Let me set the scene for you for most gardeners in the northern hemisphere in January.
If you live anywhere not in zone 9 or 10, January is quiet time in the garden. You, of course, can plant kale, collards, cabbage, carrots and other crops under a cover that don’t mind the cold weather, frost and snow, but most gardeners take the winter to regroup and plan.
That planning process, for me, consists of as many seed catalogues as I can get my hands on, a comfy robe and blanket on the couch, my garden notebook and a pencil with a good eraser.
I try to keep good notes every season on where I plant things so that I can practice crop rotation. This practice helps keep the soil healthy by not using all of one type of nutrient. It also helps keep plants healthy as diseases can build up in the soil if you plant the same thing in the same spot all the time.
Because of this, and the excitement of trying new varieties, planning out where things will go is quite a process. I consider the date of the last frost, seed germination time, when to start the seeds indoors or when the soil will be warm enough to direct sow, the time it takes the plant to reach maturity and soil nutrition.
These things are all very important because the last thing you want to do is buy heirloom seeds, plant them and the seed never germinates. That is a waste of time, space and money. I have done that before and it is quite disappointing.
Once I’ve read every page of the catalogues, drawn out what space I have available and referenced what I grew last season, I try to set goals for the season and create a wish list. This helps me fix problems I had before and plan the space, if I want to get a trellis or plant a specific vegetable, herb or flower.
Now, I’ve been gardening since 2009 – as referenced in the post. But, I only started making a detailed plan for the garden in the last few years, not only because I want to garden to succeed, but I really love the planning process.
So, what can you do as a beginner or someone who has a year or two under your belt? Here is my list of things to do:
- consider your growing zone. In Horry County, we are in zone 8b. This zone has quite a long season compared to others. I can grow tomatoes into November and start things as early as late January/early February. Don’t waste your time starting a warm season crop if your last frost isn’t until the end of April.
- consider your frost dates. This is really important. As I said above, starting a seed too early leads to wasted money and time.
- get free seed catalogs. I particularly love Park Seed, Southern Seed Exchange, Burpee, Seed Exchange and Gurneys. The catalogs will expose you to new seed varieties and options you can explore in your own space.
- get a notebook. This can be a simple one or one that is more like an artist book. This will be where you keep your notes, ideas, and designs.
- buy seeds or started plants. If you’re just starting out, you may want started plants from a local nursery. This takes the guess work out of starting seeds or buying seed starting mix, containers and heat mats. If you’re wanting an adventure, get some seeds and read up on what you can do to help the plant succeed.
- get a ruler. I can’t draw a straight line by myself.
- find a link to your local agriculture extension. Here is South Carolina, the Clemson Extension is the go to website. There are articles and plans to take some of the guesswork out of when to plant something.
So what questions do you have? Let me know in the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m here for ya!