I saw a shelf of Valentines up at a store just a few days after Christmas. I shook my head and thought to myself, Really? It’s only December. We’re thinking about Valentine’s Day already? But honestly, gardeners are no different. I’ve gotten several seed catalogs in the mail recently and I am already thinking about my spring garden.
As I write this, I think of a gardener friend who lives in Montana, who would be just torturing herself if she started planning her garden right now. Her growing season won’t arrive for months after mine. But here in the northwest, we are blessed with a long, mild growing season and you can bet I’m going to be sowing seeds as soon as I can.
So, while it might be too cold, wet and early to actually begin planting anything, I can most definitely start coming up with a plan of action. Here are four ways to get ready for gardening go time.
1. Make a list
Don’t crack open those seed catalogs! Before you start ordering more seeds than you can grow, make a list of things you actually like to eat. List those vegetables you often buy from the store or farmers’ market. Write down those things that you canned and actually ate. Then, when you sit down with your seed catalog, use that list as you would a shopping list. Buy what’s on that list and maybe one other random splurge. You’ll save money and will end up feeding yourself rather than your compost bin.
Another good thing to do before placing an order for seeds is to think about your plan for the season. What do you have space to grow? What new thing do you want to try in your garden this year? As a teacher ruled by her plan book, I tend to be a little more free-spirited when it comes to my garden, my creative outlet. But I know that with a little strategic planning, you can maximize your efforts and your space, resulting in a more bountiful harvest. These resources can help with the task:
My all-time favorite resource, a month-by-month guide for lazy garden planners like me, Seattle Tilth’s Maritime Northwest Garden Guide
Upcoming Seattle Tilth class, Smart Garden Planning
Garden Planner and Journal created by vegetable gardener, Erica at Northwest Edible Life, for vegetable gardeners. I might actually give this a try this year!
3. Prepare for fruit and trees
Early spring is the ideal time to plant bare root trees and shrubs. Check out this post I wrote last spring while planting my espalier apple and cherry trees. Since I know I’m going to be adding a few fruit trees to my mini-orchard, I’ll be planning that part of my garden first. Last year, Swanson’s Nursery had an incredible bare root sale – for as much as 40% off! So, it pays to start planning your orchard. (See also a video in the post on my site.)
4. Gather your materials
If you’re planning on starting some of your seeds indoors, which you’ll especially want to do if you’re planting vegetables that need a long time to grow like brassicas and tomatoes, get your supplies together. Often times I think of this step when I’m wanting to start planting, but it makes more sense to get your supplies ready ahead of time, so that you won’t have to worry about that when the time comes. For a basic seed starting set-up, you’ll need:
- a flat with a lid and drainage pan that fits underneath
- a heat mat (this really helps with seed germination)
- seed starting medium (a sterile soil used for seed starting – you can even sterilize your own!)
- fluorescent grow light system (I bought a pre-made set up, but I know many people who have put together their own with supplies found at their local hardware store.)
(See the post on my site for a video tutorial on sterilizing seed starter.)
Is anyone else counting down the days until spring? What do you do to get your garden ready? How do you prepare?
About the author: Stacy Brewer, teacher, urban farmer, and self-proclaimed garden nerd, is committed to cooking with local and seasonal ingredients and growing as much food as she can in her modest Seattle yard. She covers gardening, preserving and crafting on her blog, Seattle Seedling, where this post originally appeared.