It's the most wonderful time of the year, time to plan my gardens!
Ok, not really, the most wonderful time is when it is warm enough to stay outside for more than 30 minutes, but it IS time to start thinking about gardening.
Most people don't plan to fail, they fail to plan. This is especially true in gardening.
I have been gardening almost my whole life. I am NOT an expert, but I have learned a lot of things along the way over the past 35+ years of growing things, and I'll be happy to share them with you! I'm not committing to weekly posts, but there will be frequent ones about gardening, since it is one of my favorite things to do. :)
Now, there are all sorts of gardeners out there, you need to decide which kind you want to be THIS YEAR. That doesn't mean you can't change, but you need at least a basic idea to get started.
Will you be a sustinance gardener, growing everything possible & putting up cans and cans of veggies for next winter ? (This is NOT recommender for beginners!) Do you want to grow veggies at all? Maybe you want to be a flower-only gardener, with maybe a few herbs thrown in. Perhaps you've been eyeing your neighbors' tomatoes the past few summers and want to do small scale gardening. Will this be in a garden bed, raised beds, in containers, or amongst your flowers?
If you're a novice...or just a little unsure how much time and energy you want to commit, I suggest you choose a small scale garden area, either a bed or containers. Remember that if you choose containers, you'll probably need to water them daily in the heat of summer. If this is not a realistic expectation in your lifestyle, then choose a bed instead, where you can get away with every other or every third day watering.
So, let's say you choose to do a small-scale garden bed, 8'x16'. Now what?
First, give some thought to what you want to plant, and where you will put the garden. Almost all garden vegetables like full sun (7-8 hours a day), so this needs to either be out in the open, or on the south or south-west side of your yard. With a small bed, you're NOT going to have enough room for corn, or long-vine-y things like pumpkins. That's ok, both of those are usually available at your local farmer's market. Another thing to think about, how far is this proposed garden site going to be from the spigot? Because there will be days you need to haul water. Will your hose reach it? Will you be carrying buckets? (Remember that city water is not as good for your plants as rain water. But, you CANNOT water you plants with softened water from your house. So, make sure you have a spigot that's not connected to the water softener, if you have one, or that you can bypass the softener somehow.
Think about the things your family enjoys eating the most. Tmatoes, lettuces/ greens, cucumbers, onions, peppers??? These will determine your next steps, so decide what you want to grow.
Now, you've decide what to grow, you've picked a place, and you're sure you'll be able to water it. Great! But you're thinking, it's January, come on?!? Yes, January, the time to plan when you need to plan. If you're going to buy all of your garden plants from your local hardware or health food store, you can take a break for this month. If you're wanting to start your own plants, you need to make out a schedule.
Last year a friend suggested I look at the blog www.agardenforthehouse.com , it has a great section on winter sowing (my new favorite way to start seedlings.) You can read all about it here. Just read through all of Kevin's posts on winter-sowing. I'll share at a later date about a few modifications I made, but you'll get the jist (& you'll start saving milk jugs!)
One more thing for now, where to get your seeds. I have some favorites. You may have some too. Sometimes they send you lovely seed catalogs full of pretty pictures & descriptions. I like those a lot, but there are some companies I've shied away from because they don't test their seeds for GMO's. I'm planting a vegetable garden to give my family the best food at the best price, and GMO's are not a part of that equation. That is a personal choice. If you're not aware of GMO's and the threats they pose to heirloom vegetable varieties (& our overall health,) I'll leave you to do that research on your own.
Right now, my seed catalog reading consists of:
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds http://rareseeds.com - there is a link to request your own lovely copy of the catalog on the middle of the homepage.
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange http://www.southernexposure.com - also a link to order your free catalog!
FEDCO http://www.fedcoseeds.com -they have a great fundraising program that our 4-H Club does every year.
Remember, in the world of gardening, like in all of life, you will run into companies or websites that don't always agree with your views or lifestyle. That doesn't make their advice any less meaningful. Take the good, leave the bad, use discernment. I don't have to agree with someone's personal choices or politics to know they carry the best ______ seed, or have the best tips on combatting _________ garden problem.
So, happy planning, happy dreaming. Check back soon!
"For mine is just a little old-fashioned garden where the flowers come together to praise the Lord and teach all who look upon them to do likewise." -Celia Thaxter