How to Plan Your Garden - from Dream to Reality - plus a giveaway!

How to turn your garden dreams into reality and grow healthy, organic food for your family!

You have a dream.

Your heart longs to grow your family's produce and provide healthy, organic food with no pesticides or other unhealthy chemicals.

Then you started reading about succession planting and companion planting and season extenders and frost dates.... and your eyes might have glazed over and you stood in a state of inertia, unable to take even a first step.

Scroll down for our awesome eBook giveaway!

This post contains affiliate links; if you click on a link and make a purchase I might make a small commission but it doesn't affect the price you pay. Read my disclosure here.

If you've ever grown a vegetable plant or herb before - even if it was a single tomato plant in a container - you should consider yourself a gardener! You can do this!

And if you haven't yet tried, I hope you will soon jump right in.

No matter what season it is, you can start a garden this year. Start with a fall garden, or spend the winter planning and preparing: lay out your garden on paper, spend long evenings dreaming over seed catalogs, and get your hands dirty in the spring. 

Whatever you try first, write down what you did and tweak your plans for the next year. (Keep reading, we'll talk more about this.)

Where to put your garden

If you're starting from scratch you have the luxury of deciding on your garden's location armed with knowledge. I have three suggestions for you when deciding on location:

  1. Plan your garden's location in an easy-to-get-to spot - near enough to the house and your daily activities that it is easily accessible and visible. Don't let "out of sight, out of mind" ruin your garden dreams. 
  2. Choose a place that is in full sun if possible, with six or more hours of sunlight. If your yard doesn't have full sun all day long, notice which areas do get the most sun during the day and put your garden there. (There are work-arounds to this - keep reading!)
  3. Locate your garden near a water source. Dragging a hose across the yard is much better than hauling buckets and buckets and buckets of water!

My current garden location was not my first garden location. It is, in fact, the third. 

Both the first and second were too far from our water spigot AND in out-of-the-way places. Those first two failures showed me what I needed and I learned from my mistakes, and my third try turned out to be the best garden spot.

Those first two locations were in full sun, but I had to make an effort to go out to the garden. The current location is one I pass several times a day on my way to and from the barnyard. 

I'll glance over as I walk by and notice that the grass in the pathways needs mowing, the tomatoes need staking, the compost pile needs turning. 

It's much easier to pop in and pull a few weeds as I walk past. 

The fact that it's shaded by a large oak tree in the morning doesn't seem to bother the vegetable plants at all - and I appreciate having some shade to work in the garden on those really hot summer mornings.

Grow healthy, organic food for your family with these tips on planning a vegetable garden!

How much space do you need?

Actually, this question is more about how much space you have available. A small yard in suburbia often means a small garden, but there are ways to increase your garden's yield: intensive gardening, for instance, or vertical gardening, and even placing ornamental containers with vegetable plants in sunny spots in your yard.

Companion planting and succession planting are also ways you can increase your garden yield without increasing its size.

I recommend fencing your garden for several reasons. My fence keeps my dogs from walking through the raised beds and digging up plants. It keeps most of the wild rabbits out. It does keep out the armadillo that ransacks our yard under the cover of darkness.

My fence does not keep out the raccoons that steal melons the night before I plan to pick them. (I've never eaten a melon from my own garden! How frustrating is that?) 

I'm not bothered by deer in my garden, but your mileage may vary on that count.

Be sure that the gate in your garden fence is wide enough for wheelbarrows, lawnmowers, and tillers to get inside.

Turn your garden dreams into reality - tips on planning a vegetable garden.

How will you garden?

Do you envision orderly rows of vegetable plants? Or do raised bed gardens fit your mental picture?

Your decision to plant in the ground or in raised beds is sometimes dictated by your location. If your yard is rocky or your "soil" is packed clay, raised beds would be a good alternative to planting in the ground. Raised beds enable you to provide rich, well-draining soil.

Find out how to build a raised garden bed here, even if you're not proficient with power tools.

If you have fertile soil to begin with, as we did when we lived in the Upper Midwest, planting in the ground might suit you better.

You can even build raised beds on top of a concrete slab and grow food! And don't rule out a container garden if you live in a rental home or don't have any "ground" to speak of.

Start a garden! How to plan your garden and grow healthy, organic food for your family with these tips.

What will you grow?

Now for the fun part! What do you want to grow?

Make a list of the vegetables and fruits you want to raise at home. The sky's the limit: write them all down!

The next step is to whittle that list down a bit, because if you're like me, you do not have enough space for all of it. Am I right?

Cross out any vegetables that your family won't eat. No matter how pretty the photos are in the seed catalogs, if no one will eat swiss chard, there's no reason to grow it.

If you're the only person in the family that will eat tomatoes - but you love tomatoes - you can still grow them, but don't plant a dozen tomato plants. One or two plants will probably yield all the tomatoes you can eat fresh over the summer. If you plan to can tomato sauce, plant more.

If you are limited to a very small space, consider focusing on the vegetables your family loves and eats most often, or growing some of the fruits on the Environmental Working Group's dirty dozen list of foods that are commercially grown with the highest amounts of pesticides.

Tips on planning a vegetable garden so you can grow healthy, organic food for your family.

Where do you live?

Your location will also help determine what vegetables and fruits you can grow in your garden.

My gardening daughter lives in zone 5A, with a growing season of about 114 days. She's limited to growing short-season vegetables. 

She has learned that beefsteak tomatoes require too much time to ripen in her garden, so she grows cherry and slicing tomatoes, which ripen much earlier. Her peas finally begin to ripen in mid-July.

She could plant lettuce seeds in mid-summer and have a "fall crop," right after her "spring crop" has been harvested.

That's succession gardening, by the way: planting something else as soon as the first crop is done. Nature abhors empty space and will fill it with weeds; we should fill it with food instead.

In contrast, my zone 7B garden in central Oklahoma has a growing season of approximately 208 days

Instead of looking for short-season vegetables, I need heat-resistant and drought-resistant varieties. It's much too hot in summer to even think about cool crops like lettuce.

To find your USDA growing zone, go to and enter your zip code.

To find your average frost/freeze dates, go to Dave's Garden and enter your zip code.

Turn your garden dreams into reality - tips on planning a vegetable garden.

How to benefit from experience

We've lived here at Oak Hill for over fifteen years now. I've discovered the gardening method that works best for me (raised beds), the best location, which vegetables grow best in my garden (tomatoes, peppers and herbs) and which ones are nearly impossible for me to grow (carrots). 

I started with a small garden and have increased the size as I gained more confidence.

I know when to start looking for squash bug eggs, and that I need to wrap the stems of the squash plants to keep vine borers from attacking.

I know what grasshopper damage looks like on the comfrey leaves and onion tops. I've learned that growing onions from plants works better for me than growing them from sets. 

I like growing hardneck garlic better than softneck, even though softneck is recommended for Southern gardens.

Experience is the best teacher - and to get the most from your gardening experience I suggest taking notes! 

Write down what you did so you'll know later what worked and what didn't. I won't remember what I did last spring when it's time to plant next spring; I need to refer to my garden notebook.

These days I don't have to look up what garden zone I'm in or my average first frost date because I've written them down. 

I also write down when we actually do get that first frost every year, because there are pockets of warmer/colder temperatures in every garden zone, depending on your unique location; we have our very own average first and last frost dates.

How to garden in shady places

If your yard is lacking in sunshine, there are ways to work around the problem. 

While not all vegetable plants will grow in the shade, there are many that will with a little help. 

My ebook How to Grow Vegetables and Herbs in a Shady Garden will show you how to choose the right plants and the best location, even if all you have is a small patio or balcony. 

You'll learn how to boost the available light, and how to provide supplemental lighting. 

You'll even find out how to use what many people think is a disadvantage. 


Enter to win my eBook AND this awesome collection of gardening and homesteading books and  eBooks! Scroll down for the entry form.

Homestead for the Holidays Giveaway

We have a fantastic giveaway for you! Enter below using the giveaway form for a chance to win this awesome collection of eleven books written by me and my friends!

Imagine winning a copy of each of these books and ebooks!

Our Homestead for the Holidays Giveaway begins at 8:00 AM Central time on Saturday, November 14, 2020 and ends at 11:50 PM on November 22nd. When the giveaway is over, one winner will be selected at random and contacted by email. If the winner does not respond in 48 hours, a new winner will be selected at random.

To enter, you must live in the continental United States and be at least 18 years of age.

Keep reading to see what's included in our giveaway collection. You'll find a link for each book to a dedicated page describing the item in detail. 

Find a book you simply can't live without? You can, of course, order it now in case you don't win the giveaway...  Or, wait until after the giveaway and then order your favorites - although many of them have special sale prices that will end when the giveaway ends.

In fact, if you order my eBook, How to Grow Vegetables and Herbs in a Shady Garden, and then win our giveaway, email me and I'll refund your purchase price for my eBook!
You'll find my email address here.

Here's what's included in our giveaway collection:

The Beginner's Guide to Backyard Homesteading

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

The Beginner’s Guide to Backyard Homesteading paperback book

From raising chickens to tending gardens and orchards, starting a backyard homestead is a practical way to live more sustainably. This homesteading book for beginners provides essential information, step-by-step instructions, and practical tips for transforming your backyard into a homestead that puts food on the table reduces household waste and helps you return to your roots.

Learn how to create a customized action plan for your backyard homestead, calculate expenses, and set realistic goals for every step of the process. From planting vegetable and herb gardens to beekeeping and raising dairy, poultry, and meat animals, you’ll find everything you need to start a sustainable backyard homestead from scratch.

Price: $16.19


Are you looking for ways to add a side hustle to your homestead? Do you want to make an income from your garden? Maybe you’re hoping to earn income from home by growing food for a farm stand.

Selling your homegrown and homemade goods at the Farmers Market or a home-based Farm Stand are both great ways to make a side income if you know where to start!

In this eBook, you’ll find out how to:
Set up your business
Plan ahead for success
Choose the best location for sales
Pick the best products to sell
Market your goods for increased income

In addition, you’ll get a bunch of helpful worksheets and checklists to help you plan ahead and track your business records!

Price: $2.99


The Farm Wife

When faced with the many uncertainties in life, we often wonder how we can make it through relatively unscathed. Whether it be personal, such as the loss of employment, hectic schedules and the cost of living going up, or globally, such as chemicals in our foods, food scarcities and health-related pandemics, we begin to start longing for a better way to live.

Learning to live a simple life may not fix all of life’s problems, but it is certainly a way to help you provide for your family, cut expenses and live a quieter life at a slower pace. The Search for a Simple Life outlines the basic steps you can take to start shifting your lifestyle.

From building a foundation on faith and living a more frugal life, to gardening, preserving the harvest, teaching your children basic life skills, and more, The Search for a Simple Life offers ideas and food for thought to help you begin a journey toward living a happier, healthier and more contented life. 

Price: $9.99 (Available only on Amazon)


Have a Merry, Simple Christmas is designed with you in mind to help keep your holiday organized and running smoothly, and still maintain the normal daily activities and meals. Loaded with tips, ideas and worksheets – from getting organized with a notebook, recipes, and meal planning help for regular meals, as well as for the holidays, to gift ideas (and DIY directions for them, stocking stuffers and tree decorations) you can find it all here. There are also 15 great printables – including party planning, shopping lists and budget worksheets, to name just a few. This e-book can easily get you well on your way to loving every minute of a Merry, Simple Christmas and still keep the sparkle in the holidays!

Price: $12.99 for eBook and $3.99 for journal

Sales Info: 25% Discount + a Free Copy of 25 Days to Have a Merry, Simple Christmas Journal (valued at $3.99) will be included with your purchase of A Merry Simple Christmas eBook!


Joy on This Mom Journey

A complete garden planning course that will give you a crystal clear plan for a garden that will produce all your family needs (and wants) for the year. Super Easy Guide To Planning Your Garden Like A Pro will give you confidence in your gardening plan, and a calmness that you haven’t left anything out and know you won’t forget anything important. 

Units on:
What to grow
When to plant
How much to grow
Season extension and year-long harvests
How to plan for succession planting and companion planting
How to plan for space requirements
Making a visual garden plan
Printable forms, charts, lists, and more to bring your plan to life.
and much more

Price: Super Easy Guide to Planning Your Garden Like A Pro is regularly $24

SALE PRICE: November 14th through 30th this course is 35% off with code BYH35 or follow this link.


Better Hens and Gardens

Nigerian Dwarf Goats 101 is the first book in a series of four eBooks on the breed, and it describes why the breed is so popular, what the basic requirements are for keeping Nigerian Dwarf goats, and the questions you should consider before committing to owning them.

If you think you want to get started with this increasingly popular breed of small goats, then this book will get you started on the right track! 

In the first book, Nigerian Dwarf Goats 101, you’ll learn:
What it takes to house, feed, & keep them healthy 
What they can be used for (milk, meat, weed control, companionship, etc.)
Which types are best given your goals
Common mistakes to avoid

Price: $4.99 and includes a coupon code at the end of the book for $2.00 OFF the next book in the series: Nigerian Dwarf Goats 201: Getting Started (regularly $6.99)


Grow Where You Sow

The Ultimate Homesteading Basics Book is your one-stop-shop for all the basic information you’ll need as a homesteader. With 50 pages, 7 chapters, and 10 free pdf downloads, it covers small livestock, predators, gardening, compost, and the resources and advice you need to get started. Whether you’re a beginning homesteader or a forgetful homesteading veteran, this eBook is your manual for quick and accurate information, resources, and advice.

Price: $12.99

Sale: 75% off with the code giveaway75 from November 14th through November 22nd… That’s just $3.25!


Oak Hill Homestead

Some vegetable plants will grow just fine in filtered or partial shade, and many herbs even prefer it. If your garden space is less than sunny, you might need to use some creativity to grow a great garden – but I’ll tell you all my secrets in my new 27-page eBook, How to Grow Vegetables and Herbs in a Shady Garden.

Price: $2.49
(If you purchase my eBook and then win our giveaway, email me and I'll refund the purchase price for my eBook! You can find my contact information here.)


15 Acre Homestead

If it’s time to clean out your closet, the Tips and Tricks section can put some of those items to better use. From old boots and helmets to kitchen ladles and chopsticks, Natural Old Time Hacks Tips and Recipes for your Homestead Garden is chock full of great ideas to help you create and maintain a lush, beautiful garden.

No matter what is preventing you from having that picture-perfect garden, you will find a remedy in this great e-book. All you have to do is check your pantry or refrigerator for most of the common ingredients. You can also find links for websites where you can order what you don’t have, or have beneficial insects delivered right to your door.

Price: $5.99


Homegrown Self Reliance

So you want to start raising chickens? What a wonderful idea! Chickens are often referred to as a “gateway” to raising livestock. And they are a great way to start working on your self-sufficiency. But actually raising them can raise a lot of questions! Have you ever wondered: What size coop do you need for the number of chickens you want? What do you use for bedding? How do you care for chicks? What if a chicken gets sick? I don’t have money to take her to the vet! What about caring for chickens in winter? Do I need to heat the coop? You’ll get all of these answers and many, many more in my newest e-book, Raising Chickens For a Natural, Self-Sufficient Lifestyle.

And right now, it’s priced at the low, low price of $1.99. Normally $3.99! Go grab yours today!


WOW! How's that for a fantastic giveaway package? 

Just use the giveaway form below to enter for your chance to win. 
Complete all the entries for your best chance!

Turn your garden dreams into reality - tips on planning a vegetable garden. #vegetablegarden #garden #gardening #growyourown #organic

Tips for planning a vegetable garden so you can grow healthy, organic food for your family. #vegetablegarden #garden #gardening #growyourown #organic

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What to plant in a container garden

This post contains affiliate links; if you click on a link and make a purchase I might make a small commission but it doesn't affect the price you pay. Read my disclosure here.

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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  1. This is such an encouraging, enabling post, Kathi! I love your ideas, especially the fall garden, and the idea that 'nature abhors a vacuum so fill it with food'. Sharing on the Hearth and Soul Facebook page later today. Thank you so much for being a part of Hearth and Soul!

    1. Thank you, April. I'm glad you enjoyed it and hope it was helpful! Have a great week.

  2. This wonderful post is a GARDEN feature on the August You're the STAR blog hop:

    1. Thank you, Angie! I'm so excited!

  3. Shade is my problem when it comes to gardening . I'm growing things in five gallon buckets since my barn cats think a raised bed is a litter box lol

    1. If you have access to pine cones, a layer of them on top of the soil will keep cats out of your raised bed. :-)

  4. TIME. Time for gardening. :)

  5. Grammyprepper1:46 PM

    Awesome give away! The Beginners Guide looks like an awesome resource...but then again, they all look great!

  6. My biggest gardening challenge is the invasive Bermuda grass which people keep planting as turf grass. Thank you.

  7. Good info in the post about garden planning. We're still trying to figure out the best way to get things to grow here after 12 years. The "best" location gets too swampy when it rains, so we're trying other ones.

    Also, thanks for the awesome giveaway, and good luck to everyone who's entering!

  8. Awesome giveaway! Thanks!

  9. The red clay I have means no in ground planting. Hence the buckets I mentioned before. 😁

  10. I have a small yard and am interested I some raised and vertical planters this next spring.

  11. I have a smaller yard and would like to do some space saving raised and vertical gardens

  12. Michelle Proper2:13 PM

    Getting seeds going early enough is my biggest challenge!

  13. Last year I had so many tomatoes, but this year I barely had any. Thanks for your blogpost and always responding to my inquiries.

    1. Richele, gardening is a funny thing and your results often change from year to year. Heat, humidity, rainfall, insects... it's all different every year. But gardeners are great optimists - next year will be better, right?!

  14. Wanda Horst3:51 AM

    We have clay soil and keep adding compost, sand, etc...after 4 years we are seeing improvement but still have a ways to go:)

  15. I'm excited to try the pinecone suggestion! Another problem I clay soil!

  16. Biggest challenge is having the confidence to know what I am doing.


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