Increased Production from Following a Planting Plan


In 2019 a planting plan was created to assist first time gardeners and to better utilize garden plots to increase food production. Following the implementation of the planting plan in January of 2020, vegetable production increased by 43%.  The following year it increased by another 47%.


The Coppell Community Garden, located in Coppell, Texas, was established as a mission garden in 1998, and we have been learning, growing, expanding, and donating since our inception.  We grow our produce organically and donate it to our local food pantry.  As of 2021, approximately 140 families volunteer by ‘adopting a plot’ and gardening with us.  In doing so, they agree to donate at least 80% of their crop production.  We can grow produce year-round in North Texas and since our inception we have donated over 300,000 pounds of produce to a local food pantry.  

Over the years, our organization has grown to include three separate garden locations throughout our city.  The three gardens vary in size as follows:

  • Garden 1 (Test Garden) – 42 plots measuring 18’ x 4’ for a total of 3,024 square feet
  • Garden 2 – 67 plots, most measuring 27’ x 4’ for a total of 6,996 square feet
  • Garden 3 – 41 plots measuring 24’ x 4’ for a total of 3,936 square feet

Our footprint expanded yet again in 2019 when we added a greenhouse which has allowed us to produce our own transplants.  The greenhouse has made a major impact on our increased production and facilitated another significant change, the use of a formal planting plan on a trial basis at one of our gardens. This is a summary of our results using the planting plan beginning in January of 2020 through December 2021.  

The Challenge

Over the years we seemed to have two ongoing challenges.  The first is how to grow more healthy produce for the ever-increasing need to help those in our area who are food insecure.  The other is how to keep gardeners active, engaged, and feeling successful.  Late in 2019 we decided to try a new approach to see if it made a difference in the amount of vegetables we were able to grow.  Instead of each gardener deciding what to plant individually, we decided to design and implement the use of a planting plan at one of our three gardens (the Test Garden) to see if we could make a positive impact on both the gardener experience and food production.  

We have been tracking our production in terms of pounds donated each year by garden, by month, by crop, so we have a good data set by which to measure success.  The goal was to design a planting plan that maximizes the growing space in each plot and specifies what to plant when and where.  It was designed based on previous knowledge of what crops grow well in North Texas and the optimal timing for when to plant, harvest, remove, and replace the plants to support year-round production.  In order to grow year-round, it is essential to remove certain crops and replant, in advance of our average first freeze.  This allows the fall/winter crops to harden off and hopefully survive the winter weather.  We also based the plan on good vegetable companion planting knowledge, handed down from generations, and readily available online.  

The Planting Plan

The plan was designed to make it easy for a first-time gardener to follow so they can experience success early. It consists of a graphic representation of what should be planted in each plot with appropriate spacing between plants. There are six different views of a fully planted plot over the course of the 12-month period. It also includes a listing of all the plants, grouped chronologically based on when they are planted, whether planted by seed or transplant, and the approximate date to remove.

We launched the plan at the Test Garden beginning of the 2020 growing season.  All new gardeners joining that year were required to follow the plan for at least two years so they could learn and experience success.  Without exception, all expressed a positive response when they learned they would be following a plan.  Most of our new plot adopters are not experienced vegetable gardeners and the plan takes the guesswork out of what to plant.  Some of the more experienced gardeners decided to follow it as well.  Of our 42 plots that are 18’ x 4’, approximately 15 plots were cultivated using the plan beginning in January.  It should be noted that this garden has a separate herb bed and adjacent perennial garden so the focus of the plan is to only grow food crops in the plots.  

It was a very successful first year at the Test Garden (see The Results below), so for 2021 we designed a second version of the plan which rotated crops and allowed gardeners to experience growing a few other things.  Other existing gardeners also decided to follow the plan and we started the year with 32 plots on one of two available plans.  All plots on the first plan (Plan A) switched to Plan B; new plots added to the plan in 2021 followed Plan A.  Additionally, about 8 plots at one of our other gardens (Garden 3), also began using the plan.  We again experienced an increase in production, hitting historical highs both years.  A new Plan C has been developed for 2022.  We track which plots are on which plan so regardless of gardener, we know good crop rotation practices are being applied throughout the garden.  

The Results

By the end of 2020, the first year of implementing the plan, the test garden increased production 43% over the same period the previous year.  That was especially significant because the production in 2019 had been an all-time high for the garden in 20 years of growing.  It was a relatively warm winter season and the other two gardens also did well, however their production gains were 2% and 9% respectively.  

The early success at the Test Garden prompted the manager of Garden 3 to promote it, and in 2021 eight of their 41 plots went on the plan.  By the end of 2021, the Test Garden again increased production over 2020 by 47%.  Garden 2 increased production 18% and Garden 3 saw a 27% increase.  

Summary data is shown in the following charts where we compare our total production by garden during this trial period.  Data for 2019 is without the use of a planting plan.    

The first chart reflects the total weight of food donated by garden over the past three years.  All three gardens are producing a substantial amount, made possible in large part to the availability of transplants from the greenhouse.  Garden 2 is our largest garden and consistently produces the largest volume of produce, although the Test Garden, at less than half its size, exceeded that in 2021.   

The second chart is a view of our production from the perspective of food produced per square foot.  The results reveal a dramatic increase in production at the Test Garden.  They were able to grow substantially more food per square foot by following a planting plan.

The Benefits

The benefits have been both obvious and subtle.  The obvious is the increased production of food donated.  The more subtle are as follows for our various stakeholders:


  • More confidence as they start a new volunteer program
  • Gain knowledge growing a wide variety of vegetables without too many failures
  • Feel a sense of accomplishment when they see healthy food growing in their plot
  • Appeals to both new and existing gardeners
  • Satisfaction at growing a variety of crops year to year

Garden Manager

  • Easier to forecast seed and transplant needs seasonally
  • Easier to track crop rotation in individual plots
  • Easier to maintain any unadopted plots
  • Increased retention of gardeners

Greenhouse Manager/Procurement Manager

  • Receive timely forecasts for all transplant needs

One additional benefit for the community is that the aesthetic of the garden has improved.  A community garden can be a bit of an eye-sore with each plot ‘adopter’ doing their own thing.  The test garden is located adjacent to our city government building and the consistent planting layout has created a more beautiful view for all to see.  


Based on the data available since beginning the planting plan trial two years ago, we believe that following a planting plan, along with good organic garden practices such as soil and pest management, has allowed for a significant increase in our food production.  The availability of transplants from our greenhouse has made this effort much easier.  However, if any garden can secure an available source for transplants and seeds, an appropriate plan for their needs should yield increased production. The plan below is just one example suitable for North Texas.  It can be easily replicated to suit any garden’s location, size, and needs based on local growing zone recommended planting date ranges and established companion planting guidelines.  

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