7 Things to Consider Before Starting Your First Garden (Planning Checklist Included!)

Congratulations on starting your first garden!

There is much to do… are you wondering where to begin?

I’ve put together a list of things you’ll want to consider when you’re ready to get started on your garden dreams. If you’re short on time, skip to the end to download my free Garden Planning Checklist.

Happy planning!

FIND THE BEST SPACE

When you’re thinking about starting your garden, first determine how much space you have to dedicate. Think about how the sunlight hits that space– does it get 6-8 hours of sun each day? Would you consider it partially shaded? What are the measurements of this space?

SET YOUR BUDGET

Ahh… gardening. You can be as frugal or as spendy as you want. Take a look at your budget and set a limit. Consider things you might need to buy: tools, building materials, soil, compost, seeds, seed trays, and plants you might buy locally.

GET REAL WITH YOUR TIME

Get serious about how much time you’re willing to spend on your garden. You will be spending time babying plants, pulling weeds, watering, pulling weeds, harvesting, preserving, and cleaning up your gardens at the end of the season.

The amount of time you’re willing to dedicate to your garden should lead you back to the size of your space.

(I know you can do it! I’m rooting for you!)

Are you still happy with the size you’ve chosen? Good. Let’s continue.

FIND YOUR ZONE

In order to know which plants are likely to thrive in your location, you need to figure out which zone you live in. Use the interactive USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Type in your zip code or enter your state and you’re good to go!

DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT TO PLANT

What fresh foods do you enjoy? How much do you love those foods (because if you really love cucumbers… you might plant more than one hill.) How much space do you have for storing your harvest? Are you planning on sharing?

WARNING: After your first year of gardening is over, you’ll have become a fellow Dirt Dreamer. You’ve had success. You trust yourself to grow your own food. You’re up for new challenges. You’re convinced the growing possibilities are endless! You know what works and what doesn’t work. You won’t be able to help yourself. Don’t fight it. Embrace it.

RESEARCH YOUR CHOICES

Now that you’ve chosen what you want to plant, throw yourself into some good old fashioned internet research. Which plants are best to start from seed indoors? If you’re not into seed starting yet, where will you purchase garden-ready plants? Which plant seeds get sown directly into the garden?

Find out the mature plant sizes, and which plants make good plant neighbors or bad plant neighbors to others. This will give you an idea as to how many plants you can fit in your space successfully, as well as make you think that maybe you don’t really love cucumbers that much after all.

DRAW YOUR MAP

Using Excel or a pencil and paper, draw a plot roughly the size of your garden space. Determine the layout of your plants by height (so they don’t shade other plants), and by good neighbors/bad neighbors.

Using the measurements of your entire space, determine how many of each plant will fit, and where they will be planted.

Below is a screenshot of a simple garden layout. It doesn’t have to be fancy! I prefer to sketch up my plans with a pencil. Choose a way that makes the most sense to you.

SIMPLE GARDEN LAYOUT

First time gardeners, I wish you all of the good things that go with gardening. Have patience, keep realistic expectations and enjoy your growing adventure!

Are you a gardener already? What are some things that you think about for your garden each year?


Check out the story about how we built our garden here.

Posted by

Hi! I'm Kerri. My husband and I call Iowa home, and we have two spunky children and a very patient dog. Our little family is pretty much up for anything-- we love exploring and trying new things together.

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