By Tracy Emrick, Countryside Initiative Coordinator
These single digit days are a great time to get busy planning your 2013 garden. Often times when Spring arrives, folks get the itch and then out we tromp into the remnants of last-years garden space armed with our hoes and seed packs. But it is always a good idea to give it some thought first. When I plan my kitchen garden, this is how I usually begin each January:
The 2013 Garden Plan
Last year’s list of success & failure
~This is an important step!
~List what you were very happy with (example: amazing romaine lettuce and gorgeous winter squash)
~List what challenges you faced (example: weeds took over in July and cucs were ravaged by disease)
~Take notes and look up solutions to your challenges (example: Mulching for weed suppression and organic fungicides for cucs…) There are many online resources to solve garden problems.
~Seed catalogs are not only inspirational and fun to flip through, they usually come packed full of great tips and growing information to help you succeed (My favorites are Johnny’s and Seed Savers).
~Choose plant varieties that like your site location (zone, soil and sun). If you’ve never tried heirloom varieties, you should! You will be amazed at the taste diversity out there!
~A good rule: don’t grow what you won’t eat! If nobody eats arugula don’t grow arugula. If you had to pay people to take cherry tomatoes & zucchini off your hands, cut the # of plants in half or more.
~No Picasso skill required, just draw a rough-scaled model of your garden space (graph paper helps).
~Determine direction on your sketch, north, south, east and west. Sun exposure is very important.
~Be sure to consider the width and height the plants will be at harvest so you have ample room between rows and taller plantings don’t block the sun from shorter ones.
~Draw out where your trellised plants will go; along a fence or will you construct a trellis.
Schedule and Maintenance
~Get out the calendar and plan for all your garden chores.
~When will you clean up and prep your beds for planting? (Tip: If you have backyard chickens, toss them in the garden in late winter-early spring to help clean things up. Doing it in the Fall is even better)
~You can plant all at once when summer arrives, but to get the most from your garden space try seasonal plantings. Look at your zones planting dates, early, cold and frost hearty spring veggies go in first. Then your summer veggies, then you can plant another crop of late veggies for fall.
~Consider things like mulching and spraying now so that when planting season begins you have all the materials you need ready to go.
~Schedule weeding time (mulching will help, but weeds are tenacious)!!!
~Block out time every day to at least stroll through your garden. A quick visual inspection will allow you to catch trouble before it gets out of control, not to mention the discovery of the first bean stalk bursting from the ground or that first squash blossom will give you that sense of accomplishment that makes it all worthwhile.
Well, I’m inspired! I’m going to pour another cup of coffee, grab my Johnny’s catalog and graph paper and get to work! Enjoy the rest of winter and happy garden planning!