When you first sit down to begin your garden plan 101, make a list of the foods you love to eat. Time and garden space is your garden currency. When you use it well, you will plant the best garden you have ever had!
What foods do you love?
I recommend that you start with a list of the vegetables and fruits you eat. You can do this with pen and paper or create a digital list. I created a handy free Garden Plan PDF that will assist you in planning your garden 101 to make a list of the foods that you love.
On my food list, I wrote down food we eat that I regularly buy from the grocery store:
Salad greens: Spinach, kale, lettuce, arugula, mustards, and Swiss chard
The list of foods you love to eat will become your guide of which seeds to order. By growing these seeds you will really save lots of time, money and garden space.
Watch part 1 of the Garden Plan 101: Make a list of foods you love on Youtube
Garden Plan 101: overgrowing
Most people approach gardening with the idea that they will fill a garden with all kinds of food and flowers that they like. I’ll admit that I also approached my garden like this in past seasons. But it is very disappointing to grow food and flowers that you don’t end up using and see go to waste.
That is why I’m going to help you think through what is really the best to plant in your garden this season.
You do this by finding out what you like to eat (and a few new things you may want to try). Plan ahead and find some recipes of interest to use up the produce you intend planting!
Make a list of foods you love
I recorded a list of the foods we love to eat at the beginning of each garden season, because each persons’ taste are different. One year you may eat loads of carrots, and the next year you may be more into parsnips after discovering their delicate sweet taste.
After making a list of the foods we like, I think about the quantities we actually eat throughout a season. You need not record any specific information for this, but it is helpful to think through how much you would actually eat or be able to process in a given season. Otherwise, the produce will go to waste.
For example, part of the season each garden pumps out endless amounts of zucchini. We give away as much as we are able. Then, for a month or so, everyone is on google to find recipes to process all their zucchini.
To combat this problem, plant 1 or 2 zucchini varieties. There is no need to have seven zucchini plants, unless you really love zucchini and you can handle the endless supply.
Some gardeners even avoid planting zucchini because they know their gardening neighbours will have ample to share. 🙂
In conclusion, think through the amounts of food that your family eats in an evening and throughout the season, and be practical with the amount you would need to grow. If you aren’t yet familiar with how many plants can produce, use a garden season to learn so you know for next time.
Seeds you already have for your garden
The next step is to unpack your seed inventory and record what seeds you already have.
I was stubborn about this step, thinking that I already knew what seeds I have. However, once I began recording a list of the types and varieties, I was shocked to see just HOW MANY seeds I already had.
If I am truthful, I need never buy seeds again. But who could do that? Seed varieties are so exciting! … and gives you the same feeling when you go shopping 🙂
This process is so important, because now at least I knew which types of seeds I should get new varieties without having excess.
Seeds to buy
Remember for a successful garden plan, list the foods you eat, then order the seeds to grow those plants you want to eat. Study the list of foods you love and the list of seeds you already have.
Next, make a list of seeds that you need to buy. My new list was very short with only watermelon, cauliflower and storage onions.
This step is also helpful for you to recount if there is a crop you meant to grow in former seasons but never got seeds for.
Take a word of caution from me about seed catalogues. They can be very enticing! They are meant to excite you to purchase many kinds of seeds. This is not inherently bad, but you can quickly overspend! It seems inexpensive for a few dollars of seeds here and there. However, when you add all the “few dollars” together, it can quickly become a lot of dollars.
When you browse the catalogue online, this becomes even harder. The “Add to Cart” button is very readily available and so easy to click.
Fill a cart and come back to it
The best advice I heard was from market gardeners in Kelowna, BC, who mentioned in one of their videos (see their Youtube channel “You Can’t Eat Grass“) to make a cart of everything you want to purchase, and then to step away from it for a few hours or better still, a few days.
This advice has significantly helped me to not overspend each time I order seeds. When you leave the cart for a few days, the emotional hype of “buying” dies down. Well, dies down “a little” because it is very exciting to peruse catalogues and purchase seeds!
The other good thing that comes from leaving the cart a few days, is that I mulled over it in my day to day doings. This gave me time to rationalize the amount I was going to spend, if it was worth it, did i REALLY need that many, and many more back and forth questions to myself. Most importantly, it reminded me of seeds I forgot to order. Time is your friend. We forget important issues more often than we think, so give yourself time to consider and re-consider what you want to purchase.
I have gone back to past orders and removed a bunch of seeds that I knew were totally unnecessary. I would fill the cart intentionally, knowing that I would cut it in half in a few days.
This strategy helped me enjoy the hype of selecting as many seeds as I wanted, knowing that I was not wasting money on unnecessary seed purchases. All this because I knew that I had time to think the purchase over.
Research each kind and variety
Once you have started garden planning by making a list of the foods you eat and seeds you already have (or want to purchase), you want to record any information you have about that seed or variety.
Much of gardening successfully comes with reading about the vegetables and varieties. Jot down simple information:
1. roughly how many days it will take to mature;
2. what is the grow season; and
3. conducive growing suggestions.
Days to maturity
With a quick google search, you can determine the average days to maturity of a crop. For example, type in “carrot days to maturity” and the first information to appear is 70 to 80 days. I do this for each crop so I have a rough idea how long that vegetable will occupy space in the garden.
The season the vegetable grows is important to know because there are cool loving crops and warmth loving crops. As the names suggest, the warm loving crops enjoy warm weather through the summer. Cool loving crops enjoy cooler weather in spring and fall.
I take note whether the seeds need to be started indoors ahead of the season and how long in advance. The seed packet shows this information, which will be based on frost dates.
The last frost in spring and the first frost in fall are very important dates to know. Search it in advance and record it on your Garden Plan sheets.
Garden planning 101: make a list of foods you eat
In conclusion, begin your garden plan with a list of foods you love to eat. This list is the key to what you should grow in your garden. Download the free Garden Plan PDF and start planning your best garden ever!
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