How To Plan A Garden Layout


How To Plan A Garden Layout – All You Need To Know

Hopefully, the questions and answers I ask myself here – about how to plan a garden layout – will help you design your very own backyard garden.


What Vegetables and Herbs Do I Want to Grow?

Vegetables from a backyard garden

The vegetables I enjoy eating are tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, corn, green peppers, hot peppers, zucchini, and lettuce…not to mention eggplant, edamame, snow peas, radishes and okra.

As far as herbs, we like rosemary, basil, cilantro, dill, and oregano.  And, I’ll add some catnip for our feline family members.


Which Vegetables and Herbs Work Well in My Area?

All of our choices will grow well.  Some may need more sunshine than others but, as long as I make sure that I follow my soil test recommendations to ensure that my garden soil is fertilized to the correct pH and nutrient levels…and water them when needed, we should have a completely successful harvest.


Do I Want to Buy Plants or Seeds?

In the past, I had either a very small raised garden or a container garden (mentioned in “About Me”)…and, I could only grow one or two of each vegetable.  Thus, I bought plants.  But, now, my backyard garden is about 2400 square feet so, I will buy seeds (non-GMO, of course) for all the vegetables I grow.

germinate most of my seeds, transplant my seedlings into biodegradable pots, and harden them off before planting them directly into the garden soil.  My two cents worth:  Since limited window sunshine does not offer the best growth environment for transplanted seedlings, give them a greater advantage by using grow lights…“a cut above.”  This approach creates a consistently successful harvest.

Where possible, I will try to buy “hybrid” seed packets since hybrids are bred to have a better tolerance against conditions and diseases that cause harm to the plants.

For herbs, I will buy plants because, they do not transplant well.  And, after initially putting them in the ground they will come back every year thereafter.  In the long run, buying the plants becomes a cheaper and smarter approach for me.


What Vegetables Will Need More Space in My Backyard Garden?

Zucchini is the first one that comes to mind.  It can overrun a very large part of a vegetable garden.  I will try to space these plants at least 4 feet apart.  Tomatoes will also need at least 3 to 4 feet between plants.  So, I will plan my backyard garden and keep these vegetables at least 4 feet apart in the rows.  I will also try to give myself 4 to 5 feet between rows.

The rest of the vegetables will not require such large areas for growth so, I can lay them out in a more simple, organized way.


What is My Backyard Garden Layout? 

Where is my backyard garden map from last year?  Uh…here it is.

With last year’s map, I can effectively execute my crop rotation plan for this year.  Rotating my crops is a very integral part of planning my garden!  Growing the same vegetable in the same spot year after year not only depletes the soil for that particular plant but, any diseases or critters that attack it will be there waiting for it next year.

Here’s how I do it…

I could separate the plants in my backyard garden into a complex listing of 8 or more groups.  But, in my effort to satisfy the KISS principle, I will Keep It Sweet and Simple…so, everything I grow will be placed into 4 basic groups:



corn, peas, snow peas, lima beans, green beans, edamame


onions, turnips, carrots, garlic, beets, radishes


lettuce, greens, herbs, cabbage, spinach


tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, peppers, zucchini, squash, melons


I divide my garden into 4 areas.

Backyard Garden Crop Rotation areas

Last year, my backyard garden looked like this.

Backyard Garden Crop Rotation Groups 2016

This year, my garden will look like this.

Backyard Garden Crop Rotation Groups 2017

I move my groups of vegetables clockwise through the four areas each year.  This gives the critters and diseases, that are waiting for the return of their favorite plants, enough time to give up and go somewhere else…or die waiting…during the several years before their favorite group returns.


 The other layout consideration is plant size.  I need to make sure that shorter plants are planted in spaces in which they will receive direct sunshine and not be shaded by taller plants. 


Where Am I Going to Put My Backyard Garden?

My main concern is sunshine…at least 6 to 8 hours is necessary for plants to thrive.  This is easier to achieve on the south side of my house, which, coincidentally, is my backyard.  Too much shade will either stunt their development or cause them to grow much higher than normal…trying to reach the sun…and, the vegetables will not look healthy or be flavorful.

I also don’t want to place my backyard garden too close to trees or any other plants that produce large roots running close to the surface of the soil.  It is difficult, at best, and impossible, at worst, to till a garden that has a big thick tree root running through it.

My house has a septic system.  So, I went to the county planning department to get a “drain field map.”  I discovered that the septic system drain field lies beneath a small section of the area in which I plan to place my backyard garden.

I still want to put the garden in the same spot but, I will not place anything in the Root Vegetable Group in the section of the garden that is directly over the drain field.  Not only can the root vegetables become contaminated from the septic system drain field but, if the roots extend deep enough, they could damage the drain field lines and become a major expense to fix.


What Vegetable Plants Thrive in My Neck of the Woods? 

Checking online to determine my gardening zone, I find that most vegetables can grow well in my area.  I also see a color-coded map of the United States on the back of my seed packets that detail hardiness and heat in my area, as well as the best time to plant the seeds.  This is a great guideline and a close semblance of the USDA Hardiness Zone Map.

Other important factors affecting my backyard garden plants are soil, moisture, humidity, heat, and wind.


How Big Will My Backyard Garden Be?

Throughout my gardening lifetime, I have experienced all sizes of gardens…from backyard gardens with almost no square feet to gardens with more square feet than I have in my house… including raised gardens and container gardens.

My advice to beginners is…take baby steps.  Start with a small garden plot…maybe 10 foot x 10 foot…but, no more than several hundred square feet.  Grow a few vegetables that you enjoy that are easy to grow and care for.  Successes will be smaller but, so will the failures.  Thus, less chance to be discouraged.  As you gain experience and knowledge year after year, you can increase your gardening space and the variety of vegetables you plant.


Last, But Not Least

More often than not, my gardening plans will change and, I will have to adapt.  But starting out with a plan is better than flying blind…having no plan at all.


In Closing…

A billionaire, riding in his stretch limousine, saw 2 men eating grass along the road.  Disturbed by the sight, he had his driver stop and, he got out of the limo to talk with the men.

Billionaire to the first man:  “Why are you eating grass?”

First man:  “We don’t have any money for food.  So, we have to eat grass.”

Billionaire;  “You come to my house and I will feed you.”

First man:  “But, sir, I have a wife and 2 children with me.  See them…over there…under that tree.”

Billionaire: “That’s OK.  Bring them along.”

Billionaire to the second man:  “You can come with us, too.”

Second man:  “But, sir, I have a wife and 6 children with me.”

Billionaire:  “That’s fine…you can bring them along, as well.  There will be enough for everyone to eat!”

They all got in the limousine and headed for the billionaire’s home.

The 2 men said:  “Sir, we can’t thank you enough for taking all of us home with you.  You are so kind!”

The billionaire replied:  “Glad to do it!  You will really LOVE my place.  The grass is almost a foot high!”


I love it when a plan comes together.

            (Quote: John “Hannibal” Smith – The A-Team)


Do you have a tried and true technique for planning your garden and rotating your crops that you would like to share in the comments below?  Or, you can email me:


Jim, the Lifelong Gardener

2 thoughts on “How To Plan A Garden Layout

  1. Rina Reply

    I have picked up a lot of tips in this article 🙂
    The biodegradable pots are a great idea and planting would be a breeze. I will take away from here a determined effort to plan my next veggie garden as I am a very disorganised gardener and it never quite comes together so yes…I will have a plan next time 🙂

    • Jim Reply

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article, Rina. it’s always good to start with a plan no matter what. That is how we know where we are going which also makes it easier to implement. But, don’t forget, during and after the gardening season, evaluate the success of the plan and implementation. This is the P.I.E. principle: Plan, Implement, Evaluate.

      And, we all like pies, don’t we?


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