In the late fall and early winter, it can be tempting to pause our thoughts for the next garden season. Surely, we do need to rest, and I’m all for that. But I also truly believe the more time we put into planning and organizing, the more rewarding our garden growing season will be.
So maybe fall and early winter aren’t the times you want to go full-scale into detailed garden planning. But it is the perfect time to dream and think in terms of the “big picture” in your next garden season.
In this episode of The Beginner’s Garden Podcast, I talk in detail about seven garden planning considerations in the “pre-planning” stage. You can listen to the full episode of that podcast here or continue reading.
1. What do you wish you had preserved more of?
This is the time of year, at least for my household, where we are constantly cooking. The holidays are here and that means an abundance of homecooked dinners. And this is the time of year I love to grab the home-canned jars of my garden harvest. But last year at this time, I ran out of tomato products. Running out of something we consider a staple helped me determine how many I planted the following year.
This is the prime time to think about what you wish you had preserved more of. While canning may be the first thing we think of when we say “preserved.” the truth is there are many ways to preserve our harvest through the year like freezing and dehydration.
If you find yourself wishing you had more of a certain fruit, vegetable, or herb or maybe wishing you had grown some in the first place, now is the time to start making your list. This will help you organize what it is that you want to put in your next garden and how much more (or less) that you need to grow.
2. What do you want to try again?
If At First You Don’t Succeed…
Now that the sting of failure has eased, what is it that didn’t go so well last season that you want try again?
For example, I had a terrible pinto bean harvest this year. I also planted many fall zucchini crops and exactly zero made it to harvest due to powdery mildew. Neither of these crops will I give up on; I will plant them again, trying to methods to help them get to a good, full harvest.
Think about the failures you had in the garden this year, as you sit down with your garden planner. This is the perfect time to map out and jot down ideas of what you could do differently to help ensure a better harvest next time. If at first, you don’t succeed, adjust your plans, and try again.
3. Find Inspiration From Others
Social media has many negatives to it, right? But, when it comes to ideas and inspiration, it can truly be such a positive tool. If you’ve not followed too many gardeners on your social channels, you’re truly missing out! Instagram is my favorite place to hang out (connect with me here) and it’s where I get the most inspiration.
In my own garden this year, for example, I started growing luffas, and this is primarily because I have seen other people on my social media (in my own zone and climate) grow them with much success. I am so glad that I did. They were so much fun and the projects that you can make with luffas are endless.
Don’t be afraid to find inspiration from others. Learn from them, but also keep in mind that different places around the world can grow different things. There are some things that simply won’t ever work out depending on the zone and climate that you’re in.
4. Plant Now For the Years Ahead
If you are looking around your garden this year and you find that you really wish you had blueberries, strawberries, fruit trees, asparagus, etc., make a plan to get them in the ground this spring. Don’t put off the perennials. Many of these plants that will return for you year after year require a year or more to begin bearing for you. The sooner you plant, the sooner you harvest.
Because you won’t have a harvest the first year, and in some cases the first few, it can be tempting to not even start. I encourage you to reconsider and know that one planting means a very low maintenance harvest for years to come.
5. Explore what gave you joy last season
I find so much joy in my garden — that’s not a secret — but there are a few things that bring me more joy than others. For example, I love walking through my garden seeing so many beautiful flowers. It just makes me smile while I work. I also find joy in garden herbs. The more I have, the happier I am.
Don’t be afraid to replicate what brings you joy. Gardening is hard work, especially during the middle of a hot harvest season. If looking over to see a beautiful bouquet of flowers filled with pollinators can help make the work that much more worth it, plan to keep planting those flowers.
And don’t just stop with your replication, but maybe see if you can expand upon it.
6. Think hard on your preferred garden lifestyle.
It’s important to figure out what kind of garden lifestyle that you want to lead. Once you identify what brings you joy, you’ve probably figured what doesn’t.
Sure, a fair amount of hard work is going to be required, but for most of us, there’s a point where we need to re-evaulate what brings us joy, what sucks the life out of us, and what sacrifices are worth making to serve the gardening lifestyle we want to lead.
This will be different for everyone. You may want to expand your space because you want a lifestyle of ever-increasing self-sufficiency. You may want to add more of an emphasis on fall gardening so you can stretch out the season and harvest. Or you may want to pivot to more raised beds and containers because they are less maintenance. You want your garden to serve you; you don’t want to become a slave to your garden — because over time, that can steal the joy out of gardening.
7. Don’t turn Regrets into Reality
A lot of people have regrets in the garden. This is common. But, if you know ahead of time that you really wish you would’ve done something, take the initiative and change it for next season.
Maybe you really wish you had a fall garden in October, so plan now to prep that space in the summer.
Maybe you fell behind and got overwhelmed with weeding (it happens to all of us). While weeding will never be completely eradicated, you can make a proactive effort to mulch your garden now to cut down on some of those weeds that tend to pop up later.
Maybe you regret that you didn’t keep up with your watering. Make a plan now to evaluate why you got behind. This may mean a new system that needs to be installed soon for your spring and summer gardens.
Instead of regretting these things during the middle of the hardest parts of the season, make a plan now to adjust the things that you can so that you’re not overwhelmed during those hot summer harvest days.
Hopefully, these ideas will serve as inspiration to help you prepare your next garden season. We can’t wait to see what you grow!
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