It’s a blustery and windy day here in the Ozarks and cold winter days call out for a mug of hot, herbal tea in front of the fire. The animals are huddled in the barn despite their thick winter coats and I’m thankful for the heated buckets so I don’t have to break ice for the animals to drink. The ground crunches in protest as I walk to and from the barn, and the big nut trees and orchard trees are stark and bare as they creak in the wind. Despite the frigid temperatures and barren ground, now is the perfect time to start thinking about the spring garden. What better way to spend these cold days when you don’t want to be outside than to look ahead to warmer days, greener surroundings under a blue sky, and the delicious taste of fresh picked? Garden planning is my favorite part of winter, and a crucial step you don’t want to overlook. In business, there’s a saying that if you “fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” This lack of planning can result in a garden that is less than optimal.
By taking the time to plan your garden now, you can enjoy some of the following benefits:
- Save Money Depending on your planting zone and what you want to plant, February is the time to start some of your seedlings indoors. If you buy seeds and start the plants ahead of time, you can save quite a bit of money. Seed packets generally will run around $1.50 to $2.00 per packet which contains anywhere from 20 seeds to hundreds of seeds depending on the variety. Compare this to the average cost of $3.00 per plant in the spring from your local greenhouse or box store, and the savings really starts to mount up! If you have plenty of space, you could even plant extras to sell or give away!
- Save Time Planned gardens create greater efficiency. By planning ahead, you know what you are planting and when to plant. You know ahead of time what supplies need to be purchased, where plants will be planted, what spacing you will plant them. A written plan (I have a gardening notebook/folder) carried over from year to year will tell you what worked well in the past (and what didn’t) which will help guide you in which varieties produce best for your area. Planting seedlings and knowing what you will put in your garden will also save time in the spring when everyone else is rushing to the box stores to purchase plants. You will already be ahead of the game.
- Have the garden you want I’m often asked early summer when I’m already preserving parts of my harvest and easily tending my beautiful fruits and veggies how I get such great results. Here’s a little tip that is one of my biggest secrets to success: Plan Ahead! I can think ahead in the early stages of the garden planting to what I want to harvest and adjust my garden accordingly. This year, my husband wants more jars of salsa in the pantry that will last all winter…which means I’m planning my tomato, pepper, onion, garlic, tomatillo, and herbs accordingly.
- Collaboration Opportunities When you plan ahead on your garden, you have the opportunity to collaborate with friends and neighbors on what you plant or don’t plant. I like to work with my neighbors to see what varieties of vegetables they are planting. Then I plan my garden accordingly. For example, one zucchini plant is very prolific and will yield high volumes of zucchini squash which can easily feed the whole neighborhood. Similarly, eggplant, butternut squash, acorn squash, pumpkins and sometimes cucumber do well enough that one plant is sufficient for a share plan with friends, family, and/or neighbors. After checking on various collaboration opportunities for trades on crops, I can expand my harvest beyond what is planted in my personal garden, resulting in more options, more variety, and the chance sometimes to try new things.
So as you can see, taking some time to plan ahead will be worth the time and effort. Plus, it’s fun! For me, garden planning is a great way to escape the winter dreariness and look forward to warmer days of spring. So now it’s time to enjoy planning for your garden and your harvest this year. What will you be planting? Grab a cup of coffee or tea, pull the chair closer to the fire, grab some seed catalogs (or your tablet, for you modern gardeners) and get started. Stay tuned for the next part of the Garden Planning blog series, which will cover what to consider when planning your garden.