Get Out of Your Head and Plan Your Garden


Rob Lewis

Manager,Veteran to Farmer Training Program

Too often, gardeners wait for the right weather in spring to get out their tools and seeds and get busy planting their garden. All of this after having sat and dreamed all winter of their best garden yet.

But with a little effort and know-how, these winter dreams can become plans that will have even the greenest gardener prepared for the mad rush of spring.

Too many would-be gardeners and growers believe design is for experts and technicians. They “wing it” and end up making mistakes that could have been prevented with a little planning. Many great gardeners, including those designed by our greatest agrarian founding father, Thomas Jefferson, have been born of men and women who knew the basics, were willing to experiment, and showed up on that first warm spring day with a plan!

These few, easy tips could help to get your garden dreams down on paper (and, of course, you’re invited to our “Planning Your Best Garden” class at Turner Farm on January 17).

Grow what you love: If you aren’t going to eat it, don’t grow it.

Mix it up: A little research on companion planting will prevent problems with plants that don’t enjoy each other’s company (we are also hosting a Companion Planting class on February 28).

Steal from the best: Going the Google route will turn up an endless treasure trove of garden plans by a variety of growers.

Know your feeders: Light, medium and heavy feeders are increasingly voracious in their consumption of nitrogen. Make sure they’re being fed with compost and be careful about having heavy feeders follow each other in your planting succession.

Keep things rotating: This can get a bit technical but it’s essential that you do a bit of research on the different plant genera (plural of genus). Repeatedly growing plants from the same genus in the same space creates problems that often drive growers into the arms of pesticide manufacturers.

Stay in the zone: Plan your seeding schedule around the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones. Here in Cincinnati, we’re in Zone 6, sometimes sub-categorized as Zone 6a.

Location, location, location: Will you really walk that 100 yards out to your garden to weed and harvest in the thick of the growing season? Where’s your water supply? How much sunlight does your garden get throughout the growing season? In general, keep the garden as close to your home as you can tolerate (a well-maintained garden with integrated flowers is as lovely as any landscape feature). Make sure there is a water source that won’t require schlepping buckets.

Don’t be afraid to fail: Every season is an adventure. Make a bold plan that will provide an abundance of the food you love.

If you’re looking to bolster your garden planning, join Melinda O’Briant, Turner Farm Adult Education Manager, for her Planning Your Best Garden Class in the Turner Farm Studio Barn on January 17.

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