5 Tips You Can Use to Plan Your Spring Garden Right Now
Hey y’all! Here we are with the end of the year just around the corner, and right on schedule the new garden catalogs are showing up in the mail and the oxalis is taking over! I can’t wait to get the yard ready for the next incarnation of my spring garden, and this weekend you’ll find me out in the yard with a hoop hoe and green waste bin, clearing out weeds and plants that are past their prime. Fortunately I live in USDA zone 9b, so the only real impediment to year-round gardening here is finding the time to do as much of it as I would really like. But no matter where you live, or whether you have a tiny urban balcony or in a large back yard, it’s never too early to start making plans for your own garden. Here are five great ways to get started right now!
Start flipping through that stack of magazines you’ve been saving and scan back over your Pinterest boards for ideas you fell in love with last year. Be on the lookout for interesting elements like color, theme, and purpose. Growing your own herbs, attracting birds and butterflies, using all red flowers, adding a firepit, or planting a salsa garden are just a few ideas to spur your imagination. Other sources of inspiration are garden design apps like Gardenize and Bee Smart, and photos of your own garden from previous seasons. And take a minute or two when you’re at the grocery store to look over the cut flowers and blooming houseplants- you may just discover a knockout combination of colors or textures.
Explore Plant Options
There are a few staples-zinnias, sunflowers, and tomatoes- that make an appearance in my garden year after year, but I’m a plant collector at heart and always on the lookout for something that I haven’t seen before. Garden catalogs are a great way to get familiar with new plant options in early in winter, before much is available in local nurseries. Settling in to a cozy chair with a cup of coffee and a new catalog is something I look forward to each year!
The beginning of the year is the best time to order a print catalog (most are free), as many companies run out of them by the beginning of summer. Kitazawa Seed Co., Northland Rosarium, and David Austin Roses are a few of my favorites. If you prefer paperless, many garden purveyors also have their catalog online, and a few, like Burpee Seeds, even have apps. If you’re a new gardener, these are a great introduction to horticulture, as many have photos or illustrations as well as grower’s notes about the plants.
As you find plants that interest you, start a list and note their sun and water requirements, size, and source for future reference. That information will come in handy when you’re working on a design and trying to decide what to use in shady corners, at the back of a border, or in spots that are exceptionally damp or dry.
Early winter is a good time to take stock of your shovels, hoses, watering cans, hand tools, and so forth. Despite my best efforts, it seems like I always manage to leave something out in the weather for months: a shovel leaning against the fence behind the garage or a pair of pruners that somehow ended up under an ottoman on the deck. So, I like to take inventory of my gardening tools and equipment right after the first of the year, and make a note of anything that needs to be repaired or replaced.
It’s also an ideal time to start reading reviews for new garden implements you have your eye on (one of my favorite finds of the last few years is a hori hori knife. Best. Tool. Ever.) Don’t forget to pick up a couple of new pairs of gloves- you can never have too many!
Create a Garden Journal
Start a garden journal to collect design ideas, sketches, plant lists, inventory lists, and make notes. You can use an app like Gardenize to keep it all on your phone or tablet. Or if you’re the crafty type, use a gridded notebook or pretty journal, stickers, and colored pencils to bring your garden to life on paper. Include a list of chores as well- weeding, repair fences, add new paths, amend the soil, painting the potting bench, prune fruit trees- and break it down by month or season.
In addition to being a planning tool, your journal can also serve as a record of this year’s garden as well as a source of inspiration for next year’s. As the year progresses, keep adding to it. Take lots of photos throughout the season and include those, along with notes about which plants thrived and which didn’t, and ideas that you have for future seasons.
Starting seeds indoors a great way to get a jump on spring planting, if you have a warm sunny window. Pick up a seedstarting kit and a few packages of seed at a nursery or a home improvement store, and in about 10 days you’ll start seeing the first seedlings of spring.
The seed packages will indicate the appropriate time to start seeds in your area if you plan to transplant them to your garden. But if you want to get your dirt fix right now, choose seeds for edible sprouts, such as broccoli or microgreens. You can continuously plant and harvest sprouts for salads and garnishes regardless of the season.
I’d love to hear your planning tips, as well as what you are planning for your own garden. Leave a comment below and let’s chat about it!