While spring is still a few months off, spring planting season (for me at least) is just around the corner: February 15 signals the start of the cool weather growing season for my area. From then on through March I’m putting in lettuces, peas, beets Swiss chard, kale, radishes, and carrots among other things.
I have spent the past few weeks taking inventory of my seed supply, perusing seed catalogs (my downfall), and making a list of what I need to get our garden started.
My goal this year is simply to perfect what we learned last year, mostly through trial and error. You can read more about what worked and what didn’t here. I don’t have grand plans to expand our gardening space. In fact, we’ve decided to make it a bit smaller in an effort to keep closer tabs on how our crops grow. For that reason I don’t plan to try a lot of new things. With few exceptions, we’ll be sticking primarily to the basics.
In spite of my simplistic goal however, I’m very excited about what the spring season holds for us and can’t wait to get out there and start digging.
If you are as eager as I am to get started with your gardening, here are a few things you can be doing now in spite of it still being January:
1. Take stock of your current seed collection to make sure you are set and ready to go.
Be sure to check the dates on your seed packets to ensure the seeds are still viable. If you are not sure, count out ten seeds and wrap them in a damp paper towel. Check every day for signs of germination, keeping the towel nice and damp. Sometimes I will enclose the towel within a ziplock bag, leaving it open for air circulation. Within a few days several seeds will most likely have started to sprout: that is your percentage of viable seeds. For example: if seven out of ten have sprouted 70% are viable. You can still use the seed, just plant a few extra to compensate for those that have gone bad.
2. Peruse the seed catalogs for additional seeds needed.
My favorite sites are Territorial Seed, Seed Savers Exchange, and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.* While some of these sites may be more expensive than what you can get at a home and garden store, they are committed to organic, non-GMO practices. If you have any questions, look inside the catalog or give them a call to see if they have taken the safe seed pledge. While looking through the catalog you’ll probably notice some abbreviations next to the item description:
3. Confirm your planting dates.
You’ll think you will remember but you will forget. Last year I thought I knew what I was doing when I set out my broccoli transplants. It was a full four weeks too soon and I lost most of it before I realized my mistake. Also keep in mind that the first day of planting isn’t always the best day to start. Weather patterns can be unpredictable. One of the goals I have for myself is to learn the best conditions for each crop and go by the weather and soil temperatures as opposed to dates. If you have any questions about planting dates contact your local extension office for information pertaining to your area.
4. Plan ahead
Take inventory of your gardening supplies: fertilizer, pest management, mulch, etc. If you don’t have enough to get through the spring and summer now is the time to stock up. Once the season kicks in full swing you’ll barely have time to look up. Additionally, if you plan to get a soil test, now would be a good time to begin thinking about it. If certain amendments are needed it takes a few months for them to take effect. And while your at it: think about food preservation. What do you plan to put by and what will you need in order to get it done?
5. Take notes! Take notes! Take notes!
Be sure to chart and record your plans in a garden journal. I am currently using the Gardening Notebook from Angie Schneider and loving it. I just print off the pages I need and keep them handy on my desk.
Here to help you with your planning is a printable chart listing a few cool weather crops along with our favorite varieties. To download and print, click here.
This is not by any means an exhaustive list. What I’ve assembled is just a thumbnail sketch but all of these are easy to grow and can be sown directly in the garden by seed. You’ll be seeing all of these crops in our garden this spring. For a more detailed profile I recommend referring to The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible which should be in every homestead library.
What are you doing now to prepare for the spring?
When does spring planting start for you?
*Not affiliates, just resources that I highly recommend.
This post contains affiliate links which means that at no additional cost to you, I may get a small commission if you purchase an item.