We had a lovely day yesterday - sunny and above freezing! Almost shorts weather. :) Makes me want to plant herbs! And I'm further inspired by our post today ...
Joe Lamp'l is a master gardener, author and host of "Growing a Greener World" on PBS. In the following article, he offers advice on planning your garden. Whether you're just starting out or are a seasoned gardener, I'm sure you'll find his ideas helpful.
"A few hours of organizing and preparing now can save you money and yield a more manageable and efficient garden come spring.
Order seeds as soon as possible. The earlier you get your order in, the better your chances of getting all the varieties you're looking for. Once they're ordered, you can create a growing time line. Work backward from the last average frost date in your area and start seeds indoors so they'll be ready to set out when the temperature warms enough in the garden.
To begin, just use soilless sterile seed-starting mix and something to contain it. Plastic or paper cups, pizza boxes, takeout containers, soda bottles or just about anything else you can think of will work. Poke a few small drainage holes in the bottom, add the soil and then plant the seeds according to the package's directions.
Hang up a grow light, like a fluorescent shop light, over the plants. Attach a simple timer that allows the light to remain on 16 hours each day. Adding a plastic or clear covering over your container will help hold moisture in, which is very important for seeds to germinate. But, you can skip this step as long as you make sure you supply the necessary moisture. This could be every day.
Although it's probably too cold for the compost to be actively working, keep tossing eggshells, coffee grounds, vegetable waste and other kitchen scraps (except proteins and fats) into the pile. When the weather starts warming up, add water and soil, and soon you'll have some great compost to add to your garden soil. It's the best soil amendment you can ever provide, and any time is the right time for adding compost.
Maintain your tools. Clean them up, oil wooden handles and repaint metal surfaces. Sharpen shovels, pruning shears and other edged tools. Once spring arrives, they'll be ready to go and you can head right out into the garden. Start getting together all the miscellaneous items you'll need, too: sturdy wire for trellises and black plastic or other covers to start warming the soil and killing weed seeds.
How about covering the garden with several layers of newspapers? Topped with a layer of straw or any type of mulch (leaving openings for plants to come through), they're a great way to keep weeds at bay. I did this often in my large vegetable-garden set of "Fresh from the Garden" on DIY Network. It worked great and was a super way to recycle those newspapers. Just be sure to wet down the paper as you spread it out. This weighs it down and helps keep it from blowing away until you get the mulch on top. This technique is also great between your planting beds and in paths as well.
Finally, use last year's bounty to inspire you. Remember the satisfaction you felt when those shrubs and trees started breaking their buds, and the sweet peas started poking through the soil? Gardening is about promise and anticipation. And winter is the best time to make plans and get motivated for the coming spring, while you still have a little time."
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