As we move further into winter it is a good time to start thinking about what you’ll grow in your garden this upcoming spring. Last year I got a late start. My planning was rather rushed and so I didn’t have that much time to think through where things should go. I ended up tossing stuff in later than I should have and as such, I didn’t take all that good of notes. I ended up getting some measure of success, but I think that I could do better with some more planning. One of the things that I’m looking at doing this year is to develop a binder to hold all of my homesteading info, I’m hoping this will help me get a better hold on what I have accomplished and what needs to be done.
There will be more on that binder in the future, but for now, I’m thinking about the garden. One of the first things that I think you should do is to get a hold on what you did last year. Again, if I had taken better notes this would be easier. I worked off my own memory and that of my family. It is a good plan to consider the things that you planted, what worked well and what didn’t. For example, we had a bean bush that we really liked. They were Blue Lake Bush beans, so I know that I am most certainly growing those again. We had tried growing onions from seeds, even though we tried a few different times we never seemed to get growth out of them. I’m going to take nother stab at them, but starting off with seed onions instead of seeds. Now there are some others, like cauliflower, that didn’t do so well last year, but I want to make another attempt at before giving up on growing them.
Once you have gotten a handle on what worked well last year, you’ll want to think about what to grow this year. Some of those decisions can flow out of what you grew last year. For others, you might want to attempt to grow some other things that you haven’t tried before but that you think will grow well and that you will have a use for. Often times the first year you are growing something you will really be taking a shot in the dark how many you need to plant. Be sure that you note about how many seeds you plant, how many seedlings you end up with, how many full size plants produce and how much of a harvest you end up with. This will help you in the future to scale up or down based on what you grew and what you need. Be sure to add in with your notes about growing conditions, if you have a really dry year you probably won’t get as much as a wetter year.
Now that you have worked out what you are planning on growing this year, you will need to select seeds or plants. The best thing that you can do is to take a good inventory of what seeds you have from past years. This could be seeds that you ordered and never got around to planting or seeds that you have saved from your past years crops. I was surprised at how many seeds that I had left when I did my inventory this year, it saved me from ordered duplicates of a number of different seeds. To aid you in this quest I’ve drafted up a Seed Inventory Sheet to help out with keeping track of the seeds that you laying about.
Finally you may need to order some seeds or look at getting some seedlings. You have a number of different choices of where to get your seeds and plants from. There is the option of going to a store that might carry seeds and plants in your area. This can be great if you need to get your seeds right away to plant and seedlings might be in better condition if they haven’t been shipped across the country. The downside is that you will be limited to the varieties that they carry. Another option is to order from various seed sites on the web. I personnally have liked what I’ve gotten from Burpee. They tend to have a good selection and if you order plants they will ship them when they are ready to plant for your zone, based on your zipcode. Some times if you watch and order early you can find a good sale to save yourself some money while ordering seeds.
The other thing that you will need to do is figure out when your last frost is and base your planting schedule off of that. I still need to spend some time doing this, so I will be writing about it in a future article. The other thing that you may want to consider is what to do with excess seeds. Some times you will end up with seed packs that are a number of years old that you don’t feel comfortable pinning your gardening hopes to. Or perhaps you have a half open seed packet that you grew that year and didn’t enjoy. There are a number of things to look doing with them. If they are just old you can order a newer pack, but still try to sprout the older seeds as well. If they are ones that you don’t like perhaps you can find someone else that would enjoy growing them. Should you not be able to find anything else, why not add them to a meadow area of your plot if you have one.
I’m looking at in addition to a food garden making a chunk of land into a meadow. For my mother, in lawn this should just look nice and be enjoyable to look at. For my wife, this should attract a few hummingbirds which she loves. And for my daughter, it might even attract some butterflies for her to watch. As an added benefit it should provide a bit of a snack for the bees as well. I am thinking that I have a few old seed packets that I might just toss into the mix I’ll be using for the meadow. If they grow that will be one more plant growing there and if not, oh well.