Planning for the 2015 garden actually started last year as I observed what worked in the current garden and what did not do well in my garden, given soil and climate conditions. I usually write up a post mortem on the garden but slacked off this year. Still, I know what worked for me and what did poorly. I also keep a list of interesting new varieties to try, influenced by visits to the kitchen garden at Tower Hill Botanical Garden and fellow bloggers and gardeners.
The next step is to finally decide what I am growing next season. I make up a planting list, inventory my seeds, and then decide what I need to purchase. I like to try new things so there are usually several new varieties in the list. For those, I need to find a seed vendor who carries them. A snippet from the 2015 list is shown below and the complete list can be found here. Vendor codes are at the end of the complete list at the link.
The next task is to develop a planting schedule for each plant being grown. This is a multi-pronged, iterative task. Given a fixed amount of gardening space, I have to determine what fits where, how much of each variety to grow, and when to start seeds and when to plant/transplant. For this task I have two tools:
a plot plan of my SFG garden with ruling into one-foot squares, and a planting schedule spreadsheet.
The plot plan looks like this and I can write in year and Spring or Fall for planting season. I sit down with my planting list and a 0.5mm mechanical pencil and a good eraser and work out a planting arrangement for the year. You can see I am dealing with a fixed amount of space: the plot is 15x22 feet and I have 180 squares to squeeze in everything I want to grow.
The work with the plot plan diagram produces the number of plants or seeds of each variety that must be started/planted. and is transferred to the planting schedule. The schedule is shown below and the online version may be viewed here. The schedule has the usual columns for planned and actual seed start dates but it also includes number of plants and format (soil block size, etc.). Plants are listed alphabetically, which has the advantage of keeping them together. Sorting by seed starting date might make sense, but might also make a mess since that column has non-date entries. So I just scan the column to see what I need to do next.
I print out copies of the plot plan and planting schedule and put them in sheet protectors to keep them clean. They go with me to the garden and I try to keep them updated with the actual dates. Sometimes I even manage to update the online file with the actual dates and notes. This creates a record of dates, what was planted, and what worked that is then useful in planning the next season. And now as I scan the schedule while writing this, I see I better get to work with my brassica and pepper starts