By far, my favorite part of gardening is the planning process. As soon as seed catalogs start coming in the mail, I get excited. Out comes my black marker as I circle all the interesting seed types and varieties. Any products marked as “new this year” receive my fullest attention.
Then I do something you might find surprising – I stack the catalogs in a pile and ignore them. I do this because I know I’m an impulse buyer. If I started ordering seeds at that moment, I’d end up with more types of plants than I could ever dream of putting in the ground.
For me, the hardest part of planning the garden is narrowing down the selection. I love to try new varieties and plant types of veggies I haven’t grown in the past, but I also have my “tried and true” varieties and species. The latter takes up most of my gardening space.
I begin by making a list of the vegetables I can’t do without. This would include my canning tomatoes, favorite bell pepper varieties, and onion sets. Then I add those veggies that do well in my garden and my family enjoys, such as red potatoes, Swiss chard, green beans, and zucchini.
Next, I chose veggies which aren’t always successful, but which I like to plant with hopes of getting a decent crop. Carrots, lettuce, dried beans, cabbage and cucumbers make up most of this category. Finally, I add my “experimental” veggies. In the past, I’ve tried kale, bok choy, sweet potatoes, tomatillo and kohlrabi.
Drawing Up a Plan
Now it’s time to plot out the garden. Years ago, I would painstakingly do this on paper, but with my laptop I can easily move the virtual plants around and make changes. As I dedicate each row and small plot to a veggie, I note which are heirloom varieties from which I saved seeds. I make a list of my favorite hybrids which I need to order.
The best part of garden planning is yet to come. After plotting out the tried and true, the family favorites and the hopefuls, any blank areas remaining are for the experimentals. Now it’s time to flip back through that stack of seed catalogs! I know space is limited so I have to choose my experimental veggie plants wisely.
Once my garden map is complete, I make a second list. This one details when to start each type and variety of veggie seeds. This keeps me on track as to when seeds need germinated. More importantly, this second list helps me control how many plants I’m starting at once. With limited shelf space under my grow lights, this second list prevents overcrowding and leads to healthier seedlings.