3 tips on how to prep for the new growing season

Harvesting your own organic veggiesI always like to start planning for the next growing season during January and February. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you plan to grow some delicious garden vegetables this next season.

1. Crop Rotation

This is a basic gardening practice that helps to ensure that your plants always have the maximum nutrients they need. Whenever you plant something in an area of your garden, that particular plant will extract certain nutrients from the soil. If you plant the same plant in the same area the next year, it won’t do as well. It gets even worse the 3rd year. This is because of nutrient depletion. In addition, if you don’t rotate crops, your plants can be more susceptible to disease and pests. So, if you plant tomatoes in one area one year, plant corn there the next year. If you plant beans in one area, plant lettuce there the next year (beans put nitrogen into the soil and lettuce thrives on nitrogen). It is also helpful to alternate planting deep root plants and shallow root plants in each area of your garden to help with soil structure.

2. Find out what vegetables should be planted when

Every climate has different growing seasons. It is important to figure out what grows best in your area and when you can plant it. Here is a helpful link to a hardiness map where you can enter your zip code to find out what zone you live in: What are Hardiness Zones. Now head over to this site that has the most popular garden vegetables grown in the U.S. and their respective hardiness zones: Vegetables. Once you figure out what grows well in your area, you can begin to plan on when you should amend the soil, what plants should be started indoors, and what can be planted directly into your garden. If you live in the Northwest, here is a helpful chart that will give the specifics on when you should plant vegetables and whether or not you should direct sow or start indoors: Veggies Calendar.

Growing Cucumbers3. Soil Amendment

This is one of the most important aspects of gardening. I had one year where my soil was not amended well (meaning that I didn’t have a good blend of compost and essential nutrients). Most of my veggies that year had little to no yield. I was so disappointed. Finally, I tested my soil with a cheap soil test kit like this one: Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Soil Test Kit. I discovered that my soil was nearly nutrient depleted in phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium. I did some research on how to better amend my soil and I came up with a soil amendment recipe. Here is a link to the recipe: It’s all about the Chicken Poo! (Garden Soil Recipe). The recipe is comprised of Composted Chicken Manure, Teufel Compost, Fish Meal, Flax Seed Meal, and Rock Dust for trace minerals. Each year that I have amended my soil with this recipe, I have gotten incredible yields.

Here’s another idea to consider, many of us are really good at growing certain veggies. This is often due to the microclimate that we live in (for more on microclimates, see this article: You Grow Potatoes and I’ll Grow To-mat-toes). If you have certain veggies that you grow well, think about connecting with a few neighbors to plan your gardens together. When it comes time to harvest, you can do your own neighborhood produce exchange – everyone wins! And, the added bonus is that you have built some community in the process – another win!

That’s it. Do you have other tips for getting ready for the next growing season? Let us know in the comments.

For other helpful tips on how to plan your garden, see these articles:

  1. Recommended Book: How to Grow More Vegetables on Less Land than You Can Imagine
  2. Gardening with Free Apps
  3. Block Party!
  4. TogetherFarm: In Practice
  5. Edible Landscaping

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