Planning a Spring Garden

When it's Still too Cold to Plant


This is the time of year when I start to get really tired of cold and gray winter days. I daydream about spring warmth, more sunlight, and planting the gardens. I think about all the bright and beautiful flowers that will grace the yard in just a few months and I begin to grow impatient.


Where I live it's far too early to think about planting anything or even starting seeds. It isn't uncommon for us to see snow and sub-freezing temperatures all throughout February. We can't really say it's "safe" to plant anything in the gardens until the middle of April.


So, what's a girl to do when all she wants is to plant flowers but just can't? Plan the gardens, of course! There's plenty to do even before the actual planning, especially if you're starting a brand new garden this year. And good news, you can do most of it from the warmth of your home!


 

Plan your garden plots:


A cinder block raised garden bed.
One of our raised bed plots last year.

You need to pick an area that gets ample sunlight. For most summer vegetables and many herbs, that means six or more hours of full sun every day. Some things even like eight or more hours. You'll need a plot that isn't shaded by your house or large trees. If you're not sure how much sun a spot gets you can easily figure that out. Simply go outside starting around sunrise and take note of where the sun hits. Check again each hour, making a note each time of where the sun is shining. Keep in mind that as the time changes and the days get longer this will change some, but it's a good place to start.


You also want to make sure you plan a large enough plot. If you set aside an eight-foot by eight-foot spot in your yard for your garden but you want to grow tomatoes, peppers, green beans, and squash, that won't work. You will need more space than that. I recommend purchasing a book on gardening for advice on how much space vegetables need to grow. I can tell you from personal experience that if you crowd the plants, you will not get a very good yield. Plants need space to thrive.


Once you have decided on a spot for your new garden, you'll want to decide how to build it. I have another post that details several ways to build plots if you need inspiration. You can simply till up a spot in your yard or you can build raised plots. No matter what you decide, you'll need to measure out the spot in your yard, buy any needed materials, and get the spot prepared ahead of your planned planting time.


If you have existing plots all you'll really need to do is examine them for any needed repairs (rotted wood, cracked bricks, et cetera), test your soil to see if you need to amend it, and do any necessary weeding.


Take a seed inventory and order seeds:


Some people prefer to buy seedlings and transplant them instead of starting their own plants from seed. That's completely okay! That was all I used to buy. If you buy seeds, however, you'll have much more of a selection to choose from. Starting seeds isn't all that difficult and I'll have an upcoming post dedicated to that.


You can purchase seeds from many local stores, online, or from catalogs. For your average home garden, one package of most seeds is plenty. Once you know what all you'd like to plan you can check out seed offerings and select varieties that are perfectly suited to your climate. It's also fun to choose a "wild card" crop- something you've never grown or aren't even sure what to do with. Last year we grew grilling squash and they were great!


Don't forget the flowers:


A bumble bee on a zinnia flower.
Bees love zinnias!

You want to make sure that you've got plenty of colorful flowers to draw in the bees and butterflies. Your vegetable plants are going to need plenty of pollinators to produce a great harvest for you. Last year we didn't focus enough on flowers near the garden and didn't bring in any bees. This led to me pollinating cucumbers and squash by hand with a tiny paintbrush. Not so fun. Save yourself the effort and plan for lots of pretty flowers!


What type of flowers you choose will depend on your location and where exactly in the garden you want them, but some good options are zinnias, marigolds, purslane, and periwinkle. You can check out one of my earlier posts for tips on drawing in pollinators. The pollinators aren't the only ones that enjoy the flowers- many birds love them, and so will you!


Purchase anything else you'll need:


Any project goes smoother when you've got everything you need from the very beginning, and creating a garden is no exception. Now is the time to start buying any soil, amendments, or garden tools you'll need. If you've got it all on hand as soon as you're ready to start things will go quicker and easier. Gardening should be fun, not stressful.


Some common things you'll want to have on hand when you get started include:


  • Gardening gloves

  • Pruners- the small hand-held ones for trimming and harvesting

  • Watering can for spot watering

  • A hose nozzle with multiple settings- young plants cant take a beating of water

  • A hoe or another tool to weed with

  • A basket to haul in your homegrown treasures


There are other things you may want to have, but this is a good place to start.


 

There you have it- just because it's still way too cold to plant our gardens, we can keep daydreaming and start planning the perfect one! After all, time flies by so the time to plant will be sneaking up on us before we know it. Happy planning!


What else do you do when you're planning your garden?

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