Right now, while the weather is still too cold in many regions to plant, is the perfect time to expand your base of gardening knowledge. This is a must for both new and seasoned gardeners. Some topics to explore include:
Companion planting. This is the idea that certain plants grow better (or worse) when planted near other plants. For example, peppers and tomatoes do well together; however, tomatoes should never be planted near potatoes or crucifers (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kohlrabi). There are oodles of books written just on this topic alone, but I recommend The Vegetable Gardener's Bible. What I like about this book is that it gives a lot of good information on companion planting, but speaks to many other topics as well. If I'm going to buy a book, I want to get the most bang for my buck. I'm the practical sister, remember? And, of course, check your local library for books you can borrow for free.
Small space gardening techniques. For those of you with space issues or who are just starting out gardening, this is the time to research how to get the maximum yield in the smallest space. Again, books (and websites) abound with information on Square Foot gardening, container gardening, urban gardening and more.
Lasagna gardening. This is something new I will be trying this year. It's a no-till method that involves layering different organic materials and planting in these. As the material breaks down (composts), it feeds the plants. I had heard about it before, but wasn't really interested until I watched a Homestead Blessings video.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. There are so many new things to learn about gardening and winter is the perfect season!
2. Test Your Soil
This is a great time to test your soil so you know what fertilizers are best to amend the soil's pH levels. To find out how and where to test your soil, contact your local county extension office.
Bunny Trail: If you are not acquainted with the extension, I highly recommend it. To find your local extension as well as a wealth of practical knowledge on many agricultural topics, visit Extension.org. They have a searchable database of articles that is a great resource.
3. Plan Your Garden
Do you love to dream about your garden in the cold winter months, pouring over seed catalogs while envisioning the bounty you will harvest from your garden in the coming summer? I confess, this gets me through the cold, dreary days of an Ohio winter.
When I'm done dreaming and salivating, I turn to real planning. Several years ago I started keeping sketches of my current garden, records of what was planted, as well as how many plants of each variety, what the plants yielded, any problems encountered, gardening trips and tricks I tried, and ideas for next year's garden. This garden journaling has helped me greatly! (Click on the Gardening Journal image at the bottom of this post to download our FREE 13-page journal.)
Before planning my current garden I look back over sketches and notes of the previous year's garden, looking at position of plants, yield, etc. I try to practice a mini form of crop rotation so as not to deplete the soil. Here in Ohio we don't have two growing seasons, but I try to use a bit of succession planting, where I plant a crop with a quick turnaround (or that can be planted early spring) that is followed by a second crop after the first is harvested. My gardening journal helps me keep all of this straight and remember what was planted when and where.
Once you determine what you're planting, take inventory of seeds saved from last year and order what you need for the current year.
My Patriot Supply has an excellent selection of very reasonably priced heirloom seeds, many of which are organic. They also have decent shipping charges and seed vaults, for preppers.
4. Prepare for Garden Season
Once the gardening season is in full swing, things tend to get pretty busy for us. Since we don’t use any pesticides, all weeding is done by hand (or hoe!), which takes a lot of time, as does fertilizing, watering and preserving the produce.
There are things that can be done while the weather is still too cold to plant that will make the garden season go smoother. For example, take inventory of tools and perform any necessary repairs or sharpening. I have a somewhat dilapidated gardening trellis that I have used for a number of years for my cucumbers. It won't make it another season, so I plan on building a new one sometime over the next few weeks. (Click here for a video post showing how to make this easy, inexpensive trellis that can be used to save space in the garden.)
Just thinking about the summer garden makes me yearn for sunshine and the feel of bare earth under my toes! I think I'll grab a cup of coffee and peruse another seed catalog.
To download our FREE Garden Journal, click on the image below.
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