If you haven't started planning for this year's garden, now is the time to begin! Nurseries and serious gardeners have already started sowing under lights, and by the end of this month, we can often plant spinach, radish, and sugar snap peas here in New York. Taking some time now to plan what, where, and when you will plant can save you work in the long run and increase the useful yield of your garden. By timing crops to mature in batches, for example, you can produce abundant harvests from May to November, and even beyond with help from a cold-frame or other frost protection.
We recently hosted a Garden Planning Workshop at the Armstrong Education Center, the center of our public programming for education on Living Lighter on the Land. In case you missed it, I will present here some of the material we covered and will also direct you to a webpage I created which serves as something like a resource library for topics covered at PRLC workshops: Land Stewardship in Action Wiki. Feel free to copy the Wiki and add to it for your own purposes.
We covered the basics outlined below and then expanded our conversation based on the specific cases presented, such as fertilization for raised beds that are filled with coir and perlite rather than soil and compost (probably best to take a soil test first). Events like this are a great place to have your specific questions addressed by a group of knowledgeable people. Please see the events calendar on our website for information about our May 3 Plant Swap and Volunteer Work Session, and stay tuned for a planned series in April and May that will teach you how to provide quality habitat for local wildlife using native plants, trees, and shrubs on your property (and get Certified for your efforts by the National Wildlife Federation).
Garden Planning Basics:
- Prepare the soil. It is important to meet the needs of whatever plants you wish to grow, but drastically amending soil can be costly and time-consuming. (link for soil testing services)
- Decide what you want to grow. My advice is to dream big and then whittle your list down according to how much space and time you have. Put everything else on a vision board for later inspiration.
- Map your planting areas. Note the soil and light conditions, and choose plants with similar requirements. Consider planting "companion plants" that grow well together. Some gardeners plan for height variation or for "seasonal interest." I make multiple maps for early season, mid-season, and late season.
- Schedule planting and other tasks such as feeding, mulching, and harvesting. Remember that as some plants reach their harvest point, others can be sown beneath for repeat harvests all season long.
A List of Gardening Tasks for Early Spring:
- Gather materials: Seeds, trays, leaf mold or other sowing medium
- Turn the compost pile so that it is ready when you need it
- Turn the leaf pile to speed up its composting
- Build a trellis for peas
The week starting Feb. 28, under protection, plant onions, leeks, scallions, chives, celery, celeriac, artichoke.
The week starting March 7, under protection, plant all of the above plus arugula, spring raab, and parsley
The week starting March 14, under protection, plant all of the above plus lettuce, early cabbage, kale, collards, broccoli. Direct sow spinach, peas, arugula, and spring/summer onions.
The week starting March 21, under protection, plant the above plus peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, chard, bok choy. Continue to sow plants listed through April.
The week starting March 28, direct sow spring raab, radishes, spinach, peas, arugula, and spring/summer onions
The week starting April 14, direct sow lettuce, carrots, parsnips, spring raab, radishes, spinach, peas, arugula, and spring/summer onions. Transplant lettuce, parsley, scallions, and chives.
The week starting April 28, direct sow chard, beets, lettuce, carrots, parsnips, spring raab, radishes, spinach, peas, arugula, onions. Transplant early cabbage, kale, collards, broccoli, tatsoi, bok choy, arugula, lettuce, spring raab, parsley, chives
To be continued…