Make a spring plan for your best garden
Whether you’re starting your garden for the first time or a seasoned gardener, now is the time to start planning and prepping your garden. In fact, in some parts of the world, you could have planted several of your crops the first week of March!
If you’d like to get a jump start or learn more about how to make your garden great this year, take a look at some of our tips and tricks below.
What do you want out of your garden?
The best way to start planning for this year’s gardening season is to set some goals. Here are some questions to help you think about what kind of garden you’d like and what goals you’d like to set.
What kind of garden would you like? Are you looking at just vegetables, just flowers, or a combination of both? Think about how you want your garden to serve you (or your table).
What foods will you actually eat? When you’re planning your garden, you want to use your space to the fullest. What foods will you actually eat? Don’t plant dozens of carrots if you don’t really like them. If you’re planning on canning salsa this year, make sure you plant foods that are in your recipe (tomatoes, peppers, etc.).
What kind of space are you working with? Whether you have just a few pots or half an acre, looking at what kind of planting space you have will make a big difference in what kinds of foods or flowers you can plant. Draw out a plan on graph paper if you have it and figure out what kind of space you’re looking at. Also, think about the sun. Tomatoes need a lot of sun, so if you want hundreds of tomatoes for salsa this autumn, make sure they’re planted in a place that gets enough sunlight.
When do you want your flowers to bloom? If you plan on having a flower garden, be sure and look at when the flowers you choose will be blooming. Choose varieties that bloom all season long or be sure and have multiple types of flowers so you can have color every time you look out the window — from the first of spring beyond the first frost.
- How much time do you have to garden? If you only have an hour or so a week, you probably don’t want to plant dozens and dozens of flowers or edibles that need a lot of care. Choose a few simple plants, or just don’t plant so many if you’re strapped for time. If you goal is to spend more time in the garden this year (a great healthy choice!) then set aside time each week to focus on your crop.
Common options for backyard gardens.
There are a lot of ways you can use your space to garden. Remember, even just a balcony or a window can become useful space for growing! Here are some common ways to garden:
Container gardening. This is choosing a few pots to plant either flowers or vegetables in. Tomatoes and peppers both do really well in a pot, and you can get a great harvest that way. If you have a small trellis, even cucumbers or a small pumpkin can be grown in a pot.
Raised beds. This is one of our favorite options. If you have the right kind of raised bed, you can even continue working in your garden well into old age. Having a place to sit while you’re weeding is wonderful — no matter your health or your age.
- In the ground gardening. If you choose to have herbaceous borders or a large vegetable garden, this is probably the best way to go. Of course you’ll need a good sized back garden for this type of growing.
When you make your garden plan, be sure to look at what you’re growing and the conditions it needs to flourish. Some plants do well in pots, others do not. Just keep this in mind before you purchase anything.
Use early spring to plan your backyard garden.
After looking at your space and figuring out what you’d like out of your garden, now is the time to plan. Early spring (or even winter!) are great times to look through seed catalogs, plan your garden, and prepare to have the most successful harvest yet! Here are some ways you can prepare now:
Location of your garden is key.
We’ve touched on this already, but make sure you understand the location of your garden. Look at how much sun it gets. Is there enough soil? Is it close to your house or far away? Choose where you’d like your garden and plan around that.
Do your research on the best plants for your zone and soil.
Make sure you choose plants that will grow well in your location, and then start a list of what you’d like to grow. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when choosing plants:
Hardiness zone. You’ll want to determine what your hardiness zone is to understand what will actually grow in your area. If it gets too cold, some plants will die very quickly.
- Shade vs. sun. Don’t put a tomato in full shade. Don’t plant lettuce in full sun. Neither will thrive in those conditions, and you’ll end up very disappointed. Before you buy a plant or seeds, read about what conditions it needs and plan accordingly.
Draw a diagram for your garden.
With your plants needs in mind, draw a diagram of your garden. This can be as simple or as elaborate as you like, but getting a plan down will help you determine what is going where, how many of each plant you need, and what you need to purchase.
Order seeds for your plants, or pick-up some plant starts.
If you’re going to start with seeds, order now! You’ll want them to be in your hand well before it’s time to plant so you don’t miss that crucial window.
Plant starts are more expensive and there are less organic options, but you should see many of those in your local nurseries and garden stores by April.
Gather your garden tools.
This includes seed starting pots and trays. Some plants need to be started indoors a few weeks before you put them out in your garden. Others can be sown directly into your garden beds.
Repair and clean your tools.
Make sure all your shovels, spades, and rakes are in good working order. Check your watering can for leaks and gloves for holes. It’s pretty frustrating to have all your plants ready to go only to find you’re ill prepared to plant them.
Compost your beds.
If you can, adding a layer of compost to the top of your existing garden beds will give your plants their best start. Check your local green waste. They might have compost available by the truck load. This is the most economical and earth friendly way to do it. If that’s not an option in your area, you can purchase compost from your local nursery.
Plant your garden.
Some things are ready to plant right away. Even in the cold, lettuce and pea seeds can be planted without danger from frost. Many seeds should be started indoors now, and then planted out when all danger of frost is gone.
If you’re into your second, third, or fourth season of planting, there are many things you can do now if you’re dying to get out there and work! Gardening is one of the most rewarding hobbies, be it a single pot or acres of flowers and veg. Get started now, and make this your most successful year yet. Good luck!
Expert gardening resources.
If you’d like to learn more about what you can do to prepare, you can learn from these gardening experts:
- Monty Don. Monty has been gardening for decades and is the host of the popular British show Gardener’s World. He gives tips and “to dos” for every month of the year on his website.
- Agricultural Universities. Many universities in the U.S. have tips for your area. They sometimes offer classes or have blogs on the best way to prepare for your garden or take care of it throughout the year. Utah State University is a great option if you are in the mountain west. Here’s a list of the best ag schools in the U.S.. Make the most of their resources!
Adam Frost. Adam is another British gardener, and has won awards at the Chelsea Garden Show many times. He is well known for his tips on garden design.
- Your local nursery. If you have no idea where to start, find your local nursery and start asking questions. They’ll be happy to point you in the right direction on types of plants, when to plant, and what to do to prepare your garden.