Start Planning Your Garden Now

It may be winter, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be planning your garden already. It takes time to figure out what you want to grow this year, get the seeds and get things moving. A little extra time means you’ll be ready when it’s the right time to start planting in your area.

In our garden, for example, we already know that we’re switching where the vegetables grow and where the wildflowers will be. It will be a bit of a pain switching them, but it seems to me that where we had the vegetables last year got too much direct sun combined with reflected heat for the health of the plants. Our yard is small, and we rent, so we’re limited in what we can do. The fence there is cinderblock, and reflected quite a bit of heat onto the plants. The soil there dries out much more quickly than the rest of the yard.

I already have the kids taking some of the seeds from last year’s wildflowers and shaking them over the area where we had the vegetables. With any luck, a few of them will sprout when the time is right. We’ll add more seeds and actually plant them when it’s spring. More planning is of course necessary for the vegetable garden.

Decide What You Want to Grow

You probably have some favorites you grow each year. Tomatoes are the one my husband insists upon, with several varieties grown each year. Sweet basil is another favorite. I want to include string beans this year, as when we’ve grown them other times the kids have eaten them like candy. By that I mean begging to eat more, willing to do chores to get extra. They really love fresh, raw string beans.

I recommend looking for heirloom and/or organic seed sources. You can also buy young plants if you prefer, but seeds cost less.

Lay Out Your Garden on Paper

Figure out what space you have for your garden and how much room you need for each kind of plant. There are plenty of gardening books out there to help you figure this part out if you aren’t comfortable doing it on your own.

Know When to Start Planting

When it’s safe to start planting your garden depends on where you live and what you want to grow. Some plants are more frost resistant than others, some need warmer weather than others to grow well. There are plenty of garden zone maps available online, and seed packets often tell you where and when they’re most likely to do well.

Decide How to Prepare Your Soil

You may not be able to do any actual soil prep in the winter, depending on where you live, but you can consider what you’re going to do with it. If you have a compost pile, for example, you may want to mix in some of that compost.

Decide How to Start Your Seeds

Many people start their seeds indoors. You don’t have to worry about frost or critters getting your seeds or very young plants that way. You can get a bit of a head start this way.

Others prefer to start their seeds in the ground. It’s simpler to not worry about transplanting things later on. Either way can work.

Talk Rewards With Your Kids

One thing that helped our garden last year was setting a reward for spotting tomato hornworms.  The kids loved getting paid to spot those pests, which were doing some serious damage to our tomatoes. They’re learning to pull weeds too, although that requires more supervision as they usually have questions. Kids can be a wonderful, natural way to control weeds.