It’s almost February and the seed catalogues are available! Now is the time to plan this years’ veggie garden! I have discovered over the years that having a garden journal is really helpful. Recording what you learn from each years’ experience will build success over time.
It doesn’t need to be a perfect science, but there are a few tricks to consider when planning your garden.
- What do you want to grow? This is very important in an urban garden, as you will usually want more space than you have.
- What are the growth habits of the plants you are going to grow? Seed catalogues provide this information. If you want to have winter squash, you can plan to have them grow along a fence, of provide a vertical structure so that they don’t take up all your growing area. Some plants grow more quickly than others as well, so take some time to think about that.
- Spacing between plans is very important for good growth. If you thickly plant a row of lettuce seeds, you will get short lettuce plants. If you want the size of plants that you see in the market, you will need to space the as they grow. If you want lettuce all season, you may make circles of several seeds, and start a second circle a month later.
- Optimizing the sunlight for sun-loving vegetables. If you plan to grow pole beans, plant them in a place where they will not shade your other vegetables.
- Crop rotation, even in a small plot, will help provide the best soil conditions and pest management. Different types of vegetables (roots, brassicas, greens, and legumes) have different needs, so by practicing crop rotation, you will have happier vegetables over time. I will talk about this more in a future post.
I draw a map to scale of what I am going to plant. That way, even if it’s February and raining, I can get a head start on the plan from my desk. In my case, I live in a multi-family style dwelling where I have some raised beds. I do two sets of drawings as I do staggered plantings; one covers planting done February through April and the other one for May through August. If you use paper like I do, use pencil:)
Get your seed catalogue! It’s best to use one that is suited to your climate zone. I am on the West Coast of Canada, so I primarily use the West Coast Seeds catalogue. I also love Annapolis Seeds on the East Coast. My daughter Mira, who has a plot in a community garden in Brooklyn is buying most of her seeds this year from the Rare Seed selection from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and the Hudson Valley Seed Library. Seed swaps with friends are good too. There are a lot of seeds in most seed packets, and they vary in how long you can keep them and have them still be robust. Not a problem in year one, and seed packs tell you how long they will be viable. In early spring and early fall, you can find seed savers offering local varieties as well at special garden events in your area.
Have fun dreaming this years’ garden into being!