The doldrums of winter are the perfect time to start planning your spring and summer garden, not to mention a wonderful antidote to winter blahs. The seed catalogs have been delivered and they are just waiting for you to sit down and make your choices. And it's just the kind of winter activity for involving the kids.
It may seem never-ending, but winter is on the downswing. Baseball spring training has begun, and even though there is likely more snow to come, the days are getting longer and spring is most-definitely on the way. It's time to plan your garden! While you may not be able to work the ground yet, it's almost time to start seedlings indoors!
Start dreaming - and researching
What would you like your garden to looks like this year? DO you want a flower garden, a vegetable garden or some combination of both? This is the time for grand dreams, truly! What have you always wanted in the garden? Make a list, and don't hold back. Yes, even if you live in northern Minnesota, put jasmine on that list if you've always wanted one. Personally, I can never get enough of sunflowers and am always looking for new areas of the yard to plant more.
Now, start combing catalogs and looking at websites. Every year new varieties of annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees, fruits and vegetables are introduced. There may be a hardier version of a shrub or annual you might be able to use in your garden that will last longer than other varieties. There may a new variety of a favorite perennial to add to your collection
Okay, so maybe in northern Minnesota you'll never grow a jasmine outdoors, but do you have a sunny spot with space for a larger pot so you could grow it indoors?
Narrow down your choices
Only after days and days of dreaming followed by research do you need to get realistic. My eyes are always bigger than my garden space, so I start narrowing down. It might be fun to three kinds of peppers, but not everyone in the family eats them and so they'd go to waste. Similarly, I consider carefully the size of mature plants. The ground cover junipers might look thin the first year or two, but as they mature to full-size, I don't want them to be overcrowded.
If you are planting a new area for the first time, consider relative heights and peak show times for all the plants you are considering. The beds should have some interest through the whole season. Even if an area looks fabulous in June, if it's brown and fading and unappealing in August, something needs to be adjusted.
Create a real plan - and place your orders
Now is the time to do some sketching. I map out the vegetable garden and make sure everything is going to fit. I draw out the ornamental beds and note where existing plants are doing well and where we need some fill-in. There always seems to be a need for some filling in.
If you are going to make any significant garden improvements in location or irrigation, note that, set a time line and create a supply list. This year, we plan to raise some beds in the vegetable garden and add drip irrigation - so we need to get that done before the seedlings are ready to put out.
Once I've done all that, I can identify how much I really need to order. I have lists for seeds, for actual plants, and for supplies. Ordering online is quick, easy (be sure to search for discount codes!), and can add a little internal warmth on cold winter days!
Save some of your garden budget for after things get growing later in the spring. A shrub might need to be replaced, or maybe one set of seedlings just don't make it. You want to be able to fill in later as you need to.
Keep a space just for the kids
As you do all this planning, involve the kids and reserve a space in your garden just for them. Let them choose plants they want to try to grow themselves, and help them do it. I bet they'll help you with the rest of the gardening chores more willingly if they have a personal stake in and understanding of what it means to grow something. You can go as far as getting them their own watering cans and garden gloves.
With all this preparation, you should be in good shape for the start of the growing season. I can't promise everything will be perfect, but you will have fun.