Saturday, January 23, 2016

Organizing Seeds and Garden Planning

We've had a garden each year for several years – ever since my youngest was 8 I believe, or was it six? I cannot remember. Until recent years, he's been in charge of gardening, however now that he is older and working out of the home most of the time, someone else (ME!) had to take over and be the brains of the operation. I understand that we all work a little differently, but today I'm going to share with you the system I developed that has helped me the MOST BY FAR.

One of the key factors in having a successful garden is: BE PREPARED! I prefer to begin initial planning in november or december the previous year that way it is relaxing and peaceful, however for most folks january planning is not too late.
Gather all of your seeds and make a list of what you have. Now make a list of what you want/need. Sometimes I write the list by hand, however sometimes I will use a spreadsheet program like Excel (Open Office has a free office program much like Microsoft Word). Using a spreadsheet program allows you to alphabetize in a few simple steps … which is nice if you like things alphabetized! Look through the seed catalog, email a few friends for seed exchanging, etc., and place your order(s).
Next, make a spreadsheet (on the computer or on paper) of what you are going to plant. The produce names go down the left side of the page. On the top are columns, one for each month that requires action with the seeds and plants. I use numbers for each month, 1 is january, 2 is february, etc.
Now fill in the spreadsheet with DATES – a star in front of the date means “start inside”. No star means “start outside”. For this step you will need to know a few basic things … like when is the last expected frost date for your area, what needs to be started inside, what can be directly sown outside, when can your inside starts be transplanted, and so on. (here is a nifty zone map - just click on your state - but ask the local 'old timers' too - the know more than the USDA does!) For example, in my area broccoli can be started inside at the end of january and a little in to february, so in my “#1” column in the “broccoli” row I have “*1/28 – 2/11”. And then a few months later, in the “#3” column I have “3/10-3/30”.

Since I like to also do fall plantings of some vegetables, you'll see in “#6” column in the “broccoli” row “*6/20-7/4” and in “#8” “8/1-8/15”. Now I know when I look at my spreadsheet I'll need to start broccoli seeds inside at the end of jan or the beginning of feb, plant the starts outside some time during the last half of march, start the seeds again inside towards the end of june or beginning of july, and plant those starts outside some time at the beginning of august for a fall crop. Make sense? I hope so!!! See my photo for clarification.

One final thing that I do … I organize my seeds by date in ziplock bags and keep them in order in a plastic shoe box, that way they are ready to go and fool-proof (or should I say, busy-life proof?). Anything that needs to be done the same day is grouped into the same ziplock bag. So, for example, asparagus and celery both need to be started inside on 1/12, so they are in a ziplock bag together with a label that reads: INSIDE 1/12.

Some crops need a spring and fall planting – like broccoli for example as mentioned above. Everything that needs started inside on 1/26 is in a ziplock bag together that is labeled: INSIDE 1/26. HOWEVER, the seeds that need started again in the fall are in ANOTHER ziplock bag inside the 1/26 bag (see photo). This bag is labeled: INSIDE 6/20. Now I know that when I am done starting seeds inside for those vegetables, I put the seeds packs back into the INSIDE 6/20 bag and put the bag in the proper date order in the shoe box. Now the seeds are ready for me when it's time to start them in june. I don't have to remember; it does the remembering for me.
Notice on INSIDE 2/2 I have a note: *Also start sweet potatoes.
This helps me remember that it's time to hide a few sweet potatoes in a paper sack (or box or sand … but I use a sack) so it can sprout me some slips.
Sometimes only a card is used for a date – no bag needed. See “OUTSIDE 3/10 – 3/30” or “OUTSIDE 8/1” for examples.

Everything on these cards are either already started inside and ready to be planted outside, or can be direct sown. (Even though I usually start a few rows of lettuce, kale and spinach each week beginning in the middle of february, I know that they are considered 'safe' to plant outside after 3/10.)
Here's one more just because ...
My go-to book is The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward C. Smith. My uncle told me about it several years ago and I am so thankful for it!

I hope this was helpful to someone!! If you have video capabilities, here is a quick video I did explaining this whole process. Have a great day!