Your home garden may still be covered in snow, but before you know it it’ll be time to put on your mud boots, pick up your shovel and start preparing for spring planting. It’s time to get a plan together for your organic garden and here are a few things to consider before you put your boots on.
1. What garden maintenance needs to be done?
The winter weather may have damaged your fence, compost bin, garden shed , walkways, etc. Inspect everything as soon as you’re able, research and budget for the repair (or upgrade) and get it done as soon as weather allows.
2. What are you planting?
Remember to practice good principles of crop rotation: don’t plant a bed with the same crop inside of 5 years (if that’s impossible, make it 3). Pests of a particular plant can live in the soil over the winter and if you plant tomatoes, peppers , potatoes, melons, squash, etc in the same bed as last year, you’ll make it easy for those pests to destroy your plants. Rotating your crops denies those pests their favorite food and place to live and they’ll either move on or be eaten by a predator.
Also consider planting Marigolds, Sunflowers , Borage, Cornflower, Fennel, Mint, and other beneficial plants near your vegetables and fruit. These are loved by the beneficial insects which feed on the nasty bugs that infect your garden. You can interplant beneficials with your crops or surround your garden with them. Besides providing food and shelter for the beneficial insects , they’ll also add lots of beautiful color. This is an organic practice that’s centuries old and is very reliable for keeping your garden’s pest population in balance so you don’t have to resort to pesticides. There’s a good list of beneficial plants at Organic Gardening’s website.
3. Thinking about a new raised garden bed?
Ideally, you should prepare a new raised garden bed in the Fall and let compost go to work in it over the winter. But if you’re like me and frequently run out of time late in fall, you can definitely do this early in spring.
The key to a successful garden bed is sunlight. Look at the orientation of your landscape and spend a day tracking the curve of the sun over your property. Dig that new bed on an East-West axis so it will receive light from sunrise to sunset (this orientation will effectively face the bed south).
Last year I created two new raised garden beds early in the spring which were reserved for a June planting of corn. I loaded them with horse manure and compost from kitchen scraps, grass clippings, bush cuttings, pine needles and other yard waste and they were in pretty good shape by the time I planted – the soil wasn’t as loamy as I’d liked, but it did the job just fine – dozens of ears of delectably sweet corn.
4. Order vegetable and flower seeds now
Once you’ve decided what you’re going to plant, you’ll want to think about starting some of those plants inside so you can get a jump on the season. See my post on seed starting and then check out the websites of seed companies you’ve done business with in the past – companies which provided reliable seed. Try a few crops you haven’t planted before to create biodiversity.
5. Start a garden journal
Since I started a garden journal , it’s been an indispensable resource of ideas, successes and failed experiments (we so easily forget our mistakes until we make them again). Most of us can’t remember from year to year where we bought the seed that turned into the greatest tomato we ever tasted, or how much compost tea we poured on our plants, or what the weather was really like the previous June. Re-reading last year’s garden journal before you start plotting this year’s organic garden will be immensely helpful in not repeating mistakes and helping to duplicate success.