Devising a plan helps you stay organized and on track. A plan aids in keeping you focused on the end goal in mind. It’s way too easy to get sidetracked when there are sooo many things to do. 

There is a never-ending ‘to-do’ list that goes along with starting a market garden. Having a solid plan in place before you even break ground is crucial to your success as a market farmer. 

For the sake of this article, the focus is on garden and crop plans. I guarantee that you will not regret planning your garden and crop design BEFORE you break ground in the spring.

Without either of these plans in place, it’s likely you will be very scattered and inefficient with your tasks when it’s time to get your hands dirty.

There is no way to match the value of organizing and planning beforehand. – Eliot Coleman

Garden Plan

Taking the time to design your garden clearly and thoughtfully will go a long way to determining how efficient your day-to-day chores will be carried out once you start your market garden.

The aim is to organize the different working spaces so that the workflow will be as efficient, practical, and ergonomic as possible. 

The last thing you want is to be backtracking all day long or having to travel long distances away from your core work in order to get tools or tend to your gardens.

You can design your garden layout by drawing a map of the overall garden, laying out all the elements in their optimal location. 

We made our garden design by physically measuring out our land so we knew just how much we actually had to work with.

My husband, Jon, then figured out a scale that would work and got busy using good old fashioned paper, ruler, and pencils as he cut out the elements we needed to design our garden. 

He even factored in a house and wash plant which we are going to build in the future.

My advice is to write down all those components you need now, as well as in the future as your garden grows. 

This is what our market garden design looks like:

our market garden plan

As you can see, there are many elements to consider when designing your market garden plan.

Here are a few items to consider in your plan that will help make your garden a lean, mean, veggie producing machine!

Buildings and Foot Traffic

Growing and harvesting crops require a lot of running around between buildings and gardens.

It is important to plan so you are not stuck with serious downtime when you are running long distances between the tool shed, garden, washing station, and storage area, etc.

Trips to the bathroom, forgotten tools, or missing harvest bins are incidents that happen every day. Think about it, if every trip means stopping work for 10-15 minutes, imagine how much working time is lost over the course of a day, week, or season. 

To avoid these losses of time, make sure that immovable elements (tool shed, washing station, bathroom, etc.) are located as close to the gardens as possible.

An ideal plan would include all of these components located under one roof in a building located in the middle of all the garden plots.

A central location means easy access to and from the garden plots without having to travel very far.

Efficiency is the name of the game here.

Garden Bed Layout

Standardizing the field blocks to be of equal size, shape, and length is a very effective way to manage different aspects of production, specifically crop rotation, soil amendments, and production planning.

Our garden bed plan was based on advice from J.M. Fortier’s the market gardener.

This is his sage advice:

In our garden, all our beds are 48 inches wide from centre to centre: this allows for a 30-inch band for the raised beds and an 18-inch band for pathways. The raised beds are narrow enough to step over without trampling them, and the pathways are wide enough to accommodate wheelbarrow traffic. Because more and more market gardeners are now growing on 30-inch beds, most of the new tools and equipment tailored for market gardening are developed to this standard width. When considering growing without a tractor, I highly suggest a 30-inch bed system.

We took J.M.’s advice to heart and planned our beds to his specifications. We are not about to reinvent the wheel here.

Market garden tools are now designed for 30-inch beds so for the sake of simplicity and efficiency, that’s exactly how we designed our plan. 

J.M. works on beds that are 100ft long, but that is not a standard measurement. The length of your bed will depend on your land size and other inhibiting factors.

However, you should plan all of your beds to be the same length so that you can universally use tarps, irrigation lines, row covers, etc. on all of your beds.

The last thing you want to do is try to find the right size tarp for each bed. It’s much easier to have them all the same size so you’re not wasting your precious time on a tarp hunt. You can simply grab any of them to do the job.

Greenhouse and Hoophouse Locations

When you are just starting out, you may not have a greenhouse or hoophouse. We don’t just yet, but our plan is to have a hoophouse going in the spring. Wish us luck! 

If you plan on growing your market farm to become your livelihood, you will be investing in a greenhouse and hoophouse sooner or later, so it’s best to plan for them in your original design.

The difference between a greenhouse and hoophouse is that greenhouses serve as a plant nursery in the spring and are heated and need electricity.

Whereas hoophouses have only one layer of plastic and are unheated and do not require electricity, typically used for season extension.

In the summer, both are used to grow your lucrative, high profitable crops like tomatoes, cucumber, and peppers. 

When you are designing your garden plan, keep in mind that hoophouses and greenhouses are visited several times a day in the spring and fall to control ventilation, so it is best to install them near other frequently visited facilities.

As well, be aware that buildings cast shadows on neighbouring structures when days are short, so be sure to space them one building width apart to avoid this problem.


The main purpose of irrigation is to ensure optimal germination rates for direct-seeded crops and to provide sufficient moisture in the ground for transplanted seedlings.

A good irrigation system should be flexible and adaptable to the specific needs of your garden.

I am not going to go into a huge amount of detail when it comes to irrigation, that’s a whole other article in itself!

For more information, I highly recommend the market gardener by J.M. Fortier, he goes into great detail about what type of irrigation systems he uses and why.

Crop planning


Crop planning is absolutely fundamental to profitable market gardening. Knowing what to grow, how to grow, and when to grow is not a simple task but it sure is an important one.

Designing your crop plan is an overwhelming task, just ask my husband! He has spent many an hour reading books, watching videos, and designing spreadsheets so that we know exactly what, where, and how much of a particular crop we are going to grow in the spring.

The winter months are the best time to hone your crop plan so you will be ready come spring.

Here are a few basic steps to help get you started with your crop plan.

Setting Farming Objectives

Budget: Setting financial goals is a priority, especially if you are or plan on supporting your family with the profits earned from your market garden.

You must make sure your production will generate your targeted revenue or at least something close to it.

Decide what type and quantity of veg to grow: This goes hand in hand with the budget. With your financial goals in mind, you can plan which veggies to grow that will help you meet your target.

Space in beds: once you decide what to grow, you need to make sure there is enough space in your beds for your crops.

How much and when to grow

Once you have your basic outline of what crops you are going to grow and what your sales outlets are going to be (CSA, farmer’s market, etc) you need to determine not only how much to grow but when to grow it as well. 

A production calendar can help with that. Here’s what ours looks like:

Our Crop Plan

When you have figured out all of the crops you will need for the season, this information is then used to order seeds for the whole year.

So, you can see how important having a crop plan is. The last thing you want is to be short seeds for the season and miss out on potential profits.

Please note that these are very simplistic outlines of garden design and crop planning. I encourage you to read lots of books and to be as informed as possible before taking on this very important task.

I highly recommend our list of books here to get you started.

Designing and implementing your garden and crop plan is no easy task. Take as much time as you need during the winter months to fully understand all the moving parts involved. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek guidance from those who have done it before.

What is your best advice you can give to an aspiring market farmer during the planning phase? Let us know in the comments below.

Stay Local,

Kathy & Jon

your friendly neighbourhood growers



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