Marching into Spring
I don't know about you, but for me, when the calendar turns to March I feel Spring is right around the corner, no matter what it looks like outside! It makes it even more real when you start seeing the beginnings of buds on trees, tiny green shoots in some flower beds, and even some weeds starting to grow in sunny areas.
During the winter months, I've heard of some ambitious people who look through seed catalogs to figure out what varieties they'll plant next season or others who have even started their own seedling propagations inside using trays, heat lamps and pads. I've never quite had the space indoors to do any of that (or the time and energy!) I'm more like a good ol' perennial that goes dormant in the winter, saving all my resources for the long cold days ahead. But, in March I start to wake-up and start dreaming of what I'd like this growing season to look like in my garden.
Similar to January and New Years resolutions, I think of March as my time to plan what this new season will bring. And, like resolutions, I make some goals for the garden. This way I have some method to track progress and not get overzealous by trying to do way too much, which we all know is extremely easy to do - "I want watermelons, and strawberries, and broccoli, and, and….
So today, I wanted to share a few of my past goals to give you some inspiration and one device I find quite helpful in this process: a garden journal. Maybe this comes from my college days working in a soils lab where we documented everything we were doing. Or, just my innate tendency to write things down so I don't forget them. If you're already doing this - awesome! But, if you're not, find yourself a cute journal and start writing! (Note: ok, it does not have to be cute. It's probably going to get dirty if you're like me and take it outside with you, anything will do. But it is helpful to look back at past seasons when you planted and how you did things).
So let's start with the journal. Mine is not fancy and simply fulfills the functions I want it for:
- Document when I planted seeds and seedlings. This means I include dates for expected harvest, days to maturity, and intervals if you are succession* or relay planting. Pro tip: I began setting reminders every 2 to 3 weeks on my phone's calendar to remind me to go plant another row of lettuce, carrots, peas, etc. Brilliant way to pro-long your season and get in the habit of not simply planting once and being done. I seriously had salad mix from May through September by doing this.
- Write down the variety, brand, and other interesting points from the seed packet. Or cut up the seed packet and tape it in. Get creative! Did you plant indeterminate Sun Gold cherry tomatoes or determinate Early Girls? Are all your tomatoes coming on at the same time or do you have varieties staggered for eating the entire season? This is a great place to take notes.
- I also draw out my garden prior to planting and make allowances for what is a sprawler (winter squash) and what stays put (kale). By drawing what and where you plant items (and then editing if you change it), you can look back to previous seasons and ensure you do a good job of rotating your crops. Certain crops should not be grown in the same place year after year*. (Did I mention that I garden in my front yard and have a tiny 5' x 8' area in my backyard? This makes drawing and planning for my limited space extremely important.)
- Successes and areas to improve (failures). Did something not work? Did something grow great in that area? Write it down!
- Amendments and any fertilizer schedules. I don't typically fertilize, but I do incorporate manure, mushroom compost, and other unmentionables into the soil prior to planting. I think it is a good practice to write down what you did and approximate amounts. This also helps if you later have any problems, maybe you made the soil too hot for a particular plant or need some other nutrients for better growth.
And finally, a quick note on goals. I find that limiting my goals to two to three top items that for me, if I accomplish, I will feel pretty good come October. This might look like:
- Grow awesome tomatoes and actually keep up on pruning tomato suckers*
- Thin my little seedlings so they have adequate space (admittedly I’m terrible at this).
- Keep up on relay/succession/interval planting carrots, radishes, lettuce, peas, etc. This is so important for providing food throughout the entire growing season.
- Pick basil leaves and bolting flowers every week to promote growth and prevent from going to seed and hardening off.
What things are important to you? What would you pick as your top two or three goals that would make your growing season awesome? Having a few goals like this helps me to not get discouraged that certain things fall behind or areas get overgrown. Did I have salad mix or basil to make pesto? OK, great, that was my goal!
Now, start dreaming (and drawing) your garden!
*Succession or relay/interval planting source: https://growagoodlife.com/succession-planting-tips/
*Check out the importance of crop rotation here: http://ourstoneyacres.com/the-importance-of-crop-rotation
*Pruning tomato suckers: http://www.bigblogofgardening.com/prune-tomato-suckers/ and http://www.tomatodirt.com/pruning-tomato.html
*Thinning tips: https://www.thespruce.com/thinning-vegetable-seedlings-1403485