Garden design and Layout

I utilize a square foot gardening system for maximum production in the smallest area. Some techniques and methods are unique to the climate/short growing season but for the most part plants are not intensively managed.

I also know a thing or two about excel and computers, so I have made my own excel worksheet which I have used for the past few years as I have experimented with northern gardening.

Now I am making it available to those that may want such a thing. Complete with video tutorial on how to use it. Gardens designed can be as complex or simple as you want.

The Excel Garden Planner has been updated in February 2021. A new video will be someone some time.

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Features of the excel Garden Planner

Garden Plan overview:

Layout of garden (SFG methodology)

  • Automatically calculates square footage used, available
  • Automatically calculates square footage allotted per plant species
  • Automatically tells you how many plants you will need
  • Automatically calculates plant date, transplant date, approximate maturity date

Sandbox area

This area is your sandbox – where you can draw your garden.

Each square represents one square foot.

The excel counters and automated features will only count what’s within the confines of these borders.

It is 100 foot wide x 40 foot high (My current area) resizing the box can be done, but may break some functions of you do not adjust the calculations.

Planting guide section

Here is where the grunt work is done – from calculating box space (available and used) to determining how many seeds/plants you need and even works out a planting schedule for you.


At the top of the planting guide are the dates.

The Last Frost and First Frost dates must be added here. Use the current year.

It will calculate your grow days and days remaining (days until season is over)

These dates are used for most of the calculations in the planting guide.

The Planting guide columns:

# squares : Calculated when you add a box and assign it a 1 (for empty) or plant code.

Per square: These are the standard or modified SFG plants per square foot – easily found by Googling the plant name square foot spacing. I Use trellis’s and due to my northern climate some of my numbers are not standard.

Code: Simple 2-3 letter code for each plant – this is what will “count” for all the automated features. I also colour code my boxes for quick reference – simply highligh the box and change the background colour.

Plant Name: Well this is where you put the plant name

Total plants: This is calculated from the count of the squares per plant and the Per square allotment.

Transplant: For my own personal use as I just want to know what I am transplanting

Planting (weeks to frost): Some seeds need to be planted indoors or can be planted outdoors before the last frost date. This is where you enter the weeks before last frost you can plant (transplant or direct in garden). Use negatives to denote

Plant by: This calculated field simply subtracts the planting weeks from the last frost date. This is the estimated planting date.

Germination days: Some seeds have this, some don’t.

Days after frost plant: Some plants need to be transplanted after the risk of last frost has passed or germination requires a warmer temperature.

Transplant on/by: Calculated value, I Only use this for transplants – but could be for any seed planted after the last frost.

Maturity: Plant maturity – usually on seed packets

Done by: Calculated estimate of the done growing date (estimated harvest).

Last Plant Date: This is the estimated date by which you could conceivably still plant (Based on Maturity and First frost date). Useful if you have something that died off after planting or have picked already.

Adding a plant species
You will need:

Number of plants / square
Plant how many weeks before last frost (if available)
Germination days
Days after frost to plant outdoors (transplants)

Example 1: I am adding Giant Pumpkins:

Number of plants per square:  0.33 (Needs 1×3 + room to vine)
Plant how many weeks before frost (Transplants): 2-4 weeks before last frost – I used larger pots and 6 weeks as I live in the North.
Germination days: 10
Days after frost plant: 14
Maturity: 110


Pick a new row to enter your information in. Grayed boxes require you to enter something.

From left to right:

Number of plants per square (o.33)
You need to give the plant an identifier for the calculations to work  (PG) – also     good to add a background colour.
Name of the plant
Transplant (y)
Planting weeks – weeks before last frost to plant indoors (-6) – don’t forget the “-”
Germination days (10)
Days after frost plant (14)
Maturity (110)

Example 2: Adding Sugar Snap Peas (on trellis)

Number of plants per square:  8 (4 on either side of vertical 6′ trellis)
Code: Ps (Pea – sugar) – Colour Background is yellow (Pb – Pea bush)
Plant how many weeks before frost (Transplants): 0
Germination days: 7
Days after frost plant:  -2 (Can be planted as soon as soil is workable. Will germinate at temps of 7C – Will take a light frost.
Maturity: 60 days

Then add them to the guide.

Creating your garden
  • The top portion of the spreadsheet is your sandbox. 40×100 feet can be represented (can be made larger/smaller if need be)
  • Up is considered North.
  • Anything you add in the sandbox area will be automatically updated in the Planting Guide section if the individual squares have a plant code or the number “1”.
  • “1” denotes a useable space that just doesn’t have anything in it – this will calculate as unused space.
  • Plant code denotes the individual plant codes and squares with the plant code will only add to the squares for that unique plant (And the total overall).
  • Blank squares are not calculated anywhere.
Adding a box:
    1. Every grid square = one square foot. So highlight say 2 foot x 4 foot (2 squares      wide by 4 squares high).
    2. Rich click >> Click on Border tab
    3. Click on thick line, then Outline
    4. Click on thin line, Then inside
    5. Press OK
    6. Boom, you have a box, but it doesn’t really do anything
    • If you put a “1” in each box in your virtual garden box – it will now count it in the available space
    • If you put one of the available 2 letter plant codes, it will count and add to that     plants count
    • Lets add one 4 row of Turnips and one 4 row of Rutabagas (yes they are different)
    • No not only has it counted the boxes as used, it has added 4 to each plant count
    • We now have 36 Turnips (9/square foot) and 16 Rutabagas (4 per square foot)
Adding Special box stuff: Trellis
Adding a box with some plants is fine, but what if we want a trellis?

Sugar snap peas can grow 6′ easily – and are powerful climbers so vertical trellis’s are fine. Heavier vining vegetables like squash I grow on an angled trellis as well.

Common vegetable and trellis:

Angled: Squash, smaller pumpkins
Vertical: Peas (Taller varieties like Sugar Snap), Cucumber, Pole beans
String: Peas (shorter varieties can grow a few feet easily.


Add a box for sugar snap peas (1×8)

I use Sugar snaps as a vertical block around my fire pit. So I have a 1 foot wide by 8 foot high box, with a 6 foot high vertical trellis up the middle.

  1. Insert >>  Picture >> Autoshapes will bring up the autoshapes menu.
  2. Pick Basic Shapes > Rectangle
  3. Draw your trellis over the middle of the box you just created
  4. A vertical trellis isn’t very wide from above so make it look that way.
  5. You can add a fill color or texture, change the opacity, etc. If you want to edit the contents of the box below, simply move the auto shape out of the way.
    • An angled trellis will be wider and extend away from the box.
    • A string trellis is more like a bunch of vertical trellis’s side by side right over the box.

To add other things:

If you have sheds, composters, fire pits, etc – things that are references for your garden, they can be added as well using the auto shape method as well.

Add a 8×10 shed

Find location on sandbox of shed, draw auto shape rectangle, format it as desired.

How the planner is setup

Detailed steps and information on how the Excel Garden Planner was setup and works.

Square Foot Gardening

Information and resources for square foot gardening here in NW Ontario.

Excel Garden Planner

An excel worksheet I developed to help plan and track my square foot gardening.


North Hardy Plants

Not all plants will grow here, but a lot will.


Garden Planning

North Hardy Plants

Tips and Tricks

Square Foot Gardening

Square Foot Gardening

Square foot gardening in raised beds allows for a relatively maintenance free garden. It also provides that extra growing time so essential here in NW Ontario. Square foot gardening is demonstrated throughout the gardening section as it is the way I grow my gardens.

Advantages to Square Foot Gardening

Less water

Less weeds

Heats up faster

Looser soils/less tilling

High productivity, small area

Get In Touch

21 second street, nipigon


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