Are you tired of gardening? We’ve had a longer-than- average growing season this year, and the weather is still warm enough to encourage flowers to bloom and pumpkins to turn orange. If your kitchen counter is piled high with zucchini, and you’re actually getting a tad tired of vine-ripened tomatoes, this is the perfect time to plan next year’s garden.
Most gardeners wait until spring to decide what to grow. This is a dangerous mistake. In spring, we’ve been staring at a brown and dead landscape for the past many months. Anything green seems like a miracle.
At the same time, we’ve conveniently forgotten how our back ached after weeding the garden. We dismiss our memories of splinters and sunburn, of how we toiled and sweated dig out a 4 foot by 12 foot bed for carrots.
Spring fever has arrived, and we are a bit, shall we say, unbalanced. Catalogs full of color photographs and luscious descriptions can easily overwhelm our last shreds of self control. We order enough for three gardens, more than we could ever use, and much more than we really want to take care of.
Right now, however, we are toughened, calloused realists. Now is the time for making decisions.
Since the new catalogs haven’t yet been mailed, we have no idea what amazing varieties will tempt us next spring. But that doesn’t matter. We don’t have to decide which variety of beans or marigolds to order. We just need to decide how many seedlings we really want.
I have a blank garden template that I drew up on my computer, using frames in my word processor software. It’s nothing fancy, just an outline of my beds. I like to print one out, then attack it with sticky notes. If fifty square feet of lettuce was a bit extreme, how much should I have planted? I write “lettuce” on a sticky note and claim part of a bed. Given that I can fit 16 carrot plants into one square foot, how much space should I devote to that crop? Deciding that four square feet is plenty (I overwinter them so we eat them all year), I add another sticky note. I can rearrange my notes to my heart’s desire, letting my imagination run wild. When all is settled, I enter all the labels into the computer for reference when ordering.
Now is also the time I make decisions about buying any perennials. In the spring, the tiny new shoots can be deceptively compact. (The peony at left will be several feet across in a few weeks.) Now, with all the plants at maximum size, I can clearly see how much space is truly available. Again, I don’t have to decide on the actual plant species, but I make a note reminding me to search out something about 2 feet across, 2 feet high, that blooms in August with orange flowers. Come spring, I can peruse catalogs and garden centers for exactly the right plant.
I’m sure that planning now while everything is fresh in my mind (or still green and growing) not only saves me time and effort, it also saves me money. I do much less impulse buying when I have a list in hand. Of course, once the catalogs arrive, there’s always something extra that I just can’t pass up. In that case, I justify my spontaneous purchase as a replacement. I know that not all my existing plants will survive our harsh winter. At least, that makes a good excuse!