This month our focus is getting your garden in gear! If you already have a huge garden planned, or it's your first time trying cherry tomatoes in a pot on your porch, it's time to start thinking about what your plans are for feeding yourself this year! With everything going on in the world, more and more people I know are considering gardening either for the first time, or making their gardens bigger and better. (I know we are!) Here I'm sharing some thoughts on how to get started planning your garden this year. I won't be sharing exact step by step because we're still learning ourselves, but I will try to pass along helpful ideas that will help you get started.
WHY ARE YOU GARDENING
We've been gardening for years, semi-successfully. Our goals each year determine how much we plant, and plan to harvest. So the first question you should ask yourself when planting a garden is why are you doing it?
Here are some reasons we have gardened in the past:
If you are growing for a specific purpose, you will plant accordingly. If you're growing a garden to make your own salsa, you will plant lots of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and cilantro. Allll the cilantro!!! If you're purpose is more general, to supplement your groceries, you will obviously plant a broader range of vegetables.
I want to remind you that the best way to learn is to DO. So if you're gathering information because you want your garden to be bountiful and perfect, just know it probably won't be.. Rabbits will eat something, Hornworms will try to destroy your tomatoes, and your cilantro will flower and not be ready for you when it's time to make salsa. Adopt this motto: Done is better than perfect. Go ahead and read articles (like this one!) and books, but also go put some seed or plants in the dirt.
choose your garden style
There are several "styles" of gardening that you have probably heard of. The most talked about are: Container Gardening, Raised Bed Gardening (which is our favorite method!), Straw Bale Gardening, Victory Gardening, Hydroponic Gardening... There are tons of choices. But for us, Raised Bed AKA Square Foot Gardening changed the way we approached growing things, providing a bigger yield in a smaller space, with much less weeding and hands on work.
After you know why you're gardening, and you choose your gardening style, it's time to choose your plants and seeds. THIS IS THE BEST PART!! We go seed shopping when it's still cold outside and we need a bit of sunshine. Usually in January or February, but sometimes later. Your eyes will be bigger than your garden. I don't know what it is about seed shopping that makes you feel like you can grow anything and everything, but just roll with it! Make sure you get foods that you love and will eat, but don't be afraid to try a few new fun things as well. We usually have several varieties of tomatoes and peppers at the minimum. We have branched out into growing more greens, onions, potatoes, broccoli and carrots. Some are more finnicky than others and we're still learning, but go ahead and try it all out! Take notes in your garden journal, and compare notes next year. Learn each year and it will get better and better.
WHERE TO SHOP
Good seeds are important! While we do pick up seeds and plants from local garden centers from time to time, we usually place a big seed order once a year from one or two of these excellent companies.
BAKER CREEK HEIRLOOM SEEDS
ANNIE'S HEIRLOOM SEEDS
Books and MAgazines
Our favorite books for gardening are more like all around homesteading books. Check them out at your local library, or click through to find them on Amazon:
SQUARE FOOT GARDENING
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COUNTRY LIVING
PETERSON FIELD GUIDE
BALL BLUE BOOK OF PRESERVING
Our favorite homesteading magazines are full of relevant and helpful information and inspiration. Linked below are their websites, some of which are amazing even without the magazine subscription!
MOTHER EARTH NEWS
COUNTRYSIDE AND SMALL STOCK JOURNAL
BACKWOODS HOME MAGAZINE
Garden Planner and Tracker
I've created this garden journal to provide the perfect spot to keep up with all your fruits and veggies, so that you can keep a record of your garden for following years. Use the garden tracker to help you know which varieties of your plants do well for you in your area, which had a poor germination rate, which ones you definitely want to replant next year, and which ones gave you the most yield.
Twelve Months on a Page is one of my most favorite tools for planning out different areas of my life, and the garden is no different. Use this tool to help you remember big tasks that need to happen each month to make your gardening go well, including when to plant, when to prune, when to order seeds, and anything else you can think of!
Use the weekly garden notes to help you track your daily and weekly actions, and help you remember to do the tasks that are most important to the success of your garden. Keeping up with what you have harvested on the weekly sheet will help you gather yield totals at the end of the season.
The Raised Bed Garden Cheat Sheet is a quick reference guide for how many plants to plant per square foot, along with an example garden. The Raised bed garden planner gives you a space to plan out or record your own garden space. Cut out and create a garden that matches your own.
Of course, as many of these pages as you need, you can print! My favorite part of printables is the ability to print more :)
Along with the journal and tracking pages, we've included printable seed packets in 3 sizes and varied patterns to help you save your seeds for next year, or to share your seeds with your friends. Nothing says I love you like a packet of seeds.
A bonus page of Hearth and Caravan's favorite resources is included in this printable bundle as well.
Share your favorite garden resource or tip with us! I love learning from you <3
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