The dreary winter months are the perfect time to start planning for your vegetable garden. With the arrival of all the plant catalogues and the promise of the colors of the seasons to come: there is no better motivation. Every January I pore over a stack of catalogues looking for new strains of vegetables that can handle the short growing season of the northeast and start my annual ritual of planning my vegetable garden.
Choose the right garden location: Keep the vegetable garden location close to your house so you can take the time out to enjoy it and take better care of it. Remember out of sight out of mind. Choose a sunny, level, well draining location.
Prepare the Soil: Once you have chosen the location, the soil will need to be prepared. This is a spring time task but it’s good to plan ahead.
Determine the Size of your Vegetable Garden: The size of your garden depends on your reason for having a vegetable garden in the first place. Plan this in advance and not when you have a good dose of spring fever. Spring fever misleads us into believing we can handle a larger vegetable garden plot. The most important determinant for your garden size should be time: how much time you have to tend and cater to your garden. A vegetable garden can be a challenging undertaking requiring the physical aspects of preparing the soil, planting, weeding and caring for the plants. Do not overwhelm yourself.
A Vegetable Garden to match your Gardening Skill: What are your gardening skills? If you are beginner, plant easy plants and keep your garden space small. Easy to grow plants include; beans, beets, corn, cucumbers, squash and tomatoes. Start with readymade plants from your neighborhood nursery.
Choose Suitable vegetables: First and foremost plant vegetables you like and know you will eat. Start by listing your favorite vegetables. If you new to gardening, starting vegetables from seed may be too huge an undertaking, instead purchase plants. No matter what gardening zone your garden is located in there are catalogues with myriad variety of vegetables. Vegetable plants can be ordered from catalogues or bought at nurseries in your neighborhood. For the more seasoned gardener, the catalogues offer a variety of seeds or plants that you normally will not find at your neighborhood nursery. I find myself drawn to heirloom vegetables; rich in flavor and history. Read up on companion planting; knowing which plants grow well together. Choose vegetables that require the time investment you are willing to give.
Develop your Plan: There are many advantages to putting your vegetable plan on paper. Plan to plant the vegetables that require cool in a shadier area and the sun loving plants like tomatoes in the sunniest spot. Space the plants as recommended. This allows for a more manageable and neater looking garden. Read up on the different garden lay outs like: row gardening, raised bed gardening, hill gardening, and square foot gardening. Plan to grow taller vegetables like corn on the north side of your plot so as not to shade the vegetable garden. In the center portion of your garden plant the medium sized vegetables like squash and tomatoes. On the southern end, plan on planting low growing vegetable plants like beets, carrots and lettuce.
Keep Track of your Vegetable Gardening Tasks: Read up on planting dates for your vegetables in your gardening zone. This why having a gardening calendar is very important. It will allow you look at the big picture of your gardening adventure. Incorporate into your calendar when to start seeds, when to put seeds outside, when to harvest and when to start canning. Plan your vegetable garden to enable you to harvest at least three harvest times during the season. This is called succession planting. Succession planting allows you to have plants in your garden growing throughout all the seasons and also allows for a continual harvest. This eliminates the huge end of season harvest and reduces the risk of your produce and fruit of your labor getting spoilt. Make sure to include your vacation time away from your garden and have reliable neighbor water and tend to your garden while you are away.
Take the time to plan the ideal vegetable garden and you will be rewarded with a bounty of healthy and robust vegetable harvest. Now arm yourself with a pen, paper and a few nice vegetable catalogues and get to planning.