Garden Planning and Spring Dreaming

There are times when trying to figure out what to write every other week can be a challenge. Then you wake up and its 5 degrees out and you immediately begin to think to warmer weather and next year's growing season. That of course led me to thinking about seed starting.

One of my favorite things about the gardening season is starting my own vegetable plants from seed, but as usual my eyes are either bigger then my garden or my stomach - in other words I always have too much! So, part of seed starting is planning ahead and figuring out what I really want to grow, what I have space for, and what I can use and thinking ahead to what I do with extra produce that I can't use.

I'll be honest, it's not easy to pick and choose what I want to grow, because if I had my way I'd grow all of it! There are so many new and amazing varieties that come out every year. I try and chose at least a few new varieties to see how they do and then of course there are my standbys that I chose every year regardless. Some of my favorites include Lacinato Kale and Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes.

So before you can even start seeds or order them – you need to do some garden planning. This is when pen and paper come in handy. Make sure you know the dimensions of your growing area and then do some basic planning. It doesn't have to be fancy, but having it down on paper can help give a better perspective of what you have space to grow. One thing I've been guilty of in the past is forgetting to account for enough space for pathways between rows and plants so that you can get in your garden for water, weeding, and harvesting. The information on the seed packets or in the catalogs is for spacing between the plants but not enough for walking and maneuvering space, so you'll need to look at that spacing given and then add more space for pathways.

As hard as it might be sometimes, we have to reduce our list of what we can grow so that we can make sure that our plants have enough space to grow healthy and strong. As tempting as it might be to reduce the spacing listed on seed packets or in catalogs, make sure to stay with those spacing recommendations. Plants too close together can end up with fungal issues or other problems from leaves staying wet and not being able to dry off because plants are too crowded.

One thing to note – part of that planning process is accounting for crop rotation. Making sure you don't plant the same crops in the same place each year if possible. I know that can be hard in smaller gardens, but rotate crops if possible. Keeping garden records makes that part of the planning process easier from year to year.

Of course once you have had fun and your planning is completed and you order seeds, then the next step is planning the where and when to get them started. On January 31, 2017 at 1:30 pm we will be offering a Four Seasons Garden webinar on Seed Starting to help get you started!

If you need more help or additional information about planning your vegetable garden you can contact your local Extension office or contact Chris Enroth or I for help.

Chris Enroth – 309-837-3939

Kari Houle – 217-223-8380