Plan Before You Plant
As a relatively new gardener, I have struggled over the past several years attempting to get my spring planting off to a great start. I usually find myself behind the curve, having missed the window for starting plants from seed. Frantically scouring various nurseries in search of whatever starts I can find, I run home and plant my garden. Instead of the luscious, productive garden I imagine in my head every winter, I end up with a few vegetables and some greens that barely supplement our meals.
I went out into my backyard several weeks ago, and as I looked around and observed the crocuses emerging from their winter slumber I told myself that I would like this year to be different. I would create the garden that I have always wanted with intention, and learn what I needed to know to make this dream a reality.
As spring approaches, I thought I would share what I have learned so that perhaps anyone else who finds themselves in a similar situation around this time of year might benefit and ultimately end up with their own diverse and productive garden this summer.
What I have always known is that a diverse and productive garden requires planning. Not my type of garden planning (the “I plan to have a garden” variety), but the “sit-down and design your garden” kind of planning. After researching I began to realize that the reason that I had so much difficulty in the past was primarily this lack of organization.
There are a few things that need to happen in order to get a good garden plan together. First, a location is needed. Examine the amount of space you have to work with. Many times space will determine how ambitious you can be with your gardening goals. Raised beds are generally preferred for maintaining soil quality and aeration. Turn and check the quality of your soil, it should be well balanced and contain a good combination of earth, clay and sand. Add compost or fertilizer to enrich the soil and make sure it has a few days to sit before planting.
Next, you need to have an idea of what you want to plant. I found it helpful to look for vegetables and varieties that grow well in our climate zone. When it comes to the combination of gardening and our climate, timing is crucial. I was amazed to find that in order to get the variety I was looking for I really needed to start planting many of my seeds indoors in February; Seeds for Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale, Lettuces, Onions, Peas, Peppers, Spinach and Tomatoes. Many of the vegetables I want to include in my garden need to be planted early, earlier than I had ever even begun thinking about it in the past.
Once you have an idea of what you want to plant, creating a planting schedule will help you organize the various needs of each plant. Mother Earth News has a great tool that allows you to input your zip code for a planting calendar that is specific to your location. The dates in these calendars are just guidelines, and depending on the temperature of the air and soil you may need to adjust your schedule. There are some websites and even applications for your mobile device that will send you emails or alerts when it is time to plant something that is on your list.
I have chosen to start many of my own plants from seed, mostly because I have had little success timing my trips to the nursery and being able to find starts for the variety of plants I wish to have in my garden. I have purchased several seed trays, some potting medium, and a light and am getting ready to sew my first seeds. I plan on using my planting schedule to help me start and then transition these plants outside where they will become productive members of my vegetable garden (at least that’s the plan).
Now is the perfect time to get started. I have just begun planting the first few seeds indoors and am hoping that having spent the time planning and creating a planting schedule will yield results. I am really looking forward to being able to supply more than a token contribution to our family meals this year. Oh, one last thought…. Make sure that your planting schedule extends all the way into August or September so that multiple plantings and harvests occur. By planting periodically throughout the summer, we will be able to enjoy our gardens well into the fall. Happy planting!