A few Saturday’s ago, my friend and fellow gardener/farmer John Adams was over and as he stood in my driveway he was able to take a long look at my garden bed.  The first thing he said was that “my garden was all set and ready to go” and he asked when I had the time to turn it over?  I thanked him for the compliment and said that I hadn’t touched my garden since I closed it down last October.  He couldn’t help but notice that my bed was virtually weed free and this was in spite of the fact that I had dumped untold amounts of compost in the garden throughout the growing season last year.  You could see that the soil had definitely improved as a result of these efforts and the added benefit is that I could (with the right precautions) go out today and plant cold-hardy plants or seeds in the garden with a minimum of fuss or work…the soil is that ready. Hail Gloria Hallelujah!

Actually, I am not all that surprised by the appearance of my bed right now.  And the reason why is that I had a plan.  You see a successful garden, large or small, will have at its basic core…a plan.  I know that there are a lot of people who just have the knack; some innate ability to be able to just throw some seeds out the window…anywhere…and something will grow there.  But, for every “Jack” and his rows and rows of beans, there are some “Jeremiah’s and Ezekiel’s” whose bad luck is of biblical proportion.  Now I can’t say that having a plan automatically saves you from the worst that could happen, but it will make a difference.  A plan will enable you to get the most out of every square inch of your garden…from the last spring frost to the first in the fall.  It is a vision that if/when it is articulated properly, will help you navigate through some of your toughest challenges.  If you have the right plan for you and your garden, it will be fun…not work. 

Here are a few things you’ve got to know:

  1. Know what type of garden you want to grow.  Are you growing flowers or vegetables or both?  What about herbs?
  2. What are you going to plant it in?  In a traditional garden bed?  Raised bedsContainer garden?  How much room do you have?  Now is the time to be smart and don’t make the garden too big for you to handle.
  3. What ‘s going to be your crop?  A basic garden crop will probably have a few tomatoes, lettuces, carrots, bush or pole beans, cucumbers, squash and some peppers.  The trick is, knowing, even when planting a basic garden, what variety of tomato or bean or whatever you want to grow.  Get those seed catalogs early, even if you don’t make your purchases from them, and do your research.
  4. Create a blueprint so that you will know what to plant where.  There are several plants that have a pretty fast from seed to harvest lifetime.  Knowing where you plan to plant these “shortermers” will give you the flexibility to cycle your crops more effectively and efficiently.
  5. Once you have started your seeds, create a timeline or a log, which you will use to chart the germination and ongoing development of your young seedlings and sets.
  6. Establish a regular weeding schedule.  So that you don’t have to do it all in one day, do a section at a time.  You will be surprised as to how little of your time will eventually be used to keep your garden clean.
  7. Feed or fertilize your garden at specific times.  It is really important that you keep a log on this too.  You don’t want to over feed your plants just like you don’t want to over water them either.
  8. Plan to water either in the morning or at night.  Since I like to work in the garden before it gets too hot, I prefer to water in the evening.  And by hand watering, I am learning exactly how frequently and how much water each plant variety needs for good growth and production.
  9. Regularly check for diseases, insects or pests.  You may eliminate a major problem or prevent one from happening if you spend a little time everyday turning a few leaves over or just looking at your plants.
  10. Have a plan for what you are going to do once harvesting begins.  You don’t want to waste your crops by not being ready or have a use for the food you are growing.  Know if you are going to be canning or freezing or drying your produce, which method works best for which product and when the products are at their peak for each method of preservation.

It may sound like a lot of work to be so organized, but you will find it is even more work not to be.  Did I miss anything?  Let me know what you think everybody should know before, during and after to have a successful and fun season of gardening.

A great resource for the novice or experienced gardener is Detroit’s Greening of Detroit Collaborative.  To join, contact Lindsay Pielack at (313) 285-2300 or lindsay_detroitagriculture@yahoo.com

Need professional help…call Jan (Coppola) Bills of “Two Women and A Hoe®” at (248) 891-0548 mobile or email jan@TWOwomenANDaHOE.com

Please read Spring Has Sprung!!! for more specific information.