Get Ready to Grow ~ 7 Basic Gardening Things You Can Be Doing Now


Get ready to Grow!

A post written with the beginner gardener in mind.

The holidays are over, the new year has started, now is a perfect time to think about gardening!

Yes, it may still be in the dead of winter but this is the time to begin planning: many of those cool season vegetables such as peas, lettuce, beets, and carrots will need a head start.  I already have cabbage and cauliflower seedlings growing under the growlights in our office.

Even if you do choose to just stick with the warmer vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, okra, etc.), or don’t want to plant vegetables at all in favor of annuals or herbs;  the sooner you prepare, the more successful your harvest will be.

Here are seven things you can do now while you anticipate the spring:

1. Decide on what crops you want to grow, and then purchase the seeds.

Two rules of thumb that I like to keep in mind when seed shopping are:

*Grow what you like to eat


*Grow those varieties that are best suited for your area

Here is another post on selecting your seeds.

2. Contact your County Extension Office for any helpful information.  

Information such as planting dates, recommended varieties, fact sheets for specific crops or techniques.  Some extensions offer special classes free to the public.  The information you receive will be specific to your zone and area, and most County Agents are seasoned gardeners themselves there because they want to help (I know because I’m a county agent myself. :) ).  Don’t be shy about using this valuable resource.

3. Be sure to find out the last hard frost date.

This is where your county extension office will be helpful.  The planting of your cool and warm season crops revolves around this important information. This may sound very basic, but I planted my first garden knowing nothing about a “last hard frost date”.  I simply sprinkled in my lettuce seeds when the weather seemed warm enough to me.  I was weeks behind and they bolted before we really got to enjoy them.

4.  Reread The Secret Garden and rediscover the magic of growing things.

Even if you are a well seasoned grown~up gardener, it is never too late in life to enjoy this classic.  Read it again and again.  Read it alone with a candle and a cup of tea.  Read it to someone special.  Time the reading of it in late winter so you can see your daffs bloom through Mary’s eyes.

5. Start your own transplants if you are set up to do so.

As I mentioned earlier, the week of Christmas I started my cabbage, cauliflower, Swiss chard, and broccoli seeds so the transplants will be ready to set out at the end of February.  If you are new to starting seeds indoors, I’m working on a few posts that will help you get started with the materials you will need.

6. Choose a mild day and go out to loosen the soil.

When I was an urban farm gal, this was a much enjoyed New Year’s Day tradition.  I’d don my wellies, grab my cultivator and get out in the soil to loosen and prepare it for spring planting.  With our recent move, we’re just building our beds so this little ritual was something I really missed this year.

If it isn’t pleasant yet to be outside, then:

7. Research.

Go to the library and browse the gardening selection, or hit up the used book store (my favorite) or Amazon to start a home library of your own.  Following are some of our favorites from our shelf here at Black Fox.

Square Foot Gardening ~  A timeless classic and an obvious choice.  As a beginner this was invaluable to me, as a more experienced gardener, I still refer back to it and use this technique (although on a much larger scale).

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible ~ This was given to us as a gift and I later learned that it was highly recommended by an Extension Educator at our local extension office.   The author recommends wide beds and narrow aisles; a technique we are using here on our homestead.  He also has an excellent and very helpful profile of the most common garden vegetables recommending helpful cultural practices, listing the most common pests, etc. etc.

Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre ~ Even if you are on a larger acreage like we are, the information given here will be very valuable to you.  The author discusses everything from what to grow, to compost, and how to preserve the harvest.  I highly recommend this resource to any homesteader.



When do you like to start getting your garden ready and what do you do to prepare for the gardening season?


Find this post and others like it linked to: Homestead Barn Hop, Mostly Homemade Mondays, The Backyard Farming Connection Hop, Winter on the Homeacre Hop, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Tutorials Tips and Tidbits, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, Cowgirl Up

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Get Ready to Grow ~ 7 Basic Gardening Things You Can Be Doing Now — 21 Comments

  1. This will be my second year gardening, but my first to start all my own plants from heirloom seeds. Here we can set out warm loving crops in March/April using mini hoops for unexpected/late cold snaps, so I need to get my seeds going this week. My parents hauled 30 bags of leaves to me before Christmas that I put on top of all the raised beds (we only have pines in our yard and my kids were embarrassed that I was taking the neighbors leaf bags from the curb). I still have 3 raised beds to build, but I just dumped the leaves onto those three spots and covered them with more bagged leaves to start breaking down the soil. It will be in the 70′s here later this week for a few days, so Lord willing, those beds will be built by Saturday night! Thanks for the post!

    • Leaves are great for compost! Unfortunately we don’t have any trees so we rely on cut hay or wood chips. Good luck with your seeds! Heirlooms are so much fun.

  2. Thank you ! I didn’t see the list of books you recommended in my post. We are waiting on the Lord to move us closer to homesteading, and I’m so excited. I really enjoy your posts. They encourage and inform! Thanks again!

    • I’m sorry you didn’t see them Gina. I recommended Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew, The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward C Smith, and Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 of an Acre by Brett Markham. I’m sure you could get Square Foot and the Veg. Bible at your local library if you weren’t sure about purchasing them right away. Otherwise a used copy on Amazon would be very reasonable. I hope things come together for your homestead soon.

  3. Great reminders for us old gardeners too :) I would love to have you join in several hops that I host or co-host! Starting today there is the seasonal Winter on the HomeAcre Hop at:

    This gives you a chance to bring out archived posts on winter subjects :)
    Tomorrow is Wildcrafting Wednesday, you’ll be able to find it from my homepage at:

    And on Thursday I host The HomeAcre Hop, another good place to bring out great posts that you would like to share again. I’d love to see posts on homesteading, farming, cooking, homeschooling…the list goes on :) You can also find that on my homepage. Hope you can join us for all of these fun hops!

    • Thank you Lisa! I visited your blog yesterday when I saw your post for the butter mold over at the Prairie Homestead. I will be sure to drop by, link up, and add these to my weekly list.

    • I need to get a new copy. I love the one illustrated by Tasha Tudor (who was a homesteader in her own right).

  4. This is a helpful gardening post, and I need to get on it and order seeds! So nice to hear from you, and glad that you liked my winter greens post. Sorry to hear that your mustard greens got munched by pests. I have to be careful with mustard, because they like my garden too much, and if I let them go to seed, then I have mustard growing every which where, and it smothers out other, more tender plants. I do like it in salads, though, so I let a little of it sprout up here and there.

    • I love to shop for seeds! That is the best part. I have two catalogs sitting on my desk as we speak.

  5. Pingback: Making Ends Meet on the Farm: RLT Readers’ Roundup | Rural Living Today

  6. Great post! Highlighted it today on northernhomegarden. It is snowing here heavily today, but spring is coming – Thank you for the reminder!