First thing I have to do to get my garden ready for planting my vegetables is to make a plan of my garden, where I want my tomatoes, beans, corn etc. this year. I change the plantings every year so that the crops will be healthier and more productive. I want all of the garden to get the best light possible so I plant taller plants towards the back of the garden so as not to shade the rest of the garden.
I usually start out with a drawing of where I want the crops but I decided to try an online garden design this year. The one I chose is a 30 day free trial from GrowVeg.com. The program has the frost-free dates for your area by just adding your postal or zip code. It shows the growing conditions for every vegetable, spaces the plants and rows automatically and even keeps track of your garden plan for crop rotation the following season.
Here is my plan for 2009, I created this for crop rotation purposes. I like the fact that you don't have to guess at how many plants to buy, which makes going to the nursery a lot easier. You can even print out the plan and take it with you.
Here is my garden plan for 2010, and the next one is the same but with the background filled.
There is a Plant list page of all of the crops I'm planting this year with the growing instructions and planting schedule. I think this is a very useful tool in planting a successful garden, even for beginners.
GroVeg Vegetable Garden Planner
BHG Plan a Garden Online - flower gardens