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:
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