Well, here we are, late March! Are you ready to design the layout of your garden?

For those who have space, those who’ve not planted a garden before, or those who get to plan theirs anew every year, you need to have a rough plan. It will give you an idea how many seedlings you should start or have on hand of each kind of plant.

First, know that we gardeners always get overambitious and end up tending tonnes of seedlings we have to give away! What’s worse is planting seeds that never germinate, or else germinate and fail. Planning helps deal with this disappointment.

I’ve not started any seeds yet this year, and I’m almost always late at it. I have a fine collection of seeds and a cute little terrarium to plant them in, but I have to dedicate the hour needed to do the job. If you want to see a cheat sheet on when to plant certain kinds of seeds in Montreal, here’s one I created:

Seed Starting plan by crop
When to start certain kinds of seeds indoors. If you would like the PDF, subscribe to the email list below, and reply with your request!

Last year I concentrated on planting native species, so now I have to wait and see what will come up. There’s not a lot of free space for me to plant until I see what’s already successful – and that won’t be until Montreal’s traditional Big Gardening Weekend, the third weekend in May.

In one of my first big years here, I made super-awesome plans for a SPIN farm. It was SO MUCH work, way more plants than my yard had space for. And then I failed at doing the successive plantings, and the backyard was too shady and plagued with pests and thieves (slugs in particular, even with a welcome skunk here to eat them), so it wasn’t very productive. But if you have good planters to keep them, having extra seedlings can come in handy!

A few garden planning resources you can try

Usually, I’d point you in the direction of native plants for reasons of beauty and biophilia, but food production is the focus. So here’s a short list (I’ve received no endorsements and can make none, this is just quick research):

  • Mother Earth News Garden Planner and their Vegetable Garden Planner.
  • The Old Farmer’s Almanac also has a Garden Planner, and it’s mobile-friendly.
  • SmallBluePlanner’s Garden Planner 3 (requires Flash) allows you to create a plan, but you can’t save or print it. However, its classic interface seems like a great way to practice if you are trying to learn and visualize what can fit into a measured space by nudging elements around. The details of the elements, like the colours and textures of gravel, are nifty.
  • SmartDraw landscaping software looks powerful. It’s an online version of a downloadable software (the software is good for more than landscaping), but it requires a login after it’s loaded. You can use your Google account.
  • Smart Garden Planner – this appears to be the most modern, functional version for what people planning their own garden might expect, and it’s well-priced for convenience: $6 for a 3-month membership or $20 for an annual one.

You’ll find others if you look, but give these ones a go, and do let me know if you like any of them.

Here’s an app idea for anyone who’d like to combine game creation with reality: I played Farm Town like a fiend on Facebook in 2009, before Zynga grabbed the idea and took over the world with it (the link is a single-subject, single-post blog on Farm Town vs. Farmville!). I mean, who didn’t play FarmVille? There’s something fun about planting virtual seeds and watching them grow. But I think it would be amazing for a garden planning tool to do that!

involve me if you’re inspired to try. I got skillz and I like building stuff.

Harrowsmith magazine, a classic Canadian publication, started up again in an online format a few years ago, which I was happy to see. You can read their gardening articles here.

You could always browse the Lee Valley catalog if you’re looking for gardening implements (tools, doodads) and supplies. If you can’t find particular things in local stores, they’re the go-to place for mail order (or a trip to Ottawa) for specialty items.

And if you want to be inspired (and read up on more advanced gardening techniques for market gardening), check out The Market Gardener. It’s a farm in the Eastern Townships that really learned how to create content, a book, and a film, as well as grow a lot of vegetables.