I know it’s still snowing in many parts of the country, and I know that it’s hard to think about being outside and getting all warm and cozy with the dirt, but now is the time to start thinking about planning your garden.
This time of year, the seed catalogs are coming fast and furiously, and it’s easy to buy more than you really need, want, or have the space for. Trust me, I know. So, before starting your garden, there are a few things to think about.
First, you want to start with “what do I want to eat?”,
because growing food that you and/or your family won’t eat isn’t worth the time, energy and space you will devote to it. If you don’t like eating kale or broccoli, why grow it? If you like tomatoes, or have an awesome tomato salsa recipe you may want to invest more space to growing your tomato plants. Think about what you want to eat during the “off” season as well. Do you want to eat lots of spaghetti? Probably should add some onions and basil to your garden. Salsa? Plan on some jalapeno plants.
The next thing is to think about the space you have to plant.
You don’t have to have a humongous backyard to dig up in order to grow your own food. You can grow plants in buckets on the patio or front porch. You can hang some buckets upside down “topsy turvy” style and put them on a plant hook on your balcony. You can grow lettuce in a repurposed sour cream container in a sunny windowsill. The possibilities are endless, subject only to your imagination. Are you going to dig a garden bed, or are you going to try growing your garden in raised beds? This will help you plan how you need to get started, either with building beds or tilling the ground.
Once you have an idea of what you want to plant, and where you want to grow it, you will need seeds and/or plants.
I like to purchase my seeds at Baker Creek, but you can also purchase your seeds at your local hardware and home improvement stores. Even here in the northern part of the country, they have the seeds already out on display. Plant starters usually come later in April, but can be more expensive to buy. A single seed can grow a plant and cost less than a penny, but a started plant can cost you upwards of $5. Hold on to that info, though, as sometimes started plants can save your garden if all your seedlings die one year.
Starting seeds can be as simple or as complicated as you like.
I start mine in egg shells that have been broken in 1/2 and filled with some dirt. I put the 1/2 shells in a styrofoam egg carton since it holds the water better than the cardboard ones. Plant the seeds, water, and place in a sunny windowsill. Viola! Instant transplantable pots! Tomato plants seem to especially love this, and the seedling can be put into the ground within the eggshell completely. It makes for a bit less shock to the plants system.
Or, you can buy the little “mini greenhouses” that they commonly sell, and start your seeds in there.
They can be spendy, but if you are careful with them, you can use them again and again. I have a set we used for 4 years to get our seeds started.
Finally, if you are going to grow your plants in a containers,
you could also just plant the seeds directly into them. Of course, if you are short on space, this may not be the most viable option. I like to use a hoop house to get seeds going early in the Spring, as well as keep them going later in the fall.