It's Time to Think GREEN!

And not just because we have 7-12 inches of NEW snow on top of the old stuff!

Now is the perfect time to start making plans for your spring garden. The older I get, the more I love living seasonally, tackling different tasks depending on the time of the year. This applies to so many areas of life, but here’s a rough outline of my seasonal food production and preservation routine:

Winter: plan the new garden, making sure to rotate crops (3 year plan); make sure to try something new each year; order seeds; dream of spring and eating fresh greens, broccoli, and peapods.

Spring: Get beds ready as soon as we have a period with dry soil. (Wonder how late that will be this cold, wet winter?) Then plant those luscious early crops. Later, after our frost-free date, add warm season veggies and herbs. Begin to harvest early crops. Finally, fresh food from the backyard!

Summer: Peak time of planting, weeding, staking, harvesting. Add second crops after early ones are finished. Preserve extra produce. Can and freeze tomatoes, green beans, peppers, basil. Freeze berries (about 6 gallons this year.)

Fall: Continue harvesting and preserving until frost. Buy apples for applesauce (3 bushels last year) and peaches (1 bushel last year)to can. Freezer and basement shelves should be well-stocked by Oct. Turn attention to other projects for a couple of months. 

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m no expert gardener. My goal is to just learn a little bit more each year, maybe experimenting with a new technique or crop I’ve never tried before. So many years when I had lots of little ones, just getting anything in the garden was great and I wasn’t concerned about innovation. Even in the years when it has looked really ugly (no time to weed), we’ve always had plenty of organic fresh food, so it has been worth doing. The past few years gardening has been easier, having older children who are helpful and no babe in arms or toddler tornado.

My biggest innovation last year was keeping a garden 3-ring binder. Why I hadn’t done this before, I have no idea, as I use binders to organize my thoughts in just about every other area of life! In addition, for the first time I set aside a specific hour each week to think about gardening or to engage in it. So every Friday afternoon (that no other crisis came up) I spent making plans, ordering seeds, reading about gardening, or actually doing it, once it turned warm. Of course, as the season progressed, I often had to do things beyond this one time slot, but having a designated time to garden made a big difference in getting it done. This year I expanded my gardening binder, moving to a 2” one with the following divisions:

1. To do lists and schedules
- Running list of items to do (One of the most useful parts of the notebook! I jot down things to do when they occur to me, then check this first in my next gardening period.
- Planting schedules for various crops based on local dates
- Seed starting schedule, if starting seeds indoors (Work backwards from planting dates)
- Chart of the specific varieties of seeds/plants I use, dates planted, notes on productivity.

2. Garden Plans
- Master 3 year rotation plan (New this year)
- Plan of what will be planted where (Save past year plans)

3. Fruits – Articles I’ve collected about the fruits I grow or want to grow.

4. Vegetables – Ditto for vegetables. Arranged alphabetically.

5. Preservation – Records of how much I have preserved and then notes on if it was enough or not. Will help as I make plans for the following year.

6. General Information – articles I’ve found that I want to save

7. Ideas for Next Year – Similar to the Running To Do List – a place to jot down things I might want to try next year. For example, I want to plant a vineyard, but don’t think it will happen this year, so that idea goes here.

Maybe you are snowbound, as I am. Get out your garden catalogs, some graph paper, and start dreaming of spring. Our chickens have already started laying heavily, telling us that spring is just around the corner, despite all that white outside!


Jessica said…
Hello Anne,

I, too, just started a 3-ring binder. I save articles from Mother Earth News and other sources. The planning phase is fun!

What are some cold weather crops that you like to grow? Do you start them indoors first, or will you direct-sow them?
Anne said…
Hi Jessica!

Having a place to save Mother Earth News gardening articles was one of the reason I expanded to a bigger binder!

This year I'm not starting seeds indoors. Last year we did, but had mixed success, probably b/c we had our light in our basement. (We heat with wood, and the basement is frigid.) I've put "Develop a better seed starting system" on my "Ideas for Next Year" list. I'll will direct sow some things like lettuce, but will also buy plants at Mays.

My favorite cool crops are lettuces, spinach, broccoli, peapods, leeks (plant early, but harvest late), and potatoes. We grew potatoes last year for the first time in many, and really enjoyed them. I've ordered fingerling seed potatoes and a purple variety. What early crops do you plant?
Jessica said…
This is only year #2 for us, so I don't know much about cool weather crops. Last year, we put some romaine and spinach seeds in the ground in early May. Spinach suffered from pest problems, but romaine flourished. I would like to start earlier this year. We're planning to get some row cover in order to extend the growing season.

When (approximately) will you plant lettuces, broccoli, and potatoes?
Anne said…
Check out the Indiana Vegetable Planting Calendar from the Purdue Extension website:

This is very helpful in figuring out when to aim for in planting various things.

Last year wasn't a good year for spinach for us either, nor was it for my daughter and son-in-law, so maybe something was going on with the conditions.

I put spinach seeds in the ground very early (3/7.)I direct sowed lettuce (blend of varieties) and put out plants, and the plants only had a very little head start. I planted peapods, lettuce, and potatoes all around 3/20, and all those did well. I neglected to record the date I actually put out broc. plants, but I was aiming for the end of March.

Much depends on the weather. The ground needs to be dry enough to work without clumping, so if it is very wet, that delays getting things in early. And too early is counterproductive, too. I wondered if I was pushing it with the potatoes, which we grew in straw, but they did fine.
Jessica said…
Thanks for all of the helpful tips, Anne. I hope you have a very successful garden this year!
Anna said…
Thanks for the great tips! Our garden is much smaller, than yours, but I'm eagerly anticipating what we'll plant. And the idea of a 3-ring binder certainly makes my type-A personality sing!

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