Spring is not here yet but for those of us that love to get their hands dirty growing food, the time is soon approaching to start planning for this year’s garden.
While late winter is not one of my favorite times of year, it is a good time for one of my favorite tasks, planning out this year’s garden.
It was only natural for me to write a full series on garden planning, I have been doing this task for 25 years and it never gets old. When the snow is flying and the temperatures are dipping, part of my sanity comes from pulling out the seed catalogs and dreaming of what my garden will grow this year.
There are a lot of tools and resources I use when it comes to planning a garden, many of which I take for granted, this year I would like to share how I get started with getting my garden ready for spring and summer.
Have the right Tools for the Job
You cannot do any job right if you do not have the right tools so one of the first things I like to do when planning my garden is to make an inventory of what I have and what I need. I will probably make my next post on getting organized and ready for your garden but first you have to have all of your tools.
Seed catalogs are a wonderful way for the green thumb to spend an afternoon and a great way to ward off spring fever. Every year about this time, I start pulling out my catalogs and start looking through them dreaming of the garden that is to come. Order lots of them, they are free, they are fun and they are wonderful inspiration when planning your garden. It is not too late to order catalogs, you can always browse online, but there is just nothing like a great seed catalog so I order mine.
My materials for planning are pretty simply, a notepad, pen, and some way to lay the garden out. There are a few choices here, you can toss a few scribbles on a piece of paper and hope it is close, you can use graph paper and carefully measure everything out, or you can use a software program.
I have done all three, and trust me, tossing a few scribbles on a piece of paper is not the way to go. Even if all you are doing is some container gardening or only have a small plot in your backyard CAREFUL Planning can go a long ways towards high yields and a more successful garden.
Last year was the first year I used GrowVeg.com, prior to this I used paper, but always seemed to get the measurements wrong and I never got everything into my garden that I wanted it to have. So because they had a free trial I decided I would give it a try, and I loved it. So this is how I will be doing my garden again.
I plan to do a full review on Grow Veg soon, but I wanted to share with you some of the great features this program has. You can simply specify the size of your plot, and then drag and drop the plants you intend to grow onto the screen automatically giving the plants the right amount of space for the type of space that each variety needs. The plan is on a grid, so you can print it out, and take it out to the garden with you. Could not be easier!
GrowVeg.com has a free trial and comes with planting reminders, crop rotation and much more.
You will also need seed companies to get your seeds from, there are so many, and so many considerations about where you buy from, but for the time being you can get your seed catalogs coming. I will try to do a blog post on selecting the right seed company as a part of my garden planning series.
It is Also Time to Take Inventory
Another important task before planning begins is taking inventory, by this I mean you need to look at what you have and what you will need for the coming season. If you save seeds or even the old seed from last year, it is time to pull it out and see what you have. You will also want to check to see if you have all the containers and dirt you will need for starting all of your new seedlings.
I like to get this done early because it gives me time to ask around with friends and neighbors if they have any pots left over from last year that they do not want. Keep in mind that you can also recycle and reuse potting soil to save a few dollars so be sure to ask if your friends have any laying around in pots or in the shed they want to get rid of.
If you like me, get spring fever, doing some extra reading to give you ideas, inspire you and help you learn new techniques is the perfect way to gain a positive outlook on the long winter. Books, Internet and magazines are all great resources. Start a berry garden this year, or trying organic gardening for the first time. Put in an irrigation system, or learn to make your garden drought proof.
New skills always translate into better yields, take a look at a few of these books, I have all of them and highly recommend them to learn more about gardening.
All New Square Foot Gardening
The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, 2nd Edition
Vertical Gardening: Grow Up, Not Out, for More Vegetables and Flowers in Much Less Space
Trowel and Error: Over 700 Tips, Remedies and Shortcuts for the Gardener
1,001 Ingenious Gardening Ideas: New, Fun and Fabulous That Will Change the Way You Garden – Forever! (Rodale Garden Book)
Check all of your lights to make sure they work, or if you are using a green house, it is time to inspect it for damage, or any cleaning it might need. We start our seeds in the next 3 to 6 weeks here, so while that might seem like plenty of time, I invariably leave it to the last minute and leave myself with too much work to do.