Thursday, December 27, 2012

Planning for Gardening Season

It's hard to believe that we've just past the Winter Solstice and yet I'm already actively planning the spring garden.  Here in northwest Montana, I have months to go before I even start seeds in the greenhouse but the planning is already in full swing.  Those of you in warmer climates may already be starting seeds (and for the record I have a jealous).

Here are some quick and easy ways to get ready for that spring season:
  1. Take an inventory of the seed stash: Look through all the seeds you have on hand and make a list.  Make note of what might be several years old and make a plan to use those up while still viable.  In my experience, even old seed will sprout just not always with as high of a rate as something only a year old. 
  2. Plan the 2013 garden: I use a piece of graph paper and literally plot out where different plants will go.  I compare this plan to last year's actual garden to make sure that I practice crop rotation.  Be sure to look at that list of old seed and incorporate those items into the plan.
  3. Hit the seed catalogs: Let me be honest here, I can get overwhelmed by the sheer variety in seed catalogs, especially the tomatoes but I take it in small bites.  I train my eyes to look for days until harvest so that I'm only looking at plants that will do well in my short season.  Generally speaking I make a huge list and then cull it down until I have a reasonable amount of seed for the garden space.
  4. Review last year's journal: Assuming you had a garden last year and kept a journal, take a quick scan through it and review problem plants, frost dates, insect problems, etc.  Use this information to cull that seed list, too.
  5. List other necessities: Make a list of other things you might need, compost, manure, straw, seed-starting pots, large flower pots, new sprinkler, etc.  Keep this list with you when you hit thrift stores or look through Craigslist, etc.  Generally speaking you can find bargains on this stuff before the season gets into full swing and you'll be all that more prepared.
  6. Ask your neighbors: Run ads on Craigslist, Freecycle, etc. in your area asking for garden plants and other items.  Many gardeners have extra plants they need thinned in their garden and will gladly share with you if you just come dig 'em out.  This is a great way to get berry starts, perennial herbs, and many flowers.  Ask now and follow-up later. 
  7. Plan to have fun: Gardening can be a ton of work but if it's complete drudgery well then it becomes to dread instead of something to look forward too.  When you're hitting those seed catalogs allow yourself to buy something fun or impractical just to see what will happen.  If you have kids, give them the chance to plant a row of whatever they want.  My own father did this to us and it planted a life-long love of gardening and plants in me. 
Happy Garden Planning to you! 

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