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When to Plant Your Vegetable Garden: 7 Must-ask Questions | Organic Gardening 365
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When to Plant Your Organic Vegetable Garden: 7 Questions You Must Answer First

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Let’s pretend it’s late winter/early spring. (And maybe it is, depending on when you read this blog post.)

You heard a fellow gardener say it’s time to start planting some things in the garden, but you’re not quite sure.

The seed packets say to plant your peas as soon as the ground is unfrozen and can be worked. “Are you kidding me? It’s still so cold out there, how could anything possibly germinate and grow?” (But what do you know? You’re not a pea seed.)

As it finally warms up a little, do you ever wonder exactly when is the best time to plant your lettuce and other greens?

“Why can’t everything just be planted at the same time?” It would be so much easier!

And when you’re planting your garden, have you ever run around trying to get everything done deciding where to put things on the spur of the moment?

Not sure what to do first? What to plant where? How many rows of carrots you need? Etc. etc.

It can be so confusing…if you haven’t done your homework.

Fortunately, there’s a solution

In the last post in this series, we talked about not going overboard when you order seeds and plants from a catalogue or buy things from a local nursery.

Today’s tip requires a little work on your part. It’s called research.

Now, don’t run for the hills!

It’s not the kind of research you had to do in school when your history professor assigned a 15 page essay.

Once you’ve decided on what you’re going to plant in your garden, you need a plan. You have to figure out when to plant and how to grow the varieties you have chosen.

OG 365 Timeless Gardening Tip #6: Research when to plant and how to grow what you have decided to put in your garden and write out your plan.

Yup, research. You have to do your homework.

It will definitely pay off in the long run. You’ll save time and be able to grow more food and extend your growing season, which means even more food…

…which means you are saving more money on your family’s food bill. How does that sound? Not bad, eh? (No, I’m not Canadian.)

And where will you put this research? In your Gardener’s Journal, of course.

Okay, okay, I know this tip is probably more for new gardeners who don’t have the experience that a long-timer does.

But I know folks who have gardened for years and still take the “helter-skelter approach” to plant their gardens. With an actual plan in hand, they could produce so much more food. And save themselves a lot of time and stress.

Now if you’re an experienced gardener and already have this sort of thing under your belt, I’d appreciate you reading the rest of the post anyway and sharing any insights you feel I may have overlooked.

Where to do your research

Most of the info you need can be found on the back of seed packets, in catalogues, good gardening resource books, or online.

Write everything down in your Gardener’s Journal and come up with a plan. (Is there and echo in here?) The more detailed the better.

Here are the 7 questions you must find answers to before you create your plan and plant your garden.

  1. If you’re starting your own seeds, how many weeks ahead of planting time should you start them? Each variety is different, wouldn’t you know it.
  2. How many weeks before or after the “last frost date” should you plant each crop? (And how soon before the “first frost date” should you plant fall crops?)
  3. How much you will eat, preserve and/or share and what are the space requirements in the garden for this amount of food? Make note of the mature size of the plants so you space things accordingly.
  4. What is the best type of soil and recommended ph level for each crop?
  5. What are the water requirements and hours of sunlight needed for your crops? Not all plants are the same.
  6. What season do each of your crops grow best in? Some crops grow better in the cooler spring and fall season. Some prefer the heat of summer.
  7. What is the “time to maturity” for each variety you grow? With a little planning you can have something fresh out of your garden all summer long and into the fall. For example, if you live where the growing season is shorter, you need to grow varieties that mature sooner.

When you know the answer to all these questions, you should come up with a plan on when and where to plant each variety.

Draw some sketches of your garden beds to figure out where you’ll plant everything. Make a chart. Find what works best for you.

Here’s what a friend of mine from Texas does: Make a simple sketch with just the outline of your garden beds and then make several copies, one for each season. Then write in what you’re going to grow in each area in each season.

I used to run around half-cocked in the spring, madly trying to decide where to plant things. I had in my mind what I wanted to do, but I didn’t always plan it out on paper.

BIG mistake.

When you’re organized and have a plan, you can get so much more done in the same amount of time.

Write down your plan

Now you may be thinking, “This sounds like a lot of work. I’ll just figure it out in my head.”

Well, if you’re one of those folks who can keep it all in your head, go for it.

But I like to write things down. When my seeds start arriving in late winter, I get all excited and try to come up with my plan right then.

If I don’t write everything down right away, I don’t always remember it when it’s actually time to plant. Or I change my mind several more times—which takes time I don’t really have to spend.

The ideal time to get this all sorted out is in January or February.

Of course, you can tinker with it all during the year. During the height of the growing season, if you discover something that would work better, go jot it down in your Gardener’s Journal for next year’s plan.

When you do your research in advance of when you plant your garden and have a plan written down and follow it, you will save a lot of time when it comes to planting your garden. (There is an echo in here.)

Plus, you save a lot of hassle and you will have something to harvest throughout the growing season.

One more strategy…

Now, there’s one more slice to this “when-to-plant” pie that I’m saving for the next post in this series.

Many new, as well as long-time gardeners, don’t get as much from their gardens as they could because they haven’t learned this planting schedule technique. Here’s the article if you’re interested.

As always, please share your thoughts or questions in the comment section below. I’d love to hear how you plan your garden.

So long for now.

Here’s to your vegetable-ific garden!

James Early
Organic gardening 365
Dedicated to helping you get more out of your organic garden all year long.

P. S. For the complete series of OG 365 Timeless Gardening Tips, click here.

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