Garden Planning: Tips for a Better Harvest in the New Year
As gardening season ends, our thoughts inevitably turn to “Next Year.” As a Minnesota Twins fan, we often do this as, once again, the Twins get bounced from the playoffs by the Yankees (and the Yankees got bounced by the Astro’s – sweet justice). “Next year” is always hopeful and can lead to a better gardening experience in the future. As long as you have a garden plan.
So, what needs to happen between now and next year (FYI – pitchers and catchers report February 12th so gardening can’t be far behind)? We see garden planning in three phases:
1) Ending This Year: Like most gardeners, we lived and died around our garden performance this year. We celebrated what worked and we put what did not on “The List”. We also took care of our soil throughout the year – and that includes end of the year preparation. Three things come to mind in terms of how to end this year:
- Formalize the “What Worked and What Didn’t” List – Make sure you plan to repeat the cool stuff (for us, this is the Brad’s Atomic Grape Tomato – it took a bit longer but produced fruit continuously and after most of the other varieties stopped) and do not repeat the bad stuff. For us, we will not get greedy again with our early plantings – check out our video on what we will not do again as we prepped for this year’s gardening season: find out what to avoid.
- Prep the Soil – Everything from fertilizing to cutting plants off at soil level (leave the roots in – helps with nutrition and aeration) to adding newspaper to help the microbiome thrive. Aeration is the key – and adding earthworms to a raised garden bed can help prevent compaction which will occur in a raised bed.
- Seeds – We need a better plan if we are going to start seeds again next year. The varieties we selected all sounded good and many did very well but we had too many poor starts and weak plants. We will spend quite a bit of time researching where to get seeds but here is an early front runner (thanks #EPICGardening): visit San Diego Seen Company
Planning for Next Year: Like most ventures, the best outcomes are usually the result of a well-conceived and well-executed plan. For gardeners, this plan should include how to create or acquire more space for gardening. For all of us at Eco Garden Systems, this boils down to sharing with our followers and our customers the best way to maximize the growing space of your Original Garden. Here are a few things to ponder:
- Good Neighbors/Bad Neighbors – Certain plants grow well with others and some plants do not get a long at all. This can usually be based on science but we found that height has a huge impact as well (our tomatoes overshadowed most of our other stuff in Mother’s Garden – even though they we planted properly on the North and East ends of the garden). Curious as to what plants do a don’t play nice together? See the chart below for some information to help you plan better.
- Location – Verify that your garden is in the best location – six to eight hours of sunlight, good runoff/drainage and protected from the wind. As we saw with Mother’s Garden (and to a certain degree our deck garden) this year, wind can be devastating – especially early on.
- Succession/Fall Planting – This takes a bit more research but if you want to maximize garden production, you need to plan now for succession planting and fall planting – mainly because most retailers are already sold out of seeds by the time some of this comes along. We found this out the hard way as we wanted to plant some Kohlrabi (good fall crop) and no local retailers we visited had any seeds left let alone Kohlrabi seeds. This is on our list for next year! In addition to this, do not be afraid to be aggressive with succession planting. Plants that start to bear less (like some beans and determinate tomatoes) can be removed and replaced by fall varieties. We will be starting our fall plants much earlier and then thin our tomato plants (we ended up with Late Blight in our greenhouse hack on Mother’s Garden due to cool temps and plenty of moisture) in preparation for fall planting. Check out the chart below for guidance.
Creating Your Execution Plan: Having a plan in your head is great and having a drawn-out plan is better. The best path is to have an execution plan – from the time you order seeds to the time you plant fall crops to the time you harvest and Winterize, having this laid out will help you maximize your harvest – and enjoyment – next year. In Minnesota, January and February are great months for making this happen – although we should probably have started a week or so earlier on some items and a couple of weeks later on others. Three major milestones are key in our execution plans.
- Ordering Seeds – Making sure you get these earlier enough to start properly and share properly is critical.
- Hardening Off – As many of our followers know, we lost about half of our seedlings early on as we experimented with early planting. We did not harden off our seedlings sufficiently and we compounded this by planting early (to see what an Eco Garden could do to help extend the season) in a very windy Spring and not winnowing down our seedlings to single plants (we planted in groups of three). We will not make those same mistakes again!!
- Test Your Soil Early – Make sure you have plenty of nutrients (if you have Winterized aggressively, this is likely not a problem) to get young plants started properly.
There are so many more things we could recommend!! We will be filming and sharing these over the next several months so stay tuned – and help us expand our knowledge with the tips and tricks you have learned about gardening. We learn best by sharing ideas throughout our community! Let us know your best tips either on our Facebook page or by sending us a message.
Pro Tip: Did you know that an Eco Garden Systems’ Original Garden (4’ x 6’) can produce as much as a 4’ x 12’ in-ground plat? Check out how our ecosystem works!