger some plantings.

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