Although people endlessly debate whether to dig their beds or not, or what’s the best type of fertiliser to use, they often neglect how to plan their gardening. This has always surprised me because, done well, a plan can more than double your yield, whereas the way you dig, or fertilise will probably improve your yield by just a few percent.
I use a fairly simple set of planning tools, which I will describe in this chapter. They all link together into a single system and everything that I describe is available to view in real-time.
This chapter is not a general introduction to fruit and vegetable garden planning. It’s a deep dive into my personal planning approach and the tools that I use to achieve it. This approach is not for the faint hearted, it’s probably only suitable for the passionate gardener, who aspires to self-sufficiency for at least part of the year. This is even more true for the tools that I use and provide for free, they aren’t just for the passionate gardener, they are for the IT literate passionate gardener. They work best when you are prepared to tweak them to your own unique style and requirements.
It’s really important in gardening to understand what you want to get out of it. If you just want to enjoy the process of pottering around and watching seeds grow into harvests, then you might not need much of a plan at all. If - like me - you want to enjoy stress free, year round self-sufficiency in the North West of England on a tiny (250m2) scrap of land, then you need a plan.
Understand first then what you are trying to achieve and the amount of time and effort you are prepared to devote to it.
<aside> 💡 Debbie and I are virtually (we used to be fully) self-sufficient in veg and seasonal fruit, but I don’t like too much structure and organisation in my life, so I took the approach of being very focused on a few areas of organisation, which I describe in this chapter of my ebook there’s also a video on the topic there too.
If you decide that you want to be self-sufficient, I recommend reading my guide, 8 steps to self-sufficiency, before going any further with this chapter
Having decided on your objectives, the next step is to decide what to grow. I have a whole chapter devoted to this topic, which steps you through the approach that I took and the tools that I make available to help you.
The next step is to create a rough plan. The easiest way to achieve this is with a spreadsheet and Nigel (over on the Muddybootz) channel has a nice video where he explains - from scratch - how to build a basic planning spreadsheet.
I too started out using a spreadsheet, but in the end it wasn’t for me because I needed a more visual planning tool.
I also wanted a planning tool that integrated fully with the rest of my planning database. You can see a live view onto my 2023 plan for just my allotment plot embedded below, or click here to open the full view of all plots
I have another view onto the same data, which gives me a visual plan and this is the one I use the most
It actually matters very little which tool you use, you just need to know roughly what you plan to plant in each bed, for each month.
Now although this chapter is all about planning, I do highly recommend that you sow spare seeds, of your favourite veggies. Good plans always include a contingency and spare seedlings are the best contingency for gardeners, if you are lucky enough not to need them, giving spares away is also such a joy.