Time is now to get a head start on your spring garden

Published Jan 1, 2017 at 9:00am

My, how time whirls by, though perhaps not as fast as the snow outside my window. We are now past that point where the days will actually become longer. For gardening, it is time to start planning. Coming up with a realistic plan will not only save time and money, but offer some satisfaction and anticipatory excitement, too. So, let’s get started.

Though we may consider trees, shrubs, berry bushes, flowers and vegetables as our garden, let’s focus on our vegetable garden now, and if you already have a vegetable garden in place, here are some questions to ask about last year’s garden…

  • What crops did I have too much of or too few of?
  • Which crops failed, and why?
  • What issues were a particular challenge (weeding, watering, pests, etc.)?
  • Was some aspect too much to keep up with (garden too large)?
  • Do I need more space or more time for what
    I wish to plant?

If you will be starting a new garden, think about what it is you would like to grow. An important consideration is the location of your garden. All vegetables need sunlight, water, and acceptable soil.

There are dozens of books written on this subject that can help guide you in your planning. Make sure to “keep it simple” as you make your first garden plan. For example a garden that is 10 x 16 feet is large enough to provide a family of four with a variety of fresh vegetables through the summer and fall months.

Next consider what seeds to buy. There is a large assortment of vegetable seeds offered today from organic, hybrid, heirloom, etc. Pay attention to the growth period which is required for each variety of vegetable that you and your family would like to consume.

Spacing of the vegetable plants in the garden is important. The seed packages tell one how far to space the plant. Or one can refer to guides on spacing vegetables in a garden. 

You will want to have a written diagram of your garden plot to pictorially see how everything will be laid out. You can use software from the internet, a quadrant pad, or draw your garden plot free hand; but having a picture of your garden with the dimensions of both spacing and rows and placement of your various vegetables serves many purposes.

It can also be useful to have both a spring garden diagram (onions, peas, cabbage, etc.) and a summer garden diagram (tomatoes, squash, peppers, etc.), taking into account succession planting of those vegetables with fast growing seasons (beans, beets, lettuce, radishes, spinach, etc.). 

Knowing your vegetable’s seed-to-harvest periods and to get the most out of your garden’s season, you would benefit from planting some seeds indoors before the snow melts, then planting transplants when the soil is ready. 

Also take into consideration that some vegetables complement each other as companion plants such as tomatoes and peppers. 

Another idea is to plant to entice beneficial insect such as pollinators to a garden. Lay out your planting rows from North to South. The largest growing vegetables should be planted to the North in an open, sunny area that will maximize sunlight to your plants. 

All this may seem overwhelming to put together, but breathe easy, order from a few seed catalogs, and then simply take it one step at a time.

As the snow falls outside, use this quiet time to repair and assemble your garden tools, collect your supplies (pots, potting soil, etc.), line up your resources (mulch, compost, woodchips, manure, etc.), and do some homework.

...And don’t forget, your Cornell Cooperative Extension and Master Gardner Volunteers are only a phone call away at 736-3394, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon!