We tend to “hunker down” and hibernate during the winter with few thoughts of fresh vegetables or working in a hot garden, but the time to prepare for a productive garden with juicy vegetables and colorful flowers is now. Actually, there were many things that would have been done in the fall to prepare for spring, but hopefully tree trimming and soil preparation such as liming was done a few months ago.
So now that we are sitting inside and watching snow falling or at least bare tree branches, what can we do to prepare for juicy tomatoes and succulent squash a few months from now? We can take some time to decide where we want to plant flowers or vegetables, and then we can research any particular choices we have made to find out what soil types and characteristics our flowers and vegetables require to be healthy and produce the results we are hoping to achieve. This is a perfect time to plan our landscaping if we want to fully design a beautiful property from scratch or in detail or simply make sure our vegetables have the best chance for that wonderful flavor only fresh can have .
This is a good time to walk our property or garden area and jot down any changes that need to be made, soil treatments and pH readings that may need to be arranged, draw a sketch of where we want rows or hills, and make sure that the crops or flowers we choose can grow in the area you have chosen. We will end up with low yield or poor growth if we select an area that gets too little or much sunlight, has poor drainage, or rocky soil, so this is a good time to evaluate any issues that might prevent optimal yield or length of bloom in the flower garden.
After we have a plan and have considered what we will need we can make sure our grounds are in shape for a spring till and preparation. Are there trees or bushes that need to be trimmed back before spring growth or do dead branches from winter storms need to be removed before any work can begin? Once we have given our garden area a check we can decide when each crop needs to be planted, so we can leave the cold and come back in for more research on crops that grow well in our particular area. I know this sounds like a lot of work for a simple vegetable garden or bunch of bright blossoms, but proper preparation is the key to success and much less work later on in the growing season.
After we decide where to put a vegetable garden we will want to protect it from animals who might want to share our harvest or destroy it completely, so we can consider fences or other barriers to keep intruders out. Another consideration is whether we want to grow an organic garden or more traditional one with use of pesticides, and this is a good time to weigh our options and perhaps gather our tools and any equipment we might need such as sprayers, dispersers for seed or soil conditioners, and check over last year’s tomato cages or other supports for vines. We can either begin to make what we need or purchase items at off-season prices to avoid last minute trips back and forth and higher prices. We can decide now if we want to make raised beds such as these or plant directly into a prepared area of ground.
Now we know what vegetables we want to eat or flowers we want to brighten our surroundings, so we can check out when each needs to be planted and plan out tilling schedules as suggested (here or here) for each type of crop. Ideally the areas we wish to plant cold weather crops like greens, onions, cabbage, or spinach were tilled last fall to make it easier to break up colder soil, but if not we will need to wait until the ground is thawed and not too wet from winter rains or melting snows. A general rule of thumb is that if we pick up a handful of soil and it is too wet, but if it basically blows away it will be too dry and not till well either.
Now that we have an idea of where, how, and what we want to plant we can check out planting schedules for our local areas as we sip our hot chocolate and think of that juicy watermelon or nice hot summer day when we can enjoy the fruits of our labors. Since we also know where we might want flowers, have checked out the varieties available in our area and their needs, we will be ready when the time is right to actually till or otherwise begin our gardening adventures for another growing season. We don’t have to wait until the spring thaw to work on our gardens after all, and we can have the best of all seasons as we enjoy our hibernation and plan ahead. Enjoy!
Ruth Anne (a/k/a “MamaBirdie”) blogs her non-gardening, yet spiritual journey at The Inside Life.