Garden season may feel months away, but the winter is when you make your plans. The time to start preparing to garden is upon us!
Snow may be falling on a large portion of the country, but gardening is on the brain for many. December typically brings my favorite seed catalog, and I start thinking about what I want to grow. My husband may send me some side glances as I draw out our newest garden beds, knowing he has to build and fill them. Who doesn’t love thinking about growing and dirt when the temperatures are falling outside?
1. Picking the Plants to Grow
We try to save seeds as much as possible, but we also purchase heirloom seeds each year. When you receive the catalog or take a look online, you might be tempted to grow it all. However, take it slow if this is your first year. Each year, we add something new. Last year, our new crops were dried beans and celery. Both did well, so now it’s time to pick something different.
To make my selection, I consider what we purchase regularly, or what I use in recipes often. For example, we use celery and carrots often for soup stock. I purchase at least 10 pounds of potatoes every two weeks. Lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, brussel sprouts, green beans and cucumbers also top my list. What your family uses regularly is going to be individual!
2. Frost Dates and Calendars
My next step is to figure out when I need to start my seeds. It’s going to vary based on where you live. The process is easy; don’t worry!
First, figure out your USDA Hardiness Zone, which will tell you the first and last frost dates for your region. Remember, those are averages, so you have to pay attention as the dates get closer. For my zone, our last frost date typically falls around May 10, give or take a few days.
Next, take a look at each seed you are growing. The packet should tell you when to start the seeds inside. It can vary from two weeks before the last frost up to 12 weeks before the last frost. Some seeds take longer to germinate and harden before planting outside. Using your calendar, count back for each seed and mark what date is ideal for starting your seeds.
3. Drawing Beds
While you are waiting for these dates to come, it is time to plan your garden beds. There are different choices from raised beds to traditional rows. I like to draw out my plans. Each year, I tend to add more raised beds. By using companion and succession planting techniques, I plan out my garden beds for the upcoming year. Despite my lack of artistry skills, it helps to organize my thoughts.
Now I wait. This time is the hardest. My seeds are picked, plans are created, and I just have to wait for the right dates to arrive. What are you most excited about growing this year?