Mother Earth can generally plan her own business pretty well, and it’s a good thing, too: fundamentally, the success of our gardens hinges on the stability of those natural cycles and predictability of larger patterns.

Planning your garden effectively involves being aware of the constraints and opportunities created by constantly changing external circumstances, and doing your best to make investments strategically so that you are as likely as possible to get what you want out of your garden.

Sometimes, we like to play with the idea that garden plans are a lot like vacation itineraries. Want to play along? Read on!

Could you go on vacation without an itinerary? Of course. Lots of people do it. And when you travel, you’re in control of some things and not in control of others; nothing ever goes precisely as planned, anyway. But a wise travel agent or advisor would probably only recommend traveling sans plan if and only if:

  • You already have a pretty good command of the language, so you aren’t wandering around clueless and you don’t accidentally insult someone!
  • You’ve been there before: you know what you do and don’t like/what does and doesn’t work for you; there’s room for exploring new places, but you know you won’t get stuck without a restaurant or place to stay
  • You are exceptionally able to keep your eyes wide open and be on the lookout for the good kind of unanticipated opportunities…and you have ample time and energy to do so
  • You’re going to visit a friend who lives there, and knows what’s what…

It’s not a huge stretch to connect these planning tips to the garden. Below, with a few examples from both types of plan, are a few tips:

  • Makes you assess your goals ahead of time: are you going on vacation to take time off and relax and go sit on the beach (plant only what’s really easy…), or is this an adventure (purple carrots, hot peppers) or an educational experience (you are in it to learn/explore)?
  • Keeps you engaged/extends the pleasure of the vacation (for some people): but how many months are you going to spend planning for the little time you actually have to travel/grow?
  • Helps you set realistic expectations: are you really going to see all of Europe in a week (or grow all of your own food?)
  • Raises awareness of gimmicks: research the all-inclusive cruise/upside down tomato planter before you go buy one
  • Reduces impulse buying and therefore costs: if you’d planned it out better, you could’ve gotten a better deal on that hotel stay/yard of compost…

So, do you always follow your itinerary to the letter? Maybe, depending on what kind of traveler you are. But maybe not. Even if you’re really OCD, try to leave some wiggle room! You don’t want to get so fixated on your plan and how it’s supposed to be that you can’t appreciate or adjust to how things really are. ‘Cause that world out there is always changing.