It can be a common novice gardening mistake to wait until the spring buds are emerging to start thinking about planning a garden. But if you're starting a garden, especially one in a small space, you will get much more out of your garden if you plant as early in the season as possible, enabling you to plant continuous plantings and reap multiple harvests throughout the growing season. That means beginning your planning early on, while winter's chill is still in the air.
If you haven't started garden planning yet, now's the time to get going! The key to a healthy garden is planting well-grown starts (also called seedlings or transplants) as soon as the weather is warm enough. You can either buy starts from a local garden center that grows organically, or start your own seeds indoors. Choose heirloom varieties, which were cultivated over years for good taste and help preserve our nation's natural biodivesity.
If you're starting seeds indoors, you'll want to get them ASAP. Here we offer a list of our favorite heirloom seed companies, all of which offer a huge variety of responsibly grown seeds. They also offer lots of information about how to grow these varieties.
To choose your plants, examine your garden space and determine how much sun and water you expect the site to receive, then match that up with the needs of the plants you're hoping to grow. You should also determine which "Plant Hardiness Zone," you are in, which is vital to learning both which plants can grow in your garden and when. The U.S. Department of Agriculture just today released an updated version of the Plant Hardiness Zone Map, so even if you're an experienced gardener, check to make sure your zone hasn't changed!
Finally, once you've figured out which plants you hope to grow, you should determine the date it should go in the ground. Our upcoming March/April issue has an extremely useful tear-out chart with dates that will guide you as to when to plant and start seeds in your area. I'll post it here as soon as it's released in mid-February. Our sister publication Mother Earth News also offers a handy garden planning app that will enable you to choose plants and send reminders when it's time for them to go in the ground.
The best news about planning your spring garden? You get to think warm thoughts of a productive growing season. Happy planning!