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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

  • The past few years, we used Burpee seeds (, or Gardens Alive (, Seeds of Change (, and Ferry Morse (

  • 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!

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