Girl harvesting tomatoes from backyard garden

Whether you are growing an herb, vegetable or flower garden, now is the time to decide what you want to plant, map out the size and look of your garden and select the plants that will grow best in the climate where you live. We’ll walk you through the steps you need.

  • Step 1: Decide on a Garden

    What kind of garden do you want to grow? Do you want it to beautify your yard with brilliant splashes of color? Attract wildlife? Grow delicious vegetables and herbs? These are the questions to ask yourself while planning your garden.

  • Step 2: Map It Out

    Use graph paper, a ruler and pencil to sketch out a basic diagram of your garden's dimensions and what you want it to look like. If you've previously planted a garden, jot down what you've grown before and consider what worked and what didn't. It may be time to try growing a different variety of plants this year to replace a plant or plant type that may not have fared so well the previous season.

    On your diagram, indicate the location of each plant group, the estimated length of each plant row, and the estimated spacing between the rows and between the individual plants.

    Taking note of which plants worked and which didn't is important for all kinds of gardens, especially vegetable gardens. Rotating vegetables in and out every year or, at the very least, moving plants to a different part of the garden will help keep your soil healthy. The soil can "wear out" after repeated planting of the same plants in the same location year after year. Changing them helps the soil replenish necessary minerals.

    Helpful Tip

    Many gardeners keep a garden journal to track previous seed and plant purchases, successful – and unsuccessful – crops, articles and clippings, planting dates and ideas for their garden. Now is a perfect time to begin your garden journal.

  • Step 3: Choose Your Plants

    Do some research to find out what grows best in your climate. The more you know, the more successful you'll be. If you're growing a decorative garden, decide on whether to use perennials or annuals. Perennials will need maintenance every year; annuals die and need to be planted year after year.

    Shop early for the seeds you'll need so you will have them when it's time to plant. Many plants and flowers can be started indoors until it is warm enough to plant outdoors.

    In addition to the climate, consider other environmental conditions, such as the amount of sun/shade, temperature, water and wind. Some plants do better in the sun and others prosper in the shade. Vegetables that do well in the sun include tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, eggplants, squashes, peppers, peas and beans. Those that thrive in shade are lettuce, chard, beets, cabbage, mustard, turnips and spinach. For vegetable gardens, choose hardy plants that won't succumb to sudden frosts and the cool temperatures of early spring. Kale, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, beets, onions and peas are good choices for a spring garden.

    Water amounts and soil type should also come into consideration. If the ground is too wet or the soil is too sandy, growing a garden could prove difficult. If you live in a windy area, the plants you grow should be sturdy enough to withstand powerful gusts.

  • Step 4: Plot It Out

    When choosing your garden space, check out the quality and type of soil. Avoid clays or sandy soils if possible. Loose, well-drained soil is preferred. Avoid planting near driveways or other areas where factors out of your control can lead to damage.

    Be sure that tall plants don't tower over shorter plants, depriving them of sun. Avoid planting near trees or shrubs, as their roots will compete with your garden plants' roots for water and sustenance. Consider your water source and be sure hoses and sprinklers will reach the garden area.

    Helpful Tip

    Remember to leave enough space between plants, especially anything that might crowd other plants growing next to it.

    A good-size starter garden is about 30 square feet. If space is minimal, you can grow plants on a plot of land as small as 20 square feet – just choose compact varieties of herbs, flowers or vegetables like squash, tomatoes and cucumbers. Keep in mind that you'll need to spend about an hour a week on every 100 square feet you plant.

  • Step 5: Don't Forget Decorative Touches

    Shop your local True Value hardware store for garden furniture, fencing or hardscaping (garden paths, stones and edging) and other lawn and garden products that fit your budget and make the garden you envision a reality.

  • Step 6: Mind Your Budget

    Gardening can get expensive quickly so, while you're planning your garden, remember they are built over time. By starting slowly, you won't buy things you don't necessarily need and you can search out the best deals on plants, seeds and other materials such as gardening tools. To save money, plant your own seeds instead of purchasing live plants from a nursery. Another way to save on plants is to get cuttings from a fellow gardener. In addition, many gardening clubs host plant swaps, which are good opportunities to get plants inexpensively.

  • Step 7: Assemble Your Tools

    Once you have a basic outline of what your garden might look like and what you will be growing, you should have a good idea of what tools you'll need.

    These are the basics every gardener needs:

    • Shovel
    • Spade (for precise shoveling)
    • Bucket
    • Pruning shears
    • Trowel
    • Hoe
    • Wheelbarrow
    • Gloves
    • Watering can
    • Garden hose

    Nice work! Now that you've planned your garden and gardening space, you will be ready to break ground when the weather warms up.

Project Shopping List

Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.