4 Easy Steps to Planning An Organic Garden
Come late January, early February, I’m over winter. Spring time is just around the corner, and it can’t come soon enough! Although it’s still cold outside and the ground is frozen, you can start planning an organic garden. There may not be a lot of things you can do outside to prepare, but there’s plenty you can do inside where it’s warm and toasty.
Figure out what you want to grow:
Some of us are blessed with large sunny yards containing beautiful loamy soil, with neighbors few and far apart. Most of us however, myself included, have limited space to plan a garden. Therefore, we cant grow everything that catches our eye (unfortunately). Figure out how much usable garden space you have, then determine what vegetables matter most to you. I personally can’t have a garden without tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, beans, onions, carrots, and kale. Tomatoes take up a lot of space (16 – 24 inches apart), where onions, carrots, and Kale can be spaced much closer together.
You must consider this when planning your garden for the new year. Once you’ve determined your essentials, you can now consider growing some new plants this year like squash, melons, eggplant, broccoli, or cabbage. The possibilities are only limited by your space and ambition!
Growing your plants from seed opens you up to a huge variety of different plants to grow. Now that I’m a moderately experienced gardener, I grow all my vegetable plants from seed. You simply can’t find a fraction of the plant varieties at a nursery, that you can from seed companies. For example, many nurseries will only offer 3 or 4 varieties of tomatoes, but a seed company like Baker’s Creek Heirloom Seeds offers well over 100 varieties of non-gmo tomato variety seeds! After purchasing seeds from quite a few different seed companies over the past few years, I receive arms full of seed catalogs every winter. Seed catalogs are one of the few types of catalogs that I’ll sit a look through from cover to cover. However, I will only use, and support non-gmo seeds in my garden, and you should too!
Explore the offerings out there, and try new varieties. You may even want to consider growing heirloom varieties of vegetables instead of hybrids. Many heirlooms can be traced back to the 1800’s. So in a sense you’re growing a piece of history. Plus, heirlooms often top the charts in terms of best flavors!
Even though it’s frozen outside, it doesn’t mean you need to stop making organic, food scrap compost. Throughout the winter, you can continue to add food scraps to your outdoor compost bin or pile. If it’s super cold outside, the pile will probably be frozen. However, once the weather begins to warm, the microorganisms will break dormancy and get back to work converting your waste into nutrient rich compost for use in your garden. Don’t have a lot of space for a large compost pile? Read my post on how to build a compost bin for under $5.
It doesn’t end with outdoor composting however. There are other ways you can actively make organic compost indoors like using worms. Worms create vermicompost, which is some of the most nutrient dense, organic soil amendment you can add to your garden. It’s often referred to as “Black Gold”, and for good reason! Setting up your own worm bin is fairly cheap and easy, or you can buy one that has been specifically designed for keeping worms like the Worm Factory. I own a Worm Factory 360 and love it!
Another great organic indoor composting option is the Bokashi All Seasons Indoor Composting Kit. The Bokashi method of composting doesn’t produce a finished product, but greatly accelerates the process by pre-composting the food waste with anaerobic bacteria. Once your bin is full, you can simply bury the contents in the garden and let it finish composting (takes approximately 2 weeks in warm seasons), or you can add some of the contents to your worm bin. My worms go crazy for this stuff!
If you keep up with these indoor methods, you can guarantee yourself an ample amount of compost that can be added into your spring garden during transplanting or direct seeding time.
Prepare Your Planting Beds:
If the ground is still frozen, and there isn’t snow covering your beds, you can still take some steps to prepare your beds for planting. If possible, I like to take this time to clear out any leftover dead plants or weeds from my garden. In addition, this is a great time to get outside and plan for any expansions to the garden. This year, I’m moving an old storage shed to another area of my yard to give me more growing space. This move will easily double my space and allow me to grow a lot more production this year! Since I want to take advantage of as much of the growing season as possible, I’m doing everything I can now to prepare for my new space once spring arrives.
In my next post I’ll write about starting seeds. Don’t be intimidated by starting your own seeds. It’s much more rewarding and cheaper than purchasing nursery grown plants.