Friday, December 20, 2013

Planning for spring

The second half of December is a wonderful time to begin thinking about spring's arrival.  In these parts, spring arrives quite early, with blossoms on the trees as early as March.  But I have learned the hard way not to get too excited and plant anything outside much before Mother's Day, because late-season frosts and nasty, cold windstorms are not all that uncommon.  Starting in the greenhouse is fine, but I just can't transplant outdoors before mid-May or so.  

My first job is usually to make a crop map for the next year -- one for spring, and one for fall. It's not always written in stone, and has been known to change as I go along, but it's a start that gives me a general idea of how I'm going to proceed in the coming year.

Big plans.

 I figure out which raised beds will be fallowed and enriched with compost, and which ones will be ready to go by May.  Then I look at a crop rotation map I downloaded from the ag extension office to make sure I rotate my crops in the correct order.  Oh, I'm sure I could probably get away with not doing it that way, but it's just much better for the soil if you move things around, since all vegetables feed on nutrients and minerals a little differently. And since good soil equals good yields, it's a good practice to use.

One other thing is that I have a real, come-to-Jesus talk with myself.  If I've planted something I didn't use, I need to be honest enough to realize I'm not using it, and not plant it again.  For years I planted a couple of things over and over, that looked great, but no one ate them, and I've gotten beyond that point now. No more water, fertilizer and time spent on food my family doesn't like.

This is also a good time to list out any chores you need done before bud break in spring.  We, for instance, already know we need a bigger trellis for the berries, and will be doing a small re-landscaping project in the back yard where we killed some lawn last year, so those are things that will go on the list and be started while the weather is still cool in February.

At some point, we will also conduct an assessment of what died in the extreme cold snap we had a couple of weeks ago.  I already know the geraniums on the front porch are gone, plus a butterfly bush and some agapanthus out in the front yard.  If it didn't survive, it will be replaced by something that WILL survive, because there's simply no point in replacing things time after time, no matter how pretty they are.

The glory of all these farm chores is that they can all be done on the sofa with a hot cup of cocoa.  The nights are getting to their longest and coldest, so it's a lovely time to sit by the fire and dream of warm spring days and seedlings starting the cycle of life once again.


  1. How I wish I had your fortitude and consistency in vegetable gardening! You're so wise to do all this in a preventative manner rather than once you have a problem. I think I'm growing all flowers and herbs this year.

    1. Nothing wrong with flowers and herbs! They're what makes the garden smell divine. I still have parsley, thyme, oregano and chives right now, but the basil is toast. Oh well, spring will be here before we know it!