2023 Garden: How I Plan

Recently I received a curious email from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, one of my favorite seed companies. The email referred to me as a “VIP” customer and categorized me as a “commercial grower.” Every time I check out when purchasing Johnny’s Seeds I identify myself as a “home grower.”

So how did I become a commercial grower? Did they make a mistake?

And then it came to me. OMG. No. They base my classification on purchase volume. They sent me a list of all the seeds I had purchased in 2021 and 2022, and it looked like I was running a farm.

I’m not sure why they’d do such a thing if not to shock a backyard grower into curbing her seed spending. However, it motivated me to be more efficient about using the seeds I have and keeping my planting contained to the space I have.

That was my intention. What I realized is that I’d developed a newer, better way of planning my garden than I’d ever done before.

Taking stock: growing area

The first thing I had to do was take stock of what I had. That begins with growing area.

Due to the fact that we live in a semi-rural area, I a) do not have to abide by homeowners association rules and b) have a little more space than most. So, I can expand into the yard and get a little messy in areas that are visible from the street.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve added more beds. In total, I have more than 400 square feet of bed space. I made a list of each:

A list of my garden beds. I gave each a number, a name, a square foot approximation and a sunniness rating.

Taking stock: what I want to grow

Then, I took stock of what I wanted to grow this season. It was a long list, but that’s okay because I have a decent amount of space.

For each item on the list, I noted

  • The flower/herb/vegetable variety
  • How many square feet of space the item took in the bed
  • How many of the items I wanted

This told me the total number of square feet needed for that item. See the list below (you’ll have to scroll within the window to see the full list).

Making the perfect match

Then, I began assigning items to beds. I didn’t note precisely where inside the bed I’d put each flower/herb/vegetable–I can figure most of that out later as long as I keep in mind what varieties might need to be staked or supported.

Also, I tried to keep like items together. For example, I attempted to place most of the cut flowers in Luke’s garden as that’ll make them easier to harvest. Similarly, the indeterminate tomatoes will go in the Hügelkultur garden as that bed has a strong system to support tomatoes.

By the way, for each bed, I rated the amount of spring/summer sunlight, from weakest to strongest, 1 to 5. Areas with a 4-5 level of sunlight will likely get row cover this summer. Cooler areas at level 3 will likely see some heat-tolerant lettuces (like Muir and Sunland Romaine) as well as low-bolting carrots and beets.

As I placed each item in a bed, I crossed it off. I made it all the way through my list and discovered something really exciting: I actually have more bed space than flowers and veggies I plan to grow! I can fill in spaces with beans and herbs as well as additional new varieties that catch my attention over the next few months.

(See below for an example of what one bed will look like. Pretty, right? I’ve been using Airtable to support my garden planning, seed-starting tracking, etc. Contact me if you want to know more about Airtable. You can get a forever free account, and it’s pretty awesome. If you’re interested I can try and make a generic copy of the Chrissie’s Garden Airtable I created.)

Since I recently placed another Johnny’s order (and yes, I did this after receiving the “commercial grower” email, I know, I’m an addict), I have space to try out the new varieties I ordered. I will also have space free up as I harvest garlic, onions and potatoes early in the summer.

So there you have it — my 2023 planning method / seed-purchasing justification system.

Let me know how you like to plan and what you’re planning to grow this year!

I’ll share what I’m planning to offer in seedling sales in an upcoming post.