How to Plan Your Garden
Our family has made a major life change in leaving the corporate world to begin a vineyard in west Texas. With a large family (10 children, 8 still at home) living on savings until our house in Alabama sells, frugal living is a necessity. Having never been a gardener, I have learned from those who have had successful gardens by asking many questions. One piece of advice repeated many times is the importance of planning before starting.
So, here it is, time to start thinking about and planning your spring and summer vegetable garden! Yes, it is still cold outside, but now is the time to begin. Before we know it, we will be having fresh-from-the-garden produce, fresh tomato sandwiches, and fresh cucumbers and...I know what you are thinking, to get to that point there is a lot of hard work. But, even before the hard work comes the all-important planning stage. There are several factors to consider before planting your garden.
One consideration when beginning to plan is the amount of space which is available for your garden area. If space is limited, priority should be given to family favorite vegetables which would afford the most savings. If space is not an issue, then what vegetables does your family enjoy? Which do you like to eat and cook!
Certain plants are adapted to particular areas of the country more so than others. Charts are available from various seed companies and on the backs of individual seed packets. These charts specify in which growing zone that particular seed grows well. These growing zones are based on temperatures, daylight hours, and general climate. It is important when making your selection to keep in mind your growing zone.
Seeds vs. Plants
Do I buy seeds or plants? In many instances, time is a key factor in deciding between seeds and plants. Some seeds may be sown directly into your garden soil. Others must be started indoors and once established, transplanted to your garden. These seedlings must be started early enough to be transplanted in a timely manner to your garden (usually after all danger of frost is past). Although more expensive, if indoor space for starting seeds is limited and time is short, plants are probably the better choice.
Where to Purchase
Once you decide upon seeds, plants, or a combination, the decision must be made as to where to purchase them. Local stores often carry seeds and plants specific to your local growing area. They may also be ordered from various companies. The advantages of ordering from a “seed company” are several. They deal exclusively with products specific to gardening thus the quality tends to be better. Also, often their customer service is available to answer any questions you may have and guide you in your decisions so that you will be a loyal satisfied customer. Once satisfied with service, you will be a returning customer.
Have you ever gardened before? If not, you might want to start small with easy to grow vegetables such as pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, and beans. I had no experience, but asked questions of those who did. As a result, I had a large successful garden which has provided food for our family.
Search out resource persons among your friends, family and acquaintances. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Most people are more than happy to provide information about a subject they are familiar with and even expert in. Read books on the subject of gardening. These are readily available at your local library, bookstores, and online. Another great resource is your local county extension agent. They often have quality information on all areas of gardening and are also willing to answer questions.
Crop rotation is generally thought of in relation to the large farmer. However, it is also important to the backyard gardener also. Some plants are more susceptible to certain insects and viruses. Rotating the crops discourages these from being harbored in an unnatural concentration. An example of this is the squash bug. Different crops also use nutrients from the soil in different amounts. Rotating the crops helps prevent soil depletion.
Are you ready to get started planning your garden?