One of the biggest obstacles for newbie home gardeners and homesteaders is that they get gung ho about their gardening goals a little bit too late in the year. When the weather warms they see Pinterest and blogs explode with gardening adventures. Nurseries and home improvement stores are overrun and you probably see your neighbors starting on their projects and digging in the dirt. What you don’t see though is that these same people start planning their adventures long before the weather turned warm. Great gardens are actually rooted in the winter months. That is when they are dreamed up and planned for. So if you want to grow your own food and have a great spring/summer garden don’t be left behind again, start NOW!
Here are some ideas and tips to get you started…
Write It Down
Take out a pencil and paper and get to writing. Start with a list of the things you want to grow and then research how those plants grow together. Some will be complimentary and others will not be. Draw out what it is you want to create. Use real time measurements so you will know if you have enough space. Outline a plan so that you won’t be left scratching your head in spring and wondering where to start.
Mark Your Garden Deadlines on a Calendar
Use a calendar to keep up with your garden planning. Write down what you need to start indoors and when so that you can meet any planting deadlines. Different plants grow at different paces and if you want a steady supply of certain edibles you will need to stagger your planting as well. Also make a note of when you need to move seedlings outdoors, taking into account any frost dates and when you need to start garden/yard clean up so you can have everything ready. I use the The Old Farmer’s Almanac Gardening Calendar.
Have Soil Tested
It is always a good idea to know the quality of your soil and to know if you need to amend it so that growing will be more productive. If your soil is lacking you will likely have problems growing and it might even frustrate you enough to make you give up when all you needed to do was be informed and proactive. Investing in your soil is arguably one of the most important things you can do (especially if you are growing edibles) and it starts with testing. Do a search for soil testing in your state and find out where you need to send a sample and what the associated costs are.
Order Seeds and Supplies
Don’t get caught in the trap of having to buy seeds at a local home improvement store or buy seedlings because you were late to the game and didn’t start your plants indoors. In my post about modern gardening practices actually harming bees, I highlighted a study conducted by the Friends of the Earth-US and Pesticide Research Institute. It found that 54% of common garden plants purchased at top retailers like Lowes and Home Depot contained neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been shown to harm or kill bees and other pollinators, with no warning to consumers. Don’t buy from these places!! Instead try heirloom seeds from places like Seed Saver Exchange, which is a non-profit, member supported organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds of our garden heritage, forming a living legacy that can be passed down through generations.
Other supplies include everything you need to start your seeds indoors. Don’t forget though that you can use recycled materials from home like eggshells and toilet paper rolls to grow seedlings and spend very little. Check out the post below for more information…
Visit Home and Garden Shows and Botanical Gardens
Why do these gardening shows often take place in winter? Because that is when master gardeners plan their gardens! Visit a local show, get inspiration, and talk to the gardeners and designers. Botanical gardens also highlight local plants that you can grow and they have people you can talk to about what will work best in your area. The best way to educate yourself about what you can grown in your own backyard is to talk to the people in your area who have been doing it for years.