Garden Planning

Here are several suggestions for keeping garden records. They are useful tools for planning the garden including permanent plantings, crop rotation, and seed saving. This is a sample from the seed saving curriculum I developed for Organic Seed Alliance.

Mapping the Garden

Description: Gardeners and farmers map their home garden or field site as the first step toward systematic garden planning.

Objective: Create an accurate map of garden or field as a base plan for graphically planning garden activities: annual planting plan, crop rotation and seed saving.


100 ft tape measure, 30 ft tape measure,

24” x 36” paper, newsprint or drafting vellum,

Mechanical pencil, .5mm

Architect’s or engineer’s scale (a simple ruler can work.)

Camera for photographing the baseline or landmarks, and shooting the same site from different angles.

Compass for determining north, aligning the map correctly, and determining an initial understanding of the Sun’s arc across the sky.

Mapping a garden or farm can be the first step in designing a garden or farm fields; it provides structure and order. Maps are useful for:

  • General gardening concerns: crop rotation, green manure or cover crop, succession planting.
  • Identifying plantings of crop varieties that have lost their label.
  • Establishing beds with permanent isolation tents.
  • Maps work in tandem with garden journals.
  • Planning isolation distances for growing seed crops by determining if the site provides sufficient distance or if you need to plant adjacent edible or flowering crops as physical barriers to the spread of pollen.

Preparation: Regional gardening clubs, master gardeners, or seed libraries might invest in these tools and offering them in a lending capacity.

Action: Mapping the site with 1inch = 4 ft, or 1 inch = 8 ft, or 1ft = 10 ft Start with Baseline. A is zero. Mark every foot in a small garden or every 10 feet in a larger site. Then measure points at right angles to the baseline by using another tape measure. (For example: The garden shed is 7.5 ft to the east of baseline at 12 feet from point A. The first bed begins 3 feet to the west of the baseline at 21 feet from A, and so on.)


Start with one location and label that A. Measure A to next landmark (tree, building, or water faucet) mark B, record distance. Then A to another point labeled C, measure and record distance. B to C. Measure and record distance. Once a point is anchored by triangulation, go on to connect to next feature, once again using triangulation. This is particularly useful in determining relative positions of trees and other free standing landmarks on the property in relationship to the garden, field or growing site.  Draw an approximation. Indoors use the 24 inch by 36 inch page and architect’s scale to accurately record everything. Use pencil and eraser. Use triangles or straight edges  to keep lines clean and accurate.

Photos reinforce the visuals when you refine the map indoors.

One thought on “Garden Planning

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s