Most of us are still stuck in snow or freezing temperatures, but that doesn't mean we can't get our planning hats on for the garden this year. In fact, proper planning can drastically increase your success in the garden. And more success means more enthusiasm, more learning, and incredible harvests for you and your family.
However, there are a few extremely common mistakes I see many newer gardeners make when planning out their growing season. Avoid these and you'll save yourself a world of hurt once you actually start to grow.
1. You Don't Pay Attention to Mother Nature
It might sound extreme, but paying attention to your unique growing environment is absolutely crucial to having a successful year in the garden. For example, look at how the sun passes over your property. Then, plan where you're going to plant individual plants based on that information.
I've seen gardeners plant a large vining plant in front of shorter leafy greens and completely block them from getting light, even though the garden is in full sun the whole day. Once those plants are established, there's not much you can do besides rip them out, admit your mistake, and try again. But by that point you've lost precious growing time.
2. You Plant Everything at the Same Time
Proper garden planning includes considering time. In fact, I'd say it's the most important element to consider, but also the most challenging for new gardeners.
It's difficult because you have to plan backwards most of the time. For instance, if you want to harvest carrots throughout their growing season, you have to plant them on roughly 21-day intervals. On top of that, you have to know when to start planting them in the first place.
One of the biggest mistakes I see gardeners make is planting everything at the exact same time and then seeing where they chips fall. Don't get me wrong, you'll still get a bunch of delicious food, but you won't get as much as you would if you took an hour or two to map out when everything you're planting will come to harvest.
3. You Grow What You THINK You Should Grow, Not What You Actually Eat
This is a funny one to me, because I used to do this all of the time! I would look up lists of "good plants to grow" and then grow those, completely ignoring the fact that I didn't enjoy eating them!
If you know for a fact you hate radishes...don't grow radishes. Even though they're easy to grow and can slot into empty gaps in the garden.
4. You Don't Take Into Account Planting Density
Don't get me wrong — I'm a big fan of high-intensity planting. But it can be taken too far. Understanding how far apart to space your seeds in your beds is crucial if they're going to get the light, water, and nutrients they need to mature properly.
You can get away with a denser planting than most seed packets recommend, but don't go overboard. Try the Square Foot Gardening system for plant spacing if you need a tried-and-true system for squeezing the most yield out of small growing spaces.
Go Forth and Plan!
A proper plan is one of the best things you can do for your garden in the winter months. It's a bit tedious to do, but spend a few hours upfront and you'll have a thriving garden come spring and summer.