Outdoor Living: How to Get Started Garden Planning

Benefits of Garden Planning

The outdoor living experience is so much better with a great garden. Planting a garden benefits greatly from planning. It not only reduces stress but greatly increases our chance of success. Planning can help hold us accountable and provide us with motivation and prevents us from wasting our energy, resources and time.

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Keep Your Bigger Plan In Mind

An overall landscape plan for your yard helps you plan for the future. Most landscape features are put in place a year or project at a time. If you don’t plan ahead you may put a garden in a place where a patio would be better. The Spruce has a list of 11 different online garden planners and programs you may want to try out.

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Location Location Location

Choose a location for your garden that gets a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight each day. The more sun the better. Most of us have a vague idea of where the sun falls in our yards but you might be surprised if you actually mapped it out. Sun mapping is a good way to determine sun exposure across your yard over the day. Try this free printable sun chart that’s part of my garden journal.

The location of your garden should be near a water source. Remember to water your garden during morning hours so leaves dry quickly because wet leaves may harm your plants.

Having a garden in close to your home encourages more time caring for the garden. More weeds will get pulled, more veggies harvested, more flowers enjoyed and plants will be watered more often if you can see your garden.

Outdoor Living In The Zone

As a rough guide for gardening the United States Department of Agriculture  (USDA) identified 13 zones by average annual temperatures. It’s been adapted by many other countries including Canada. Knowing which zone you are in can help you plan which plants to choose.


It’s a good idea to find yourself a gardening friend or guru in your Zone. Here we are Zone 3b and my favourite garden advice comes from the amazing Kristen at Shifting Roots.

Garden Maintenance

Watering, weeding, edging, trimming, fertilizing, pruning and tidying. When you keep up with gardening tasks your plants will be stronger and healthier. Regular attention makes them easier to maintain, helps prevents disease and fight off unwanted weeds and pests. I like to spend a minimum of 15 minutes in the morning in my garden and much more time if I can. 

Although basic tools will do, good tools make the job more enjoyable. You can find some of my favourite garden tools in my post 10 great garden gift ideas.

Good Soil

Knowing your soil and understanding what to do to improve your soil is the most important thing you can do to guarantee a great garden.

Nutrients must be available to plant roots. Too sandy and porous the nutrients are not going to stay in the soil..  Too compact and heavy and the soil won’t give up the nutrients and heavy compaction means that you may lose your plants. Take the time to make sure you have good soil before planting.

A soil test can determine the current fertility and health of your soil. Having your garden soil tested is an inexpensive and quick way to find out what is going on in your garden soil. It can tell you exactly what you need to do to improve it. I think I will invest in a lab soil test this year after reading this post by The Prairie Homestead.

Planting the Garden

Check depth, spacing, spread and height.

The seed planting depth has an impact on seed-to-soil contact as well as seeds’ access to moisture and temperature. Planting too shallow may result in poor germination due to low moisture near the surface or seed injury due to bugs or disease.

Spread is the width of a mature plant. Knowing this helps by allowing us to space specific plants properly ensuring plants have enough room. Properly spaced plants are less stressed and more resistant to pest problems.

Knowing the height of your mature plant makes sure that you do not accidentally shade other plants. Locate the taller plants at the rear or north side of the garden.

Companion planting is grouping some plants with each other on purpose. Things like pest control, pollination, maximizing space, and increasing your crop can be improved with companion planting. Garden Know How tells us in their post that turnips and carrots are light feeders that like potash in the soil and should be grown together accordingly. 

You can also plant according to colour or texture. ‘I often break foliage down into groups of textures – large leaved, “dotty” leaves, spear-like leaves and medium, often glossy foliage,’ says John Wyer from a post from Homes and Gardens. 

Keep a Garden Journal

By keeping a garden journal you can improve on your seed starting dates, soil amendments, plant care and pest control. No one can recall everything about the previous years. Journaling gives us a way to look back, change and improve on our gardening techniques and experience. 

There are lots of gardening journals available online. My garden planner journal is available printed or as an instant download printable. I like the PDF as you can print more pages as you need them. It’s 22 pages with everything from setting up your growing space and documenting your planting to recording and making use of your harvest. Keeping records can help you become a much better gardener and help you reach your outdoor living dreams.


I hope these ideas help to break down the planing steps for you to create a beautiful garden for your outdoor living this year and for years to come!


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