In the middle of winter, we long for our gardens. It seems like the only thing to do is either dream as we look through catalogs and books, plant things too early in the greenhouse, or break shovels in the frozen ground. Instead, we should spend some time each fall planning for what we want to research and plan for next year’s garden. Here are some examples:
Research to Prepare for:
- Learn about common weeds in your area and best ways to combat them. Take photos and make notes about what parts of your yard they are in. Make it a goal to learn to identify their seedlings and learn their seed cycles.
- Find out what the life cycles are of common pests and possible ways to mount an offensive. Identifying insects in various stages is not always easy, but problems will often make more sense if you know things like what larva look like, where eggs are laid, and even what attracts the insects. Again, photos can be useful. Consider some photo enlargement to get a better look. Then, when you sit down in the winter to research, you can put a much more accurate description in the search bar.
- Evaluate soil issues in your yard. It is more helpful to add a little of the right thing than lots of the unnecessary things. It is also useful to get an idea of how amendments might interact or counteract each other.
- Investigate different methods of watering for particular types of plants. This can end up saving time and money, as well as produce a better crop. Not only amount of water, but how much the soil should dry in between and what parts of the plants don’t like water on them can be useful information.
- Look up seasonal dates for your area and coordinate them with particular crops. Not all crops like the same weather or time of year for optimal growing. Many regions have different dates recommended for different crops. Think particularly about crops that you were frustrated with this year and try to figure out if this was part of the equation.
- Read reviews and get opinions on equipment. Other gardeners would surely like to talk about what tools they like and how they take care of them. Professional yard care companies are probably slow during the winter and wouldn’t mind chatting with you about their preferences.
- Think about common garden assumptions that everyone seems to repeat. Make a list, then try to track down if these things have any validity to them. One good website for helping with this is gardenmyths.com. Also check out information by The Garden Professors, Fine Gardening (in specific articles), and many university extension programs. Just doing a google search for “garden myths” can give you a lot of food for thought.
- Investigate what flowers you can interplant with vegetables, both for beauty and insect management. Take notes about the real dimensions of full grown plants. Photos next to things you are familiar with will help a lot more than measurements listed in a catalog.
Planning to Prepare for:
- Make a master list of what you like to plant, that can be used every year to remind you of favorites. Either photos or walking through and making a list now will help you make a more complete list later.
- Sketch a master to-scale template of your yard that can be copied and altered each year. It may be helpful to use Google earth, but there still may be things that a satellite view can’t tell you. It might be easier to walk off paces or measure things before a cover of snow or frigid temperatures.
- Find wall space where calendar and work list can be easily posted and referred to. Think now about your foot traffic patterns or tendencies during the growing season. Make some notes for yourself. Use this information during the winter to make helpful organizational decisions.
- Make yourself an easily seen and easily adjusted garden calendar to remind of major timetable issues. While all your gardening chores are fresh in your mind, make some notes about what you are doing now.
- Make a watering chart that can be copied for each week and checked off as watering is done. Be more prepared for doing this by evaluating faucet limitations, double checking water pressure, and noting changes in growth of permanent plants.
- Make changes to watering set-ups. Again, taking time now to measure things or noting details around an area that might be affected by hoses or pipe will make such brainstorming easier in the winter.
I know you are probably very busy, just as I am, trying to harvest and preserve lots of produce right now. But if you have a break or just need to do something else for a while, try making some of these observations and notes. During the middle of winter, you will be glad not only for the photos of your garden, but also of the information to enable better research and more effective planning for next year’s garden. (clicking on photo will enlarge it)