Though it seems early, you don’t want to wait until spring to start planning your garden.
Depending on where you live, the winter months are for planning the garden, and the spring months are for working. It never feels like work though when you are in your garden.
Over the last few years, I have been planting a lot of my garden from seed. I thought it would be fun to break this down into a simple three-part series to planning and growing your garden.
A few reasons I like to grow from seeds are:
- It’s cheap! One packet of seeds is less than one ordinary store-bought plant.
- Seeds give you a massive selection to choose from. It opens up a whole new world! You are limited on the varieties of plants if you purchase them from a big box store.
- Starting seeds in your home expands your growing season by 6-8 weeks.
Even though I can only tell you what has worked for me, because you will have different situations where you live, I hope this information will be helpful and inspire you in knowing that it is not hard to do.
Spring Garden Planning
This first part is all about planning. It helps if you have a notebook for this. I have a little journal and also like to keep a file in my notes on my phone so that it is always with me.
Think about what you want from your garden this year and make a list.
For example, this year my goals are:
- Maintain and fix what I have, get rid of what is not working well.
- Set up a better watering system.
- Add different flowers to my cut flower garden.
- Plant only the vegetables that I know we will eat. I went way overboard last year!
Know your growing zone and the length of your growing season.
You will need to figure out when your last frost date is and go back about 12-14 weeks. That’s a pretty good time to start ordering your seeds. Some will sell out fast, so the earlier the better. The other information you need to be aware of is the number of growing days you have for your gardening zone. Knowing this information will help you when choosing seeds because some vegetables can take 90 days and if you are in a shorter growing season then you want that vegetable to get a good early start.
For example, I am in zone 6b. My last frost date is April 23. Right now I am about 14 weeks from our last frost date.
|Nearest Climate Station||Altitude||Last Spring Frost||First Fall Frost||Growing Season|
|PITTSBURGH ALLEGHENY CO AP, PA||1246′||Apr 23||Oct 19||178 days|
My first expected frost is October 19. The number of days in between is 178. That is the length of my growing season without a killing frost.
When you look through the seed catalogs, look in the description for the number of days the plants will take to reach maturity and keep this within your growing time. Keep in mind that the number of days listed is not from seed to vegetable/flower production but from the time you plant it in the ground until fruit/flower production.
To find your frost dates, you only have to go to the Farmers Almanac and put in your zip code.
By checking the U.S. plant hardiness zone map, you can find your growing zone.
This is the best part of garden planning!
First, look over any seeds you have from last year and see what you have. Make a list of what you want. If you store your seeds in a dry cool place, they should still be viable from the year before.
Now start looking over the seed catalogs or online from reputable places. Make a list of the plants and flowers you want from each and then order your seeds.
A few places that I find seeds from are:
- Local Garden Nurseries: I like to support small business and know that they carry seeds that are good for growing in our area.
- Bakers Creek, Johnny’s Select, Proven Winners, Floret Flowers, Park Seeds, Burpee… just to name a few. There are hundreds of them!
When your seeds arrive…
File them away until planting time. It is best to start planting seeds about 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost date. If you start too early, you will have leggy unhealthy plants, or you will need to transplant them into bigger pots. Last year, that was very discouraging to me. This year it’s one and done!
A few other things you can do right now for planning your garden this Spring:
- Walk around and see what changes you would like to make to the layout of your garden. Taking note, of things you want to do.
- On warmer winter days, clean out your garden. I always have places that need to be raked that I couldn’t get to before the Christmas season started.
- Amend your soil, compost, and get your garden space ready.
- Pour over garden books. Dream, plan, and learn as much as you can.
- If you are like me and need to plant something, start some microgreens. You can see how I did it here.
Enjoy this downtime. Once the season starts, it gets very busy.
The next part of this series will be coming in about 2 weeks. I will share with you what you need to prepare for and how to plant your seeds.
I am so excited for the growing season to start and this is motivating me to plan and do more in my garden too. It is so satisfying watching plants grow tall and produce something from a tiny little seed.
OTHER SPRING READS:
- Spring thoughts ~ Traveling around Pennsylvania – Lancaster County
- Little seeds and how to plant them ~ Microgreens and Salad Greens
- Pretty Spring Things