Excited for the new growing season? But feeling overwhelmed? Learn what you need to do to get your garden planning done early enough so you’ll have success.
The start of the new year is an exciting time. Resolutions are being made, new habits are being formed and you’re likely recovering from a busy holiday season with lots of food, socializing and rushing around.
The new year is also when your thoughts might be turning to your garden. Right now in winter its either covered in snow or is wet and soggy from too much rain.
You likely are not doing much in the garden right now.
When the weather is nasty outside you can cozy up on the couch with a hot beverage, a notepad and pen or laptop or tablet. And start planning away!
However you might feel a bit overwhelmed, especially if this is the first time you’re planning your garden or homestead. There’s a lot to think about!
But if you break it down into manageable categories and plan out the entire year, you’ll know what to do and feel confident that everything will work out.
Vegetable Garden Plan
Usually I get my seed catalogue/guide from West Coast Seeds in the mail around Christmas break. Here is what I do to plan out my vegetable garden:
- choose what vegetables I want to grow next spring, summer and fall – I use the growing guides in my catalogue to checkmark beside those veggies I will grow
- check what seeds I still have and if they are still viable (seed packets should have a date showing the age of the seeds) – I add a $ beside those veggies in the growing guide I need to purchase
- choose the varieties from the catalogue I want to purchase if I need more seeds
- either order them online or visit my local nursery to purchase them. Tip: go early as nurseries often have limited stock which gets bought up quickly once spring arrives
- review the spacing requirements for each vegetable
- look at last year’s garden plan and rotate crops according to it
- mark down what will be planted where
- review the growing guides in the seed catalogue/guide, especially for the important dates
- make notes in a spare wall calendar, day planner or online calendar app of when to seed in the greenhouse, direct seed in the garden and transplant so I don’t miss any crucial dates
For more in depth info see how I plan my vegetable garden.
Hardscaping Additions and Improvements
At the beginning of 2017 I bit the bullet and started building a new compost bin. That then led to building new raised vegetable beds.
Then in summer I renewed the roof of my greenhouse to deal with rainwater leaking issues.
These all were improvements that I spent a bit of time in winter planning out.
So what are you going to build once the weather improves and you can start work again in the garden? It could be a brand new addition to the garden or just restoring/improving what is already there.
- compost bins
- raised beds
- new planting beds to replace lawn
- pergolas, arbours and trellises for climbing plants
- fences to keep out deer if these are a problem in your area
- ponds and other water features
- rain harvesting
And many more!
This type of garden planning will involve getting some inspiration online or in books or magazines. A great way to spend an afternoon with a cup of coffee or tea inside where it is warm and dry!
If you’re doing-it-yourself, spend some time sketching ideas out on paper or in a 3D drawing program such as Sketchup or TinkerCad. You want to figure out dimensions and other criteria so that you get the design right before you start building anything.
And make sure the rest of the family agrees – you might have to do some selling of your idea to them!
If you’re not going to do the work yourself, start asking around to find someone that you can hire. Landscape designers are usually not as busy in winter but get booked up quickly in early spring. You’ll still need to have an idea on paper of what you want to show the professional, so make sure you’re prepared.
You might also consider buying kits for greenhouses, compost bins and raised beds. These are great if you don’t want to design them yourself but don’t mind putting them together.
Again do some research into what is available and then purchase it before the spring. In spring some vendors run out of a product and you’ll have to wait, which is tough if you’re raring to go on the first warm day.
Get your free Garden Planning Worksheet, part of the Downloadables Library.
When it comes to permanent plantings such as trees, bushes, perennial flowers and vegetables, you need to plan well so that you don’t have to move plantings later.
So what should you look for when selecting a location?
- Light requirements – does it need full sun, part shade or full shade?
- Drainage – can it survive in a wet area that collects rainwater or a dry area that is exposed to wind
- Shade umbrella – trees especially affect other areas of the garden by creating shade; don’t put a tree where you plan to grow light-loving plants
- Leaf litter – trees shed leaves and needles and seeds/fruit so you may not want a tree branching over a gravel path or a seating area
- Safety – trees can shed large branches (especially if the branches are diseased or dead); avoid planting trees that overhang your house roof or other areas of the garden that could be damaged
Also decide on the ratio of permanent plantings versus annual plantings. In some areas you may want the flexibility of changing out the plantings every year so annuals make the most sense.
Garden planning doesn’t just involve planning for when you’ll be in the garden but also when you’ll be away from it.
If possible try and plan your vacations that involve travelling as early as possible. Not only does this help with getting plane tickets, hotel reservations and other bookings, but you need to also factor in being away from the garden.
There’s quite a bit of vacation preparation involved when you have a garden/homestead.
In some cases you might not know exactly when you will be taking vacation, but at least you can start asking around for someone to take care of your garden.
I also plan some vacation from my day job not to go anywhere on a trip, but to stay at home and deal with the major seeding in spring. Then again during the busy harvest times in late summer/early fall when the fruit ripens.
Even if you can’t take a full week off at these times, try and take a Friday or Monday off so that you have a three-day weekend. That helps a great deal!
Finally with all this planning behind you, time to start thinking about when you are going to do the work or have the work done.
You might have planned some time off from work to spend on a project or two. Factor that in. You may have some vacations out of town planned (see above) or some other priorities where you won’t be able to work on garden projects for a while.
And be sure to space your projects out enough. Often projects take some extra time to complete so factor that in and allow some overrun when planning out when you will work on each project.
Make sure you have lists of what you need to purchase for your various garden projects. You may already want to purchase some supplies to have on hand to start work the minute the weather cooperates.
And with all this talk about new projects and other improvements you’ll be planning, we can’t forget about routine maintenance. And often this is what many see as their biggest struggle: finding time to do the day-to-day and week-to-week tasks (or chores as some people call them).
So the first thing to do is to schedule regular maintenance walks through your property. Do this at least weekly or every couple of days if it’s the height of the growing season. Schedule this in your calendar as a recurring appointment with yourself.
Then you’ll also want to schedule some time to water, fertilize, weed and keep areas tidy.
And don’t forget to take care of your tools as well. You should be cleaning them every time you use them but sometimes you may run out of time. At least set aside a few minutes once a week to clean and lubricate your tools to keep them functioning well. And maybe once a month to sharpen pruners and other cutting tools.
And also be sure to keep on top of all of your gardening supplies. Download the checklist and keep it handy to track what you have and what you run out of. Make at least a monthly trip to a nursery or garden centre to pick up what you need.
The important step here is to schedule everything. Either in your calendar on your phone or computer or a physical wall calendar dedicated to gardening that you can put somewhere visible and glance at every day.
You’ll feel much better once you have done your garden planning for the year. Yes, things do change so have some flexibility planned into your plan.
Above all also schedule in some relaxing time to enjoy your garden that is moving closer to becoming a homestead!
If you enjoyed this article, have something to add or have any questions, please leave a comment below.
Wishing you all the best!
Tranquil Urban Homestead, Victoria, BC