Planning the Backyard Garden
Some winters are so cold and snowy that we can’t wait for the warmth of spring. So, when the seed catalogs first arrive, we’re very eager to start planning the year’s vegetable and flower gardens. On the other hand, some winters are mild, and spring bulbs start sprouting early, and that also spurs us to get going with our garden planning. Actually, our garden planning is happening all year long. We’re sharing it with you to offer a guideline and some tips for planning your own backyard gardens. It's simple, straightforward and manageable for people with busy lives and relatively small suburban backyards.
Here is a photo gallery of photos of some of the activities described below.
One of the year-round activities we practice is keeping a garden journal. We found one by Reader’s Digest called Successful Gardening Journal.
We use the journal to keep track of the weather and make yard and garden notes. We re-visit our journals from previous years, as they provide a record of the weather and of changes to our trees, yard, and garden; this informs each year's planning. What worked and what didn't?
Here is a list of our main monthly tasks. It is helpful to see the year’s work laid out this way so you can plan and prepare.
February: Order seeds
We almost always have some seeds left from the previous year. We always mark on the packet when they were planted and how they came up/produced before storing them in the refrigerator for the next year. The longevity of some seeds is amazing!
Late-February to Early March (no later than 3/15 for us): Start seeds indoors
We start the seeds in our sunporch, in trays with overhead lighting
April: Transfer to cold frame
We use a cold frame that Jim built out of old windows he salvaged
May: Transfer to Garden
We use the previous year’s compost and leaf mold to supplement the soil
See our Spring page for more planting information
June-July: Weeding, pruning, other tending to plants
County Fair: our local fair is in July, and we always enter several of our vegetables and several of our flowers
We are usually fortunate enough to have more vegetables than we need, so we share with family and friends and with our local foodbank (they welcome fresh produce)
August: Storing vegetables for winter
We quick sautee sweet peppers and freeze
We use a dehydrator to dry tomatoes (sliced) and hot peppers and bag them
September: Start Fall greens indoors
We start seeds of collards and kale in our sunporch
October: Planting of greens outdoors
We prepare a row cover to go over them when it gets cold and also run an electric scoop light to the garden to turn on under the cover when it gets really cold. This lends just enough warmth to avoid deep freeze.
November-January: Eating stored vegetables and harvesting winter greens
We quick sautee and freeze excess greens to tide us over until we have our summer greens
New seed catalogs arrive!