In just over a month we'll welcome the official start of spring and (hopefully) some warmer weather. Since I'm always looking ahead, that means it's about time to start planning my garden.
I really enjoy certain parts of gardening. I love a new bag of potting soil that is dark and soft. I love clean planters, ready to be filled with dirt. Most of all, I love planning what I will plant. And, of course, I love picking fresh vegetables once they've grown. It's pretty cool to know that you can grow your own food. (Is it really a cost-savings? I'm not convinced, with certain plants. Especially when you consider purchasing all of the gardening supplies and the water you need. But that's a question for another day.)
There are other aspects of gardening of which I'm none too fond. Worms, bugs, becoming dirty, slugs, snakes, watering, weeding...I could do without those. (Especially the snakes. If I ever saw a snake in my vegetable garden, I'm pretty sure I'd never go back in it. Last year, I saw one in my front flower bed and avoided that area of the yard for the rest of the summer. I stepped directly on the spot for the first time last week, when I was shoveling snow off my front step.)
In any case, this time of year is really most concentrated with the parts of gardening that I like, and it involves none of the parts I don't.
I probably won't buy seeds until early March, but soon thereafter I will begin planting some of my vegetables and herbs in trays inside the house. I did this last year, put the trays in a window and near my grow light, and had many (too many) healthy seedlings by the time May rolled around and it was time to transplant outside. Here's what I planted last year. Everything in bold is what I planted indoors early in the season.
Tomatoes (three varieties)
Sugar snap peas
Blueberries (two varieties)
I went a little crazy last year. I planted a full packet of seeds for each of the above (except for potatoes and blueberries, for which I used seed potatoes and blueberry bushes), and ended up with much more garden than I really had time to care for. I also planted things too close together, and I had a really hard time thinning my plants. I had put so much time into everything that I couldn't bring myself to kill any seedlings. I know I would have gotten better results if I had spaced and thinned things out, though. I'll try to do better this year.
I also had better luck with some plants than others. Both blueberry bushes I purchased died. The onions barely grew at all (I got many "onions" smaller than a cocktail onion, but couldn't really find much use for them other than as an ingredient in soup). The peppers sprouted very well, but bore no fruit. (This could be because I used seeds from actual grocery-store peppers. But there's no real reason that shouldn't work.) And my cilantro, my favorite herb of all time, did not make it through the summer. (I've had this issue before. If anyone has tips on keeping cilantro healthy, please let me know. Three years in a row it's been a bit of a disaster.)
Everything else grew, with varying degrees of success. I think I brought my garden up in nearly all of the conversations I had from May through October, revealing my status as someone without much to do. I even made myself an awesome garden planning binder, which certain younger family members took as a sign that becoming domesticated is "terrifying." I was very, very into my garden. This created some problems with the projects I hoped to get done around the house during the warmer months. I was never short on ingredients for salad, however.
All things considered, I think I'll reconsider some of last year's plant choices and scale back a bit this year. I definitely will be making myself a planning grid this year. It was beyond helpful. I also used yarn to lay out the full-scale grid on my raised bed garden itself. That way, it was easy to tell what was growing in any one area.
I'll be back tomorrow with a how-to on building a raised bed and a template for a planning grid that you can download for free. Hopefully it will be as helpful to you as it was to me.