When Should You Start Thinking About Your Spring and Summer Garden?
You're reading this and it's the middle of winter. The ground is frozen solid, the garden might be covered in a blanket of snow and you're closer to enjoying a cup of hot tea or a big bowl of tortellini in brodo than any vine ripened tomatoes. But, the arrival of February means it's time to get focused on growing again. Hear me out.
Ignore what the groundhogs says, because whether spring arrives early or late everything will be completely different in 100 days. That might still seem far off, but no matter if you're an experienced gardener or want to grow something tasty for the first time in your life, now is the perfect moment to thaw out and think green.
What can you do this month to ensure an amazing growing season?
Let's break it down two ways: it's either time to plan, or it's time to plant.
1. Plan Your Garden Layout
Start by sitting down and sketching out your garden. If you don't already have growing space, or are looking to expand, everything is a blank slate. Imagine where in your back or front yard you'd like to grow, how large the area will be, and the type of beds you want (in-ground or raised). Consider other features like entertainment and dining areas, grass and walkways, to ensure the right flow and function of everything. On a warm day, get outside and put some markers down so you can feel how a new garden fits. Once you've decided on a plan, start making a task schedule and a list of materials you'll need to do it yourself – or work with a professional garden designer and builder like me to help.
If this isn't your first year gardening then your plan can focus on deciding what plants to grow and where. Consider factors such as sunlight exposure, soil quality, and the size of each plant. If you can, orient your planting rows north-south, as this ensure the most even sunlight across the garden. Think back to what you grew last year and if you're growing them again be sure to rotate to an area they weren't previously. Whether you're starting from scratch or tweaking an existing layout, careful planning now will save you time and effort later on. Working with a garden coach on a planting plan can help you successfully grow something new and maximize your favourite harvests by overcoming challenges and optimizing your growing space.
2. Plant Seeds Indoors
If you're used to buying seedlings from the nursery that's ok. But you're missing out on so many things you could be growing and harvesting before the shelves are even stocked. Not only is seed starting good for the soul, it enables you to grow more variety and enjoy harvests sooner.
Early-season, cold-weather veggies can be out in your garden up to eight weeks before summer veggies, right when the soil is workable. Lettuces, peas, kale, broccoli and many leafy greens are best grown early to enjoy cooler growing conditions.
With some other veggies, you're going to need all this time to get the transplants ready. For example, leeks should be sown from seed 8-10 weeks before they are set into the garden sometime in early April. Celery similarly needs 10-12 weeks before going outside in May.
All of this is not even to mention warm-weather veggies like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant (the later of which can be very slow to germinate). Starting these from seed indoors in late-February allows you to experiment growing new types that will set your garden apart.
To do it right, get yourself a good indoor growing light. Even the sunniest window won't provide enough sun until later into spring. Think about and prepare all your other materials too. Reuse old pots or produce containers to help the environment. Mix your own or buy seed starting soil. Shop online and in-store for new seeds for better germination rates.
This seed starting schedule is what I use for growing in zones 6 or 7 (USA and Canada). If you live in warmer zones, you can begin two weeks earlier for every number you move up. For any colder areas, delay these dates by two weeks per zone.
As you can see, February gets busy, quick! And that's not even to mention the other garden tasks that you can take on – pruning fruit trees, cleaning your garden tools, even starting to prepare your outdoor soil. This time of year starts to fill up fast for me as a garden coach and designer, working on my own garden and my clients'.
Looking for some guidance? Contact me now for help creating your customized, one or three-season garden plan. Or if you want an Instagram-worthy backyard oasis of your own, reach out and let's get going on building it together.