Planning and Design

  Garden Diary—Photo credit: MG Sharon O'Grady   Raised bed——Photo credit: MG Sharon O'Grady

Photos by MG Sharon O’Grady

Planning and Garden Design

When the days begin to lengthen in the new year, seed companies send out enticing catalogs to seduce us with images of beautiful vegetables. But before succumbing to plant lust, it’s best to know: What do you want to plant? When can you plant it? How much space will each veggie take? Do you have access to enough sun and water? Do you want to plant seeds or starts? What do you need to consider if you want to save seeds? How can you get the most from your garden for the time and money you invest?

Whether you have a large or small garden space to devote to growing food, you’ll be more successful and satisfied if you do a bit of planning. In this class, you’ll learn about frost and planting dates, varieties to select, what “open pollinated (OP)” means, where to plant what, how to avoid pests, succession planting, crop rotation for fertility and plant health, which veggies are easy to save seed from and the consequences of saving seed from hybrid varieties, how to extend the growing season, and the value of a garden notebook.

Garden Design and Planning PPT Slides

Outline: Planning & Garden Design — includes a planning exercise

Below are resources to enhance your learning.

  • Home Vegetable Gardening in WashingtonWSU Extension Publication EM057E, a free 27-page download PDF, describes site-specific growing conditions, tools and equipment, vegetable planting, irrigation, soil management, integrated pest management, harvesting, vegetable storage and preservation.
  • Where and When to Plant — WSU Snohomish County Extension, Community Horticulture Fact Sheet #1, about choosing a garden site with adequate sunlight, soil, and access to water, as well as guidelines on when to plant.
  • Deciding What to Plant — WSU Snohomish County Extension, Community Horticulture Fact Sheet #2, a free online publication about what crops to grow in the maritime northwest based on vegetable value and nutrition.
  • Garden Records — WSU Snohomish County Extension, Community Horticulture Fact Sheet #4, a free online publication about keeping good garden records and using them in planning for the next season.
  • Raised Beds: Deciding If They Benefit Your Vegetable Garden — WSU Extension Publication FS075E, a free 4-page download PDF, explains the benefits and drawbacks to raised beds, deciding whether you need them, choosing soil for them, and how to build them.
  • Growing Food on Parking Strips and in Front Yard Gardens — WSU Extension Publication FS115E, a free 6-page download PDF, discusses how to assess your site, evaluate your soil, protect water quality, and ensure food safety in parking strips and front yard gardens.
  • Container Gardening — WSU Extension Puget Sound Gardening Tip Sheet #6 discusses container selection, soil and fertilizers, crops, and watering.
  • Plastic Culture To Extend Growing Season — WSU Snohomish County Extension’s free online publication is about structures that help provide more heat and extend the growing season for plants that are native to warmer climates.
  • Intensive Vegetable GardeningWSU Snohomish County Extension, Community Horticulture Fact Sheet #47, a free online publication about  making your garden as efficient and productive as possible by intercropping and successive planting.
  • Evaluation and Looking Ahead/Rotations — WSU Snohomish County Extension, Community Horticulture Fact Sheet #20, a free online publication about crop rotation and keeping a useful garden “log” to help in planning for the next season.
  • Using Crop Rotation in Home Vegetable Gardens — WSU Snohomish County Extension’s free online publication that lists vegetable plant family classifications, explains crop rotation and why it is important, and shows a crop rotation plan for home gardens.
  • Seed varieties for our region are available through Territorial Seed Company,  West Coast Seeds, Uprising Seeds, and Osborne Quality Seeds.

Season Extenders

  • Fall and Winter Vegetable Gardening in the Pacific Northwest — PNW 548, a free download PDF publication by Oregon State University, University of Idaho, and Washington State University. Learn how to plan ahead and enjoy fresh vegetables from your garden using cool season crops and season extenders such as cloches, cold frames, and row covers.
  • Fall and Winter Vegetable Gardens for Western Washington — WSU Snohomish County Extension publication about vegetables that can be planted here in summer or early fall for winter and early spring harvest.
  • Maritime Northwest Garden GuideTilth Alliance’s book is a month-by-month gardening manual tailored to the Pacific Northwest climate that outlines when to plant vegetables, herbs and flowers. In addition, it features information about the principles and techniques essential to year-round organic gardening. (128 pages, $18.95).
  • Cool Season Gardener: Extend the Harvest, Plan Ahead, and Grow Vegetables Year-Round by Bill Thorness, Skipstone, 2013 — How would you like to serve your own carrots for Thanksgiving, or fresh-from-the-garden salad at the winter solstice? Or how about collards for Christmas, leeks on New Year’s, and lovely red beets for Valentine’s Day, all right from your own garden? You can, without much trouble, by practicing winter, or cool-season gardening.
  • Winter Gardening in the Maritime Northwest: Cool Season Crops for the Year-Round Gardener by Binda Colebrook, New Society Publishers, 2012 — Many gardeners can supply a significant amount of their own food during the plentiful summer harvest. But the key to substantial savings on your food bill is putting fresh, homegrown produce on your table every month of the year. And in the mild, forgiving climate of the maritime Pacific Northwest, it can be easier than you think.

Seed Saving

  • Seed Saving  — Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library is an online site that offers free booklets about seed saving, as well as links and videos on how to save seeds.
  • Seed Savers Exchange  —  This network of gardeners has a mission to preserve heirloom varieties and share seeds. Their website offers guides on all aspects of seed saving. at
  • Heirloom Seed Library 2019 and Seed Saving Instruction Guide  —  After the descriptions of seeds available in the Seed Library, this 2019 online publication has an 8-page section of instructions for seed saving. It includes basic seed saving directions fory seeds that are easy to save: Leguminosae (beans, peas, legumes), Compositae (lettuce), Solanaceae (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants). Intermediate instructions are given for those that require more care to avoid cross pollination: Cucurbitacea (cucumbers, melons, squash). Advanced instructions are given for those vegetable families that are more challenging: Allium (onions, garlic, shallots, chives), Brassicaceae (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale), Chenopodiaceae (beets and chard), Umbelliferae (carrot), and Zea mays (corn).
  • Seed Saving by Valerie Rose —This 5-page 2010 online publication outlines some basic seed saving principles.

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