If you are like me, your mind thinks about gardening all year long. I do my best to continue growing in different ways throughout the entire year, but nothing quite compares to the feeling that I get when the weather breaks in the early spring and I can envision my beautiful garden blooming in just a few short months.
In preparation for officially getting my garden started and the garden season ahead, each year I do several things in the early part of the year (January-March) to get myself ready for prime growing season. In this article, I will talk about these things in hopes that they will help you better plan for the busy gardening months that are coming!
What Do I Want to Grow?
This is a valid question to consider. After each gardening season, I take notes on what I grew, how things grew, how the yield was, and if we needed more or less of certain vegetables/fruits/herbs etc. I also find that this is a good time to reflect on when I planted things, how I organized things, and if there are any improvements to the layout of my garden that I should make. I particularly find that each year, I find better and more effective ways to control for animals (i.e., deer, rabbits, chipmunks from getting into my garden), better ways to organize my plants so that they can grow best and harvesting is easier, and things that grow well and poorly in my climate.
Draw It Out
Once I have reflected on the last gardening season, I like to grab an old-fashioned pen and paper and draw my garden out! When I do this, I always find myself referencing companion planting charts and resources on rearranging things based on experiences to improve my garden each year. I find that it is very helpful to visually see the layout of my garden, especially when I want to expand some things or utilize as much space as possible. I go as far as measuring the dimensions of my garden and making things to scale so that I can be sure that I am taking all things into consideration.
Seeds? Starts? Soil?
Now that I know what and how that I would like to plant my garden, I consider where and how I am going to obtain my plants. If you are someone that likes to start your plants from seeds, you will need to determine where you will be sourcing your seeds from, the proper setup to successfully start your seeds (i.e., lighting, starting pots, soil), and properly timing germination periods to know when your plants will need to be moved into your garden. If you are someone that purchases your plants already started, you will similarly need to decide who or where will be sourcing your plants and when is the appropriate time to purchase them and get them into the ground. I also believe that it is advantageous to do soil tests, especially if you are starting your garden in a new area, and every couple of years to regularly monitor your soil for best growing practices. And don’t forget… if you have farm animals, manure (especially horse and chicken) is excellent for your soil, so composting is a great practice to get into if you are going to be gardening!
If you are interested in preserving the fruits of your labor, it is also important to consider how you will be doing so. Some people like to freeze their harvests, but canning is also very popular. If you will be canning your produce, stocking up on canning supplies is a must. Since COVID-19, canning supplies have been more difficult than ever before to find, especially if you wait until closer to the summertime when everyone’s gardens are starting to ripen. To avoid frustration and difficulty finding what you will need to preserve your food, plan ahead and buy your supplies well in advance!
Cool Season Vegetables
Although many of your fruits and vegetables will not be able to be planted until there will be no more frost, there are several cool season vegetables that can be planted early in your garden! Cool season vegetables can withstand and even thrive in cooler temperatures and need to be harvested before the heat of summer. Most of these cool season vegetables can be planted 2-6 weeks before the average last predicted frost date in your region. Some of these cool season vegetables include beets, onions, garlic, lettuce, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, turnips, and radishes. So, if you are eager to get your garden started, these things are safe to get into the ground now!
I wish you the best luck this gardening season and hope that this article provided some insight on things to begin thinking about as we are nearing gardening season. To close, I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow” – Audrey Hepburn