As it gets further into fall and winter, it gets ever closer to spring, a very busy time for gardeners. To help the spring go as smoothly as possible in your yard, consider planning out next year’s garden beds over the winter! Here’s some tips!
1. Go outside and observe your yard. Draw a map, and mark on it the important features, such as where the sun rises and sets, where buildings are located, where water collects into puddles after a large rain, etc. You will need to consider these aspects when planning. Using a soil guide(google it) and a ph test(buy one at a pet store or feed store), determine what kind of soil you have, and then research how to improve it. There are a lot of guides on the internet about how to help your soil. Prepare your beds with some sheet mulching and minerals, as your soil demands.
2. Figure out what you want to plant! Here in the Bangor area, we are in plant hardiness ‘zone 5’. Consider what you and your family like to eat, will use up, have the soil for, and have the time for. Remember that it is better to start small and grow a few great plants than to take on too much, and end up with a hundred wimpy plants. Here are a few good guides to edibles:
3. Once you have determined what you’re going to grow, get your seeds! Ask your local feed store (like Agway) about local seed savers, who will know the most about your area’s most suitable varieties. You can also order them online, but be sure that they are appropriate for your area, that the seller is reputable, and that they are made to be grown organically. Some seed sellers only sell “Round-up Ready” seeds, which are genetically modified to be tolerant of pesticides. These are NOT healthy seeds for you! Nor are they healthy for your yard, soils, water, pets, children, and wildlife! Also beware of hybrid seeds, as they are more susceptible to disease, and also (usually) require pesticides to thrive. Here is a great online guide of organic and heirloom varieties(note that there are links on the side to Herbs, Vegetables, Potatoes, etc.):
4. Sit down with your vegetable list, yard map, and a companion planting guide. What some plants take out of the soils, other plants put in, so you’ll want to help your plants help each other by putting them into symbiotic relationships. A good guide to this is:
-Consider interplanting; Plants that are in a beneficially diverse bed are less likely to succumb to pests and blight. To a potato bug, a bed of only potatoes is a feast; replace some of those potatoes with radishes, and they won’t touch it. Also consider the size, soil requirements, water and sun requirements, and planting/harvesting times of each plant, as these are important to planning.
5. Once your beds are prepared, your seeds are ordered, and your plans are drawn up(and well researched), you are ready for the spring! Don’t forget to start your seeds a few weeks before the frost, if recommended. Now relax; I recommend an open fire and a good book.