My husband and I will be embarking on our fifth organic garden journey this spring, and this year, we’re planning ahead. Every year, we learn a little more about growing our own food, and while my husband specializes in the soil preparation in early spring, I specialize in dreaming about what we will plant and finding organic seeds from cool places.

Before it was even Christmas, my husband and I were talking about what new things we were going to try in the garden this year, how he was going to expand our garden area again, and how many rows of our tried and true favorites we would be planting.

And the truth is, while it seems early to be planning our garden for the summer while our driveway here in Maine is a giant sheet of ice, now really is the time to make your plans and order your seeds.

As you’re making your plans this month and dreaming of fresh strawberries and ripe tomatoes, here are a few things to keep in mind based on lessons our family has learned from our own organic gardening adventures.

harvest

I took this picture during one of our first fall harvests. I had never had a garden and tasted food fresh from the earth before. I was hooked!

Grow Foods You and Your Family Eat

There’s nothing worse than working for months, cooking something up, and having your kids say “I don’t like that.” That has never happened too much for our family, but it is an issue I’ve heard others talk about. Thankfully, our boys seem to be big fans of the garden harvest, but I have made a few mistakes in terms of the kinds of foods I actually know how to cook.

After a few years of trial and error, we realized that our family really eats things like onions, green beans, dried beans, carrots, and potatoes, so these foods get more space in the garden. If we try something new, we usually limit it to a half row to give it a trial run before we take away precious space from one of our staples.

Remember Some Fruits and Vegetables Need Two Years to Harvest

There are some foods that are going to require some delayed gratification, and this is never easy for me. I’ve been wanting to plant asparagus for years, but I can’t seem to get excited about it because, if you want it to last for years, you have to leave it alone the first year. I’m determined to show some discipline this year and plant that asparagus, but you should be aware that there are some things you have to wait until the following year to harvest if you want them to do well.

Strawberries and blueberries should be left alone the first year as well. And, of course, fruit trees will take some time, depending upon the kind of tree you buy.

Consider Harvest Timing

The seeds you buy will come with instructions for harvest timing or you can research the days to harvest online. You should also keep in mind when the food will become ripe and ready to harvest. Is that during your family vacation or when you have to work extra hours at work? The first few years we grew our garden, we had to work so many hours during the fall harvest that some of our harvest spoiled, and our hearts broke.

Make Your Plan

Once you have considered what your family wants and needs and can handle, you should make your plan. And, since you need a good plan before you buy your seeds, it’s good to sit down and make a plan for exactly what you will plant, how many rows you will plant, and when those seeds need to be in the ground or started inside.

You should also think about if you want to start with seeds or purchase starter plants from a local nursery in spring or summer. We’ve found that things like green beans, carrots, and dried beans grow easily from seeds. But we’ve frequently purchased starter plants for things like tomatoes and broccoli. This year, I’m determined to do some starters inside for those foods, but we’ll see how it goes. I tried last year and still ended up buying starter plants. Our cat kept eating my starters!

Purchase Your Seeds

Once you have your plan, gets your seeds early. You wouldn’t think so, but if you wait until too late, it can be difficult to find some seeds that are really popular. This happened to us last year with our favorite dried beans, so we saved some seeds for this year. But, if you’re just getting started, this can be an issue. I recommend checking with local nurseries and coops to make sure you are getting access to foods that grow well in your area.

This year, I’m planning to write a series of posts about the steps our family is taking to plan, plant, grow, and harvest our garden. I hope you’ll follow me on our journey and share your stories as well.

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6 thoughts on “On Planning Your Garden (in January)

  1. Great advice for starting a garden! I’ve been planning for a while because I’m growing for my family and some friends to harvest organic fruit and veggies like a pick-your-own. I’ve never paid so much attention to days until harvest before to make sure we have enough veggies for everyone over a couple of weeks!

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  2. I’ve just got an allotment and I’m so excited! I’m yet to actually see the space but I’m already planning what to plant. I’ve grown fruit and veg before but mostly in containers or in our greenhouse. Are there any failsafe crops that you would recommend we try?

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    1. Oh, this is a great question, and thank you for reading! Through some trial and error, we have learned that green beans, any kind of dried bean that grows well in your climate, and root vegetables, like carrots and potatoes have been pretty easy. Tomatoes also seem pretty easy. I’m so excited about your new space.

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      1. Ok great, thanks for the advice! I’m going to look at the space properly tomorrow, it’s a bit daunting trying to visualise a fully functioning allotment when all you have to look at is a vast expanse of mud!

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  3. Tomatoes and broccoli are dead easy from seed but I understand your hesitation as I always start them indoors. All you need is a shop light with cool white (read cheap) bulbs. May I suggest snow peas? They need to be planted early and are so yummy mine never make it to the kitchen.

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    1. Karen, thank you so much! We have had good luck with snow peas, but I struggle with broccoli. We have starters going in the house right now, but not all of the are doing well. We did get a grow light, and that has helped a ton. Do you have any other advice for broccoli? We have failed on it three times. I am determined this year!

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