Gear up for Spring Planting


Gear up for Spring Planting

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:

understanding seed catalogs edited with bird

 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.

favorite cool weather crops feature photo

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?


Find this post and others like it linked to: The Homestead Barn Hop, The HomeAcre Hop, Homemade Mondays, Clever Chicks Blog Hop, , Frugal Days Sustainable Ways

*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. 

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Gear up for Spring Planting — 24 Comments

  1. I loved hearing about your garden plans and I am getting prepared also. I went thru all of my seeds and if they are still viable there is very little that I will have to buy. Every year I start my seeds under 4 sets of grow lights on gorilla racks we bought several yrs at Costco, they work fantastic! Because I live in zone 6b and this year we have a May 14 last frost day, we have a short growing season, which doesn’t allow me to grow melons and other longer growing fruits. We love peppers and I grow several varieties, but they too don’t grow to size because of conditions. So last year I tried something different ,instead of waiting for March to come around to plant my pepper seeds, I did it the 2nd week of February and it made all the difference! Wow!! I was harvesting green, red, yellow bell peppers, and several varieties of hot peppers for salsas, it was hard to keep up with the harvest, we froze many for later use. I started eggplant the same way last year, many can’t grow it, but I was having to give it away! So will be doing that again in early Feb.
    I liked what you had to say about checking the soil temperature instead of just relying on dates, never thought of that. I also liked what you are doing with companion planting. I have 4 rows of raspberries that come on every year, what crop do they like to live by? I will be planting potatoes for the 1st time this year, do berries like potatoes?
    Thanks for your website, I really enjoy it!

    • Hi Jeanne, We have a growing season that is a little bit longer but I have had a hard time getting melons going too. That is a great idea to start your warm weather stuff well in advance. I try to do that with our tomatoes every year without them getting too leggy before going into the garden.

      I have not had much experience with raspberries but according to Carrots Love Tomatoes rue will help deter the Japanese beetle, as will tansy. Don’t plant them near your potatoes however because it will make the potatoes more susceptible to blight. Potatoes like horseradish (although I’m told horseradish can be invasive), and do well with broccoli and cabbage.

      I hope that is helpful! Good luck with your gardening. :)

  2. Such good advice. :-) Yesterday I started planning my winter garden, reading my gardening book and making notes for myself to finish building the greenhouse, haul goat manure over to dig into the soil, and start collecting seeds and potting soil. It’s so exciting, isn’t it? :-)

    • Right. :) Have you tried growing greens? Lettuces are very easy to grow indoors and transplant very well.

  3. I’ve already started my broccoli and next week I’ll start on my usual warm weather crops: tomatoes, peppers (hot & sweet), and eggplants. Getting a head start on the growing season is just so exciting for me and sometimes I can get carried away;five years ago tomato and pepper seedlings basically took over our house. I had plants everywhere and I didn’t see what the problem was until my husband said, ENOUGH!! Well, anyway happy gardening to you and everyone else. Great post, and you have another pinterest follower!

    • Yes, we had tomato plants all over our house too! Best wishes for a bountiful harvest and thanks for the follow. :)

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  6. This is great! I can tell you are a serious pro at this! Its encouraging to learn from those who have gone before us! We are attempting our first ‘real’ garden this year in upstate NY….we’ll see how it goes! Thanks again!

  7. I really appreciate your posts, and will be taking stock of my seed collection this weekend and starting to map out what will. Be planted where, and ordering th seeds I still need. Thanks for the info.

  8. We bought a 7 acre farm last year, and this year we put in our first garden. i’m glad we waited a year because the spot we thought we’d want to use turned out to be too marshy and shady as we observed it throughout a full four seasons. I talk to the members of my fitness site who love gardening a lot about good form and stretching in the garden. You’d be amazed how many injuries happen whilst weeding! LOL

    • How interesting Beth! I’ll have to think more about posture and stretching when I work out in the garden this spring.

  9. Hi I’m in a new home this year a little farm that I have so much excitement for spring to arrive. Because of our move I never planted a garden. When we moved it was really late in the season but I picked a small area and had to get my hands dirty so I planted some things to see if I’d get anything. I got some so was happy but nothing like I normally do. Today I went out got more seeds and want to plant starter plants in small containers for later transplant. My question is, when is to soon to start seeds indoors?

    • Hi Amy! Congratulations on your new home! As far as timing for indoor transplants: a lot of that depends on your zone, your last hard frost date, and what you are wanting to grow. Fast growing crops like lettuces can be started about four weeks before setting them out. (Alternatively lettuces can be sown directly in the soil but setting out transplants will give you a head start). Those crops that take longer to grow such as cabbages, broccoli, peppers, and tomatoes, need a good six weeks inside before setting out. If you haven’t already, I recommend getting in touch with the Master Gardeners through your county extension office. They should be able to tell you when the start dates are for your area and help you with varieties best suited for your climate. I hope that is helpful. Good luck and I wish you a bountiful harvest!

  10. Great post! I garden in the PNW. I have done my seed inventory & started some seeds hydroponically under grow lights. I too am a fan of Territorial and Seed Savers! This year, I am sharing my large garden with a neighbor who has filled some beds with soil, a whole lotta alpaca manure and compsted leaves, and left other beds with just plain ole dirt. I will be adding complete organic fertiliser, but am wondering if I should do some type of soil test in the different areas to know what to plant where?

    • Some people will disagree with me on this but I feel that soil testing is a matter of personal preference. I have my own soil test kits, and I plan (someday) to put them to use but honestly at this point, with everything else that needs to be done, it is all I can do to get things growing. I say if you have the time and you feel it would be beneficial: go for it. If you don’t: don’t stress. Take good notes about what you are doing, make a note of what you have planted where, and then monitor it. Also take a look at your soil when you plant ~ is it nice and friable? Does it drain well? Do you have earthworms? That is the approach that I have taken with my garden here and I have had success with it. Good luck!

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  13. Hi Jenny! I stumbled across this free Garden Planner and thought you might like to see the pages. I did print off every page (not sure why) but some of them I already do in another format, such as the daily diary – I keep mine in a Word doc, one doc since 2004. It was a trick Soule taught me so I can search any term and find the info I seek.
    Here is the link:
    I had to load each page into Adobe and print each individually, I also saved each one because why have a document in one format when you can have it in two formats?!
    I thought you might like to check these pages as some may fill a gap from other planners, or you may see an additional column to add to your current system.

    • Oh this is awesome! Thank you Dana. I love the idea of keeping it in word for an easy search. This is great! :)