Welcome to my kitchen veggie garden planner! It will help you plan your kitchen garden from seed to pantry.
After running a 4-season market garden for 8 years, I have a sense of what it takes to grow the foods you actually want to harvest in a kitchen garden.
I spent much of January breaking down that knowledge into these 20 steps that will help you plan your kitchen veggie garden from seed to pantry.
The more you do before the last frost of the year, the easier time you will have planting, growing, and harvesting in the months to come.
This post contains affiliate links based on my personal experience with products that support a seasonal lifestyle. As an amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I hope you find them useful.
It’s all about the veggies…and fruits in the kitchen garden!
Heirloom vegetable and fruit plants are some of the most beautiful things in nature.
Color and texture spring from the ground, reaching for the sun and bringing delight to the gardener.
Of course, all this vitality begins in rich, well-drained soil. Raised beds are the best way to care for nature and generate food in a kitchen garden.
I say this at the beginning to spark your imagination, to stimulate your memory. It’s probably been a few months since you’ve spent time growing outdoors. Break through your winter doldrums by remembering the essence of the garden.
Look at pictures of gardens from years past. Remember what worked. Think of ways, small and large, to make them more wholesome, healthy and productive.
These thoughts will create emotions.
It is those emotions that will compel you to take the actions described below.
The results? A beautiful garden, a healthier planet, and a full to bursting pantry!
Overwhelm and the Kitchen Garden
In January and February, our eyes are bigger than our gardens!
We spend hours dreaming over seed catalogs. Many a gardener buy seeds and supplies without a plan and end up with more seeds than our gardens could ever accommodate.
That’s an excellent formula for overwhelmed before we even get to our first harvest of the season!
So, slow down. Breathe. Grab a cuppa.
Read through these 20 steps to planning your kitchen veggie garden. Just read them through.
Then, grab your Kitchen Garden Planner and Journal and implement the process, step-by-step, month-by-month, and season-by-season.
Before you know it, it will be September and you’ll be planting your fall veggie garden! You’ll be feeling confident and joyful in the memory of a robust growing season.
Infrastructure, Soil, and Weeds
Soundly constructed raised beds that contain your beautiful soil will go a very long way in helping manage your weed problem.
If your raised beds borders are weedy and grassy, the weed seeds will find their way to your soil. They’ll break through your garden in succession as soil temperatures rise sparking germination from chickweed to ragweed.
Poor soil also harbors dreaded weed seeds and pest larva.
Take time to amend, amend, and amend again. Giving back to the soil what you have harvested, succession after succession is essential to a healthy and vibrant kitchen garden.
If it doesn’t get planned it doesn’t get done!
Be sure to calendar these kitchen garden tasks, and be sure to budget for them as well!
Poor soil and infrastructure will invite unfriendly bugs into your garden. Once a part of your garden ecosystem, these pests are ever harder to eradicate.
Plan your work and work your plan in the kitchen garden to optimize fruit and veggie production, while minimizing the threats to the garden.
Grow What You Eat
This kitchen veggie garden planning process begins with completing the Seasonal Kitchen Pantry Planner.
If you simply start planning your garden by flipping through seeds catalogs, buying willy-nilly, you are sure to not grow the things you actually eat.
It will help you identify the foods you eat most, the ones you are buying that you could be growing, and the items you always forget to grow yourself.
The Kitchen Garden Planner and Journal
Have you ever experienced garden envy?
You know the feeling. You visit a friend’s kitchen garden and eaten their produce. Then, you find yourself thinking, I’ll never be able to keep up with a project like this!
Yes, most gardeners and would-be gardeners have such experiences.
Have you ever dug into gardening with great enthusiasm in the spring only to find yourself overwhelmed by weeds, bugs, and expenses come midsummer? This is a common gardening phenomenon as well.
Bob and I know first hand the joys and trials of growing clean, tasty fruits and vegetables year after year. We’ve grown for ourselves and our friends and neighbors for nearly a decade. Using the wisdom of 10 years of experience building a 1-acre market garden, we created this beautiful, useful, and inspiring Kitchen Garden Planner and Journal.
The 20 steps below can be completed without the Kitchen Garden Planner and Journal, but the $5 investment will make the whole process a whole lot easier and more organized!
Is a CSA for you?
A CSA (community supported agriculture) is a product offered by most small farms that allows you to buy into a portion of their harvests for the year. We called our CSA a farm share program because that seemed to translate better for customers than the term CSA.
If your garden space is limited or you travel a lot, please consider buying into a crop share from one of the local farms in your area. It’s a great way to affordably eat organic produce, support the local economy, and bring ease to your time in the kitchen garden.
Use this directory to find a CSA that is right for you. You can also visit your local farmers market and talk directly to the farmers! It’s really the best way to feel a part of the community you join when you purchase a farm share for the season.
What’s your agricultural zone?
Agricultural zones are geographic designations that are based on the first and last frost dates in specific regions.
When planning your seedling and transplant schedules, you will need to know your frost dates to set the appropriate times for plantings. Not doing this could cause crop damage and extra expense.
When we first moved to this farm in Harpers Ferry, WV we did not believe our neighbors when they said the last frost date was on Mother’s Day weekend every year. That year, April was bright, sunny, and beautiful. So, we planted tomatoes the last week of April, much as we had always done back in Baltimore, our home town.
That hard last frost did come exactly on Mothers Day, as it has most years since. We scrambled to build a makeshift greenhouse with remay, rope, and clothes pins to protect the plants. It worked! But, we learned a hard lesson along the way.
Be smarter than we were! Know your zone.
Here’s a quick overview of plant hardiness zones. Photo Credit: Wikipedia. Use this information to tailor the information in this post to your specific climate.
Organize your seasonal life with the 2020 Seasonal Living Planner!
Yes, another freebie to help you create your seasonal life!
This comprehensive planner will help you set goals for your kitchen garden, seasonal kitchen, and personal wellness routines in 2020. It’s based on my own planning process that allows me to grow, cook, and care for myself in seasonal time.
It creates healing and allows you to step into your innate role as a healer in this fragile time.
20 Steps to a well planned kitchen veggie garden!
20 steps may seem like a lot, but I created this list to help you manage overwhelm.
Some steps will take a day or two, others less than an hour.
All I recommend is that you do not skip a single one!
1. Complete the seasonal kitchen pantry planner so your veggie garden actually grows what you eat!
Stop the guess work when it comes to your food preservation schedule!
Don’t allow another harvest of your favorite summer flavor slip by unpreserved!
Go to this post, read the instructions, and complete the planner before your order one more seed. Come November, you’ll be glad you did.
2. Draw your existing garden to scale.
Take time to draw your kitchen garden(s) to scale. Create the design with simple lines so that you can copy it to plan crops and expansions.
Speaking of expansions, if they are in the works, leave room on the page to draw them in as well.
There are several garden design pages in the Kitchen Garden Planner, but this is just as easily done in a spiral notebook dedicated as a garden journal for 2020.
3. Draw any veggie garden expansions and new gardens to scale.
So, here I am recommending that one set of drawing be done for the garden as is. Then, create a second set to include any expansions.
I promise this will help with overwhelm as you can plan the expansions around garden maintenance chores, spring planting, and other inevitable yard work.
4. Make a plan for weed control, soil adjustments, and 4-season infrastructure.
The absolute best way to manage weeds in the kitchen veggie garden is to tend to paths between beds in advance of planting. Otherwise, come June, the grasses and weeds in the paths will drop seed right into your raised beds.
Here are some recommendations for pathway covers:
- Newsprint paper covered with hardwood mulch or straw.
- A cover crop like white clover grown between beds.
- Landscape fabric covered with stone.
- Paths wide enough for a push mower to maintain.
- Beds higher than grass, at least 3′ high.
Once your raised bed is planted, mulch around transplants. There are a variety of mulches that will suppress weeds and hold in moisture including:
- Straw, but beware that a lot of straw sold today is not clean. This means it has a lot of seed heads in the straw mixture which will germinate leaving you with wheat weeds in your garden. This is a double threat as much of that wheat will be GMO seed stock and contaminated with glyphosate. When we use straw, we source it locally and age it by leaving it in the rain for a week or two to germinate most of the seed in the bale.
- Newspaper and wood mulch. This is very effective under and around vining plants like squashes and melons. It’s great for tomatoes, too!
- White clover. Sprinkling white clover seeds around plants like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant will suppress weeds and nourish the soil at the same time as the plant is a nitrogen fixer.
Solarization is an organic method of weed abatement for existing riased garden beds, and for creating new garden areas.
It is a method of capturing the heat from the sun to raise the soil temperature high enough to burn existing weeds, and germinate and burn weed seed.
You will need either UV plastic or black plastic and weights. The outdoor temperature does not matter as much as the availability of direct sunlight as we are using a greenhouse effect to create the increase in temperature.
This method is very effective and kind of addictive. You can solarize weedy beds for a week or so, or you can solarize a bed in between successions to help eliminate weeds.
Use this comprehensive overview to understand the method better.
Soil Testing and Amendment
In the market garden, we could effectively plan crop rotation to help build the soil. The rotations look something like this:
- Plant a high demand crop like tomatoes in rich soil.
- Next succession, a root crop to break up the soil.
- Third succession, a nitrogen fixing cover crop like beans or clover.
The kitchen garden is a bit different. Because of the limited space and faster harvests we are often planting several (3-4) successions to a bed in one year. That overwintered arugula becomes a potato bed in the spring. Come July, that potato bed might very well begin to grow summer squashes. Come August, we’re asking it to take on the high demand crop of broccoli.
The best way to support the soil in a high yield environment like this is by adding lots of fresh organic compost and organic fertilizers.
Some will elect to test their soil and follow a prescribed amendment schedule. I simply add my handcrafted soil mix to the beds after each harvest, solarize for 2-3 days, and plant again.
5. Use the calendar sheets to schedule in times for garden maintenance and expansion.
The dates you’ll want to mark or hold on your calendar are:
- Dates for the last frost in the spring and the first frost in the fall.
- Vacation times so that you can plan for best garden care while you are away.
- Harvest time for perennial crops including rhubarb, lovage, strawberries, asparagus, berries and stone fruits.
- Weeks you want to dedicate to planting, expansion, or building infrastructure.
The Kitchen Garden Planner has seasonal, monthly, weekly and daily planner sheets to help you organize these seasonal highlights in the kitchen garden.
6. Reference the Seasonal Kitchen Pantry Planner to make your wish list of veggies and fruits for your kitchen garden.
Because this post focuses on kitchen veggie garden planning, we want to align our crops with our menus. We’ve discussed this earlier, so I’ll just leave the link to the planner here.
7. Plan the spring garden.
I found a nifty calculator online that helps you plug in the crops you want to grow and it will help you calculate the number of plants you’ll need and the space required for those plants.
8. It’s time to look at seed catalogs!
I know you are saying, FINALLY!
But the whole point of planning is to stop knee jerk purchases and really become a craftsperson in the kitchen garden.
Crafting requires precision, and precision requires study, observation, and skill.
I only use 1-3 seed sources per year. The reasons are quite simple. I want to create an intimate relationship with my suppliers. I want to have a settled sense of quality of product from the supplier at the end of the growing season. And, most importantly, I want to avoid overwhelm at all costs.
Overwhelm is an emotion created when you know what you want to do, but you don’t know how. Too many big bites of information on the how, or too many whats with no how create a sense of not knowing what to do next.
There are plant and seed selection forms in the Kitchen Garden Planner, but you can just as easily use a piece of graph paper or an Excel spreadsheet to build your list of crops, varieties, and sources.
A word about seed swaps…
I highly recommend seed swaps. I participated in the Super Duper Seed Swap last year and saved a lot of money, added varieties to my garden I’d never used before, and felt like I joined a community.
I dream of organizing one this year for our sweet little community. We’ll see how that all comes together…
9. Make your budgets. Shop!
Not very sexy, but oh so important! Budget your garden expenses during the winter months and track them as the weeks and months go by.
I think everyone has their own budgeting process, but here’s mine:
- Create my calendar of garden projects so that I know I have time for all the projects I am planning in the garden for the year ahead.
- Cost out materials and supplies for each project from seeds to soil amendments, building new raised beds to creating cold frames.
- Compare those expenses to what’s available in the household budget for the garden.
- Trim expenses, find alternative sources, and set the final budget.
- Track expenses.
- Compare budget vs actual at the end of the year and use that information for next year’s planning.
10. Use the Seed Starting Schedule to plan your indoor planting.
Once you’ve decided which seeds you will purchase, and which you will buy as transplants, it’s time to get growing!
You’ll start with 2 kinds of vegetables:
- Ones that have a long indoor growing period like tomatoes and peppers.
- Cold crops that can go in the ground once the soil temperature reaches 50 degrees.
Continue to start seeds throughout the growing season. Transplanting can help speed up the time between successions, harvest after harvest.
A few notes about it:
- It is a 4-season garden plan for zone 6a. My last frost is the first week of May. The first frost is in mid-October.
- February through early March direct seeding and planting are happening in hoop houses.
- It is created for a very large garden with 19 raised beds.
DISCLAIMER: Feel free to use it at your own discretion taking into account your frost dates, available growing space, etc. This is designed for a 4-season garden in zone 6a.
11. Make soil, start seeds, organize supplies.
OK, with all that, it’s time for the rubber to hit the road!
Rules of thumb for planning seedlings and transplants for the kitchen garden:
Start these seeds 8-10 weeks before setting out date: celery, celeriac, eggplant, leeks*, onions*, parsley*.
Then, these seeds 6-8 weeks before setting out date: artichokes, basil*, hot and sweet peppers, tomatoes.
And, these seeds can be started 4-6 weeks before setting out date: beets*, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustard*, okra, spinach*, Swiss chard*, sweet pea*.
*indicates plants I prefer to direct seed when soil temperatures break 50 degrees but can be started indoors.
A Quick How-To for Starting Seeds
Fill the cells of your seedling tray with organic potting soil that is moist.
Place 1 or 2 seeds in each cell. Water and cover with a dome that usually comes with the cell trays for 24 hours. This ensures the top layer of the soil mix doesn’t dry out and stop the seeds from germinating correctly.
Remove the dome once you see the beginning of growth in the cells. If you leave the dome on too long mold will grow on top of the soil. Not a big problem, but why take the risk.
Once you see the seedlings emerging, water the cells. Then water every other day or so.
Lighting should be close to the top of the trays and the space between the lighting and the plants should be adjusted as the plants grow. When the lights are too far above the seedlings you get those gangly seedlings that never seem to thrive. Be sure the lighting isn’t so close it scorches the seedlings. As a rule, I would say I keep my lights about 2-3 inches above the seedlings on my grow shelf.
12. Be sure to document your plantings.
Document, document, document.
What we observe expands.
A well detailed map of where we’ve come from is the best information to help get us where we want to be. Garden planners and journals are all about course corrections, year after year.
13. Be sure to consider perennial crops in your veggie garden plan.
The older I get, the more I love perennial fruits and vegetables in my kitchen gardens!
These are plant once and get years and years of harvests kind of plants.
Perennials should be planted in early spring or during the fall months to allow the roots to become well established. Do not harvest the first year.
Here is the list of my favorites!
- Bunching onions and walking onions
- Berry canes
14. Overwintering crops in the veggie garden.
Overwintering crops are those planted in the fall and harvested the follwing spring or summer.
Garlic is the most well known overwintering crop as it is planted after the first frost and harvested in early July.
Other overwintering crops include:
- Swiss Chard
- Broad beans (fava beans)
These crops will benefit from a layer or two of agribon covering to protect them from hard frosts and freezes.
15. Take care of the infrastructure before you plant!
In the time between seed starting and planting transplants, you need to tend to the infrastructure of your kitchen veggie garden.
- The very first thing is to take care of ay weeds. Solarize the beds if you have the UV plastic.
- Amend that soil. Use the Soil Amendments worksheets in the planner to keep track of what you’ve done.
- Tend to pathways.
- Build new raised beds.
- Install irrigation systems where they are useful, like beds dedicated to tomatoes, peppers, and melons.
- Create 4-season infrastructures, like hoops, that can support UV plastic in the cold months and shade fabric in the throws of summer.
16. Rotating crops in a kitchen veggie garden.
In step four we talked about the need to plan succession to help tend to our soil in the kitchen garden.
Planning what crops will follow each early planting will help you get the most from each season as well!
As you plant your early spring crops like spinach, kale, lettuce, collards, and beets, keep track of days-to-harvest for each.
Then using the rule below, plan as best you can what transplants will go in after your harvests.
- Plant a high demand crop like tomatoes in rich soil.
- Next succession, a root crop to break up the soil.
- Third succession, a nitrogen-fixing cover crop like beans or clover.
Remember, that fresh lettuces can be direct seeded every 2 weeks in small, leftover spaces in the kitchen garden. I like to break my beds up like this because I think it helps with pests.
17. Be sure to make arrangements for your vacation when you plan your kitchen garden.
How many times has your garden burnt out in July because you took a vacation without planning for the garden?
By considering this early, you can install timers on your irrigation systems to help keep everything lush.
You can probably make arrangements with a neighbor to stop by and do a little harvesting while you are away, too.
It’s a small thing, that if tended to can have big impacts on your garden’s ability to flourish into September.
18. Mark big harvest dates on your calendar.
Take the time to mark harvest dates, which are probably big food preservation dates as well, on your calendar. I find the seasonal planners in the Kitchen Garden Planner to be helpful for this kind of thinking.
If you eat an ocean of strawberries in the winter then you’ll want to make time to preserve strawberries in June. If you grow them and then get lost in all the end-of-school-year demands it will all be for lost. See what I mean?
This is true for harvests of crops you may not grow but are locally grown like berries and other fruits.
For me, these dates are like Holidays! They are kind of sacred and special.
19. Include children in the planning.
If you are fortunate enough to have children in your home, be sure to include them in the planning process. Their ownership of the garden is essential when you are trying to find time to be in the garden.
If you are a homeschool family, garden planning can be a unit that has lessons for math, biology, history, and literature!
You might even want to let them build their own little raised bed to manage. Just a thought…
20. Plan a garden party!
Garden parties are a beautiful expression of your love for your garden and pride in its health and generosity.
Share your bounty with family and friends by inviting them to bring garden-to-table potluck items and you supply the main course and drinks.
We often include a little how-to time and garden tour when we have these gatherings. There’s also plenty of music on the front porch, too!
Use these links for detailed monthly garden tasks!
There’s a party happening and we’re waiting for you to arrive!
We also gather over email once a week to focus on one specific garden, kitchen, or wellness topic in-depth, with lots of step-by-step how-to’s. The best way to jump into the email conversation is with the Seasonal Living Workbook, you can download it here and explore the seasonal living framework with an email course!
So much love and free information in one place, but it’s not the same without YOU!
- What is a kitchen garden?
A kitchen garden is growing space in a backyard that is dedicated to growing vegetables, fruits, and herbs for use in daily meals and for food preservation.