Planning Ahead


It’s the beginning of a new year, and time to dream about the upcoming growing season. Do you want to add some permanent plantings?  Are you imagining flower beds brimming with annuals? Will you be buying from catalogs? (Get that order in early before they run out of that must-have variety.)

With the Christmas decorations packed away for another year, I finally have time to take a deep breath, brew a cup of tea, and begin to think about spring. I start by making a list of topics, and then mark down what will need doing, and when.

For example, I had a soil test last year. It indicated that I have finally managed to get enough organic matter into my extremely sandy soil—in fact, I have too much! I was more than happy to skip the laborious fall digging I usually do; instead of being incorporated into the soil, my hoard of compost will be used as mulch this spring. However, my soil lacks nitrogen. Since nitrogen doesn’t stay in the soil and must be added in the spring, I’ll need to fertilize before planting. “Fertilize veggie garden” goes onto my list under to topic “Soil.”

(If your garden just isn’t doing as well as it used to do, or if you have never had a soil test I highly recommend getting one. See my previous post on the subject: “Take the Test!”)

Weed Control
Another list heading is “Weed Control.” To control annual weeds, I like to use a pre-emergent herbicide. It’s easier to prevent germination than pull out stubborn roots. But to be effective, it must be applied before the weeds start to sprout. Here, that means early April. (It’s amazing how weeds are willing to start growing long before anything I actually want in my garden!)

I prefer to do most of my garden clean-up in the fall, but sometimes an early snow (or too much else on my schedule) gets in the way. Even so, there are always more clean up chores waiting on spring.

I like to leave my perennials “as is” until the weather begins to warm in March. The dead, dried foliage traps snow, insulating the roots, and keeps people from walking through my perennial bed. And in some cases, the dried seedheads are actually attractive. Once spring arrives, however, it’s time to get the old growth out of the way to make room for new green shoots. This is the perfect chore for a warm day in early spring, when I long to be outside but it’s still way too early to plant anything.

While we enjoy our gardens as they are at the moment, most of us gardeners have a head full of ideas—plants we want to try, things we want to change. One thing I’ve learned is to plan before I plant. Sketching out a plan showing the plants at full size can prevent expensive miscalculations. My master gardener training included some classes on garden design—I pass along what I learned here and here.

My last list comes under the heading “Seed Starting.” That’s a big enough topic that it deserves its own post, coming next month.

Once I have all my to-do lists compiled, I transfer everything to my gardening calendar. Spring is such a busy time in the garden, it really pays to be a bit organized.

5 thoughts on “Planning Ahead

  1. As my soil test says I have plenty (too much) organic matter, I have been wondering what to do with my compost. Are you using it as mulch in the veggie garden or elsewhere? Cuz I am thinking mulching the veggie garden with it would continue to increase the organic matter, though maybe a bit more slowly.

  2. Carey, I’m impressed that you have extra compost! You could sell it to the rest of us and make a bundle. 😎 I have too much organic matter in my veggie garden, but not anywhere else, so I’m just using my composted chicken bedding in the perennial beds this year. I’ll layer it on as mulch and hope the earthworms do their jobs.

  3. We moved last month so I have to start my garden over from scratch. I haven’t had a chance to do much with the soil here yet but my guess is that it is not ready for growing so that will be the first thing I tend to when it starts warming up.

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