So, what do farmers and gardeners in colder growing zones do in the winter? Without fields of flowers or vegetables to plant and harvest, they must enjoy months of relaxation, right? After all, when the farm or garden is resting, so should we. Well, yes and no. There is a more relaxed pace in these winter months, a much-needed break from the hectic, hurried lifestyle we experience when the season is in full swing. But there is still plenty to be done. Our to-do lists may be slightly shorter, but we still have lots of work to keep us busy. Because in these winter months, the focus turns toward planning rather than planting. Here is a list of tasks I’ve been working on this month:
Setting Goals: In last week’s post, I shared how I set gardening goals each season. These goals are what I hope to accomplish and strive toward that year. I also create an action plan to help me achieve my goals. For example, one of my goals is to become a certified Pollinator Steward, and my action plan is that I signed up for the certification course. Setting gardening goals is a great way to start the season.
Creating Planting Plans: Before planting that first seed of the season, it’s a good idea to have a planting plan. These garden maps consider factors such as growing conditions, location, and plant spacing and help you utilize your growing space efficiently. When one of these plans is in place, it takes the guesswork out of planting time. Planting plans also help farmers and gardeners with tasks such as crop rotation to help mitigate pests and diseases. During these winter months, I am busy creating seed-starting schedules, bed-planting plans, and even bouquet recipes, all of which will help me determine how many seeds of each variety to grow and where to plant them.
Preparing for Tax Season: This is less exciting than creating goals and planting plans, but it is necessary. Now that we are officially a business, receipts need to be tallied, and income and expenses need to be accounted for. However, even if you are not a business, tax season presents an opportunity to look at your past year’s finances and adjust for the upcoming season. For example, if you notice that you spent money on bulbs or seeds of a particular variety that didn’t wind up doing or selling well, you can cut that expense out of your budget.
Seed and Supply Inventory: This is much more fun! I love going through my seed packets this time of year (I am a seed stasher, after all). I take this time to sort my seeds based on planting date and variety. I also check my inventory and match it to my planting plan to ensure I have all the seeds I need for the season. Supply inventory is also a task I carry out in the winter months. Do I have enough row cover, seed trays, potting mix, supports, bouquet wraps, and rubber bands? If not, now is the time to make those orders before the season gets into full swing.
Scheduling the Season: Making schedules is vital for farmers and gardeners. Setting dates of when to start seeds, plant transplants, and succession sow will keep the garden on track. I am also working on plans and dates for our subscription and workshop offerings, all while considering our family calendar. Creating schedules can be daunting, but, once complete, they will be invaluable during the growing season.
Getting Educated: These winter months are a great time to catch up on reading all those garden books you’ve accumulated over the year. It’s also the perfect time to take classes and workshops to expand your garden knowledge. I’m starting two classes this month and have a stack of garden books that I’m anxious to dive into.
Creating Content: I’m also busy creating content! I love writing and connecting with others; in the off-season, I have more time to get my thoughts down on paper. I’m busy writing blog posts and newsletter content, sorting garden photos, and preparing for future workshops and classes I plan to teach this year. Home gardeners can also create content this time of year; your goals, plans, and schedules are perfect content for your garden journal.
Updating Field Notes: Winter is also a great time to scan past year’s field notes and garden journal entries. Review what worked and didn’t, and use that knowledge to help you succeed this growing season. I’ve reviewed my notes to see which varieties will make the cut and earn a spot in my planting plan this season. Others that were disappointing will be left off the list. My notes also aid me in determining my planting schedule and help me make changes for better success. For example, several of my cool-weather-loving varieties were planted too late and succumbed to the heat last season. So, this year, I am starting those varieties earlier, hoping to give them a longer bloom window. Taking notes throughout the season helps in many aspects of the gardening experience.
Starting Seeds: Believe it or not, in my growing zone, it’s already time to start sowing certain seeds for the upcoming season. This week, I soaked and pre-sprouted our ranunculus and anemone corms. I will take care of these seedlings indoors for a few weeks before planting them in late winter under a low tunnel. Sweet pea seeds will not be far behind. Check your seed packets and refer to your seed starting schedule to know when to start your seeds. I find it helpful to incorporate my seed starting schedule into my family calendar; that way, I don’t forget when life gets hectic.
Dreaming of What’s to Come: During this planning time, it’s essential not to forget the best part of the off-season: dreaming of the season to come! With all the hard work you are putting in now, you can look forward to reaping the benefits in your garden later this season. So, go ahead and dream of those armloads of vegetables and blooms to come!
Yes, relax in the off-season, grab that extra cup of tea, sit by the fire, and spend time with family and friends. But don’t forget there is still plenty of important work you can do for your garden. So have fun and happy plan(t)-ing!
2 Replies to “Let’s Plan(t) It”
Started soaking and planting ranunculus this week, and today begins the anemones. Need to do some transplanting, too as some seedlings are already squeezed in the row trays. Think I have all my planning and plotting done…unless I find a new seed variety to try! Enjoy the winter “break”. I’m just thankful we have one!
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Finding a new variety to squeeze in is always a risk with me! Ha Ha! Enjoy your planning and planting.