I know, I know. It's the middle of February and there's an inch of snow on the ground. Most of our garden can't be planted until at least April, so why in the world am I writing about garden planning now? So we will be able to grow more food this summer, of course! I could just wait until planting time, and wing it; plant what fits and harvest everything at the same time, wait three months and then harvest loads of fresh, organic, nutrient-dense produce for maybe a month. That seems like a lot of wasted time, don't you think?
No, I want my family to eat fresh from my garden as much as possible for as long as possible. That's the point, right? Now, if you've been reading my blog for long, you know that I don't have acres of farmland to grow this stuff. I'm in the suburbs--okay, rural suburbs, but still...
I have one 10X12 and three 3X8 raised beds plus some extra beds around the house for fruit, herbs and perennials, so we have to be thoughtful about how and when we will plant to get the most out of our little bit of space.
February is when we plan out what we are going to grow, and where we are going to grow them. I sketch our gardens on graphing paper and draw out what's going where, based on how much space they need, what plants they do best planted with, and how quickly they can be harvested and replaced with new plants.
I make notes as to when plants should be harvestable and what I want to plant in their place. I can then work backwards and figure out when I should start the second (and sometimes third) round of plants so they are ready to be planted as soon as we harvest something else.
I get all of this figured out now, so when spring and summer come I can just follow my gardening calendar. It really makes it easier in the end, I promise. You could also use excel for drawing them out, which works well if you are super computer-savy. Mentally, I plan better on paper, but I digress..
This year, the hubs is trying something a little different and started our first round of seeds indoors--I usually start in March. We planted mostly cool weather crops: lettuces, spinach, chard, kale, cauliflower and broccoli, but we are also trying a few warmer weather crops like tomatoes, peppers and herbs. By the time they are ready for planting, it should be warm enough to put them in pots during the day and bring them in at night. It's a little more work, but we will hopefully be harvesting a month sooner than usual. I'll keep you posted on that one.
If you want to learn more about garden planning, read my article, Garden Planning 101.