Planning begins with a blank garden plan, a list of plants that provide well for us, and a list of new things to try. Then I try to fit everything in the garden plan, determine how many plants of each are needed, and plan out my seed-starting schedule.
Some things to consider in this preparation are:
- Crop Rotation: The Solanaceae family (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and eggplant) represents the majority of what is grown in the garden making crop rotation a challenge.
- Growing Vertical: Tall trellised plants such as pole beans, indeterminate tomatoes are limited to the north end of the garden beds so they don't shade other plants.
- Spring Planting: Early planting is mostly limited to the raised garden beds because they warm up and drain quicker in early spring than the in-ground beds. It is also easier to use hoop protection because the edges of the box helps hold them secure.
An inventory of the preserved garden bounty from last year also factors into the amount of plants in the plan. I don't weigh my harvests, but keep notes on the number of plants grown from year to year.
We rely heavily on canned tomato sauce, canned salsa, and frozen tomatoes to use in soups and stews. So tomatoes, peppers, onions, and garlic are considered staples in the garden and take priority on the garden space. So far last year's inventory is still plentiful and I think it will last us until the garden produces this summer. So little will be changed as far as the amount of plants.
A garden plan has been developed for 2012. A larger version can be seen here in my sidebar. It's a starting point and provides a general idea of what the 2012 garden will look like and the number of plants I will need to grow to fill it. I will probably adjust and tweak it as I go along. The seed-starting schedule will soon follow.