If you have been following me on Facebook, you know that I am super excited about Spring being right around the corner. We have a ton of projects going right now, but one of the primary areas of our homestead that I am really focused on is our garden. Last year, we had no garden here and it has been many, many years since anyone living here previously has ever done any planting, if at all. That being said, my soil is full of red clay, so a lot of preparing is going to have to happen to make our goals a reality this year.
Planning The Garden For Spring
This is the most important step that you can take in planning for your garden. Learn all about the different gardening techniques (container, raised beds, traditional rows, vertical) and what plants thrive using those techniques. Knowing which plants need more sun than others, which nutrients a plant may need and how you are going to provide those nutrients if your soil is deficient. Are you interested in permaculture? Justin Rhodes from Abundant Permaculture has an amazing setup and he is extremely knowledgable. He offers a few pretty awesome courses to help you get started and they are very affordable too. This is an area that I’ve been learning a lot about and I’m so glad I took the time during the down months to begin filling my Gardening Know How Toolbox!
Find Your Area’s Last Frost/Freeze Date
Back in Pennsylvania our last frost date was May 23rd, so we didn’t usually start our seeds until late February to Mid-March. Here in the Ozarks we are fortunate and our last frost is around April 14th, however, I don’t plant right away – more on that later. Once you know when your last frost date is, you can begin to think about when you will need to purchase your supplies and your seeds and when you are able to start your seeds indoors. If you need help figuring out what your date is, Dave’s Garden has a handy calculator.
Select The Garden Spot
Placing your garden in an area that is sunny with a spot or two of partial shade will ensure that all your veggies sunlight needs are met. Tomatoes need full sun but carrots only need partial sun. This means that while full sun plants need 14-16 hours of sunshine, partial shade plants only need 6 hours. Also, be sure the ground is mostly level to provide for good drainage and easier planting. We selected a 32×50 foot area that is mostly flat and is both shaded by our big Walnut tree but also has large sections that receive more than enough sunshine.
When selecting a site, be sure to take into consideration how far away your kitchen is and can you see your garden from your home or if you go outside? The closer to your home, the better. Unless you are working toward a goal similar to ours, it is quite common to become lazy about our gardens and adopt the concept of “out of sight out of mind.” If it is too far for you to walk and then haul fruits and veggies back to the house, you may not want to take a trip there to check on your plants, water them, and care for them the proper way.
Get Your Soil Tested
I’ll admit it, I have never done this, but this year we will be doing this. Knowing at the very least what the ph level in the soil is will save a lot of time and aggravation. Finding out the soils ph level, nitrogen, and other nutrients will help us to be better and more effective gardeners. We will know what we will need to do to improve our soil. A soil test will take the confusion and guesswork out of trying to decide what fertilizers your plants need if any. You can either go to your extension office or you can purchase a kit to test your own soil.
Line It Out
It is a good idea to get the square footage of your gardening spot. Measure the length and then the width and just times them together and that is your square footage. Make sure you write down your length and width because you will need that for the next part. It is also a really good idea to either use rope, or whatever you have handy to actually mark out your garden space. Whether you are planting in raised beds or using the traditional methods of rows, it is okay to go ahead and start lining those out as well. This will give you a good idea of how much space you will have in your garden once everything is built. As a rule of thumb, we plant all rows and beds with 2-3 feet apart in the main walking areas. We have found this gives us ample space to walk, move around, get a wheelbarrow in there and weed whack if need be.
Currently, my chickens are busy digging around and fertilizing a section of our gardening space.
Draw It Out – On Paper
Before you start tilling or building garden beds, map out your garden on a piece of graph paper (or several pieces). Drawing out the square footage and then deciding which plants will go where can give you a better idea of how many seeds you are going to need come planting time. Lining it out on the ground will show you how much room you have, drawing it out on graph paper will tell you how many plants you can have.
I have recently been using Grow Veg’s online garden planner and I love it. There is a seven-day free trial and then it is $29 a year and you can get an app for your phone or use it on your computer. I love that I have been able to put all the major markers like the house, the animal houses, the dog run, our shed, and even our well on the design planner. It is not restrictive when it comes to design options. Also, the planner will tell you when to start your seeds, transplant or direct sow your seeds and gives companion planting options and succession planting dates. It also includes information about how far apart each plant needs to be for healthy growth when to fertilize, some history on the plant, Any perennials will automatically convert over to the next year’s plan. The free subscription plan only allows you to save one plan, but the paid version allows you to have unlimited plans. Hubs and I have been loving it and we will be purchasing a yearly subscription plan when our free trial runs out.
Pick Out Your Seeds
My name is Becca and I’m addicted to seed catalogs. Yes seriously! Seed buying is totally addicting and sometimes it is difficult to decide what exactly you need to purchase. Sometimes we can be so enticed by all the colors and shapes, eager to have a beautiful garden that we end up buying seeds we don’t need to. My advice set a budget for your family and buy seeds from fruits and veggies you know your family will eat. It really makes no sense to purchase purple beans just because they are pretty if no one in your home even likes beans. If you want to try something new, there is no harm in purchasing a packet of seeds and then only planting two or three seeds to try it out, my caution is to not plant 10 or 15 plants of something you aren’t sure you will ever want to plant again. That space is better used for fruits and veggies you know your family likes. My family is trying to expand the fruits and veggies we are eating by trying new things. We are just about done buying seeds that we know we like and there is a little extra room in the budget, so we’ll be adding in a few different fruits and veggies that we have never tried before. If we don’t like them, none is wasted as we have a bunch of chickens and pigs who are not very picky.
The next step is to get your seeds started. This is a simple process, but first, you’ll need to gather up a few tools. You can read all I have to say about that by clicking here.