Last year was my first year with a garden and I learned one lesson: If you're growing from seed, the day you discover an empty spot in your veggie beds is not the time to decide to plant something new. Seeds take time. And unless you're planting something that can be direct sown in the spot, you'll want to have them started long before you have the space in your garden for a new plant.
You might think that buying nursery plants is the key. That would allow you to be a little less premeditated about what you're planting and where. And in many cases it can. But nursery plants aren't always available when you want them, and besides, starting from seed is fun!
So I've added plotting and scheming to my list of gardening tasks.
I started with what I wanted to plant and how much of it I wanted. I then poured through my library of gardening books (coupled with the personal experience I gained in my first year) to come up with dates I should be planting my young starts in the garden. Based on that, I back-dated when I'd need to start the seeds in order to have the plants ready in time. Then I added a "Done" date to my chart, which represents the date I would most likely be pulling up the plant, thereby making room for something new.
My seed starting and planting chart ended up looking like this:
Then comes the fun part: Where does it all go? Enter PowerPoint and it's easy ability to make a picture of my vegetable garden. The blue shapes are my planting areas. The little half moon to the left is the shade pattern of my garden. I need it to remind myself which plants might get shaded by others--a good thing or a bad thing depending on what I'm growing.
I have three of these charts printed for the year, one for spring, summer and fall. The sample below is my summer one and it's the chart I start with because it's my primary planting season. I develop the spring and fall chart off this one, taking into account what space I'll have and when.
You'll also note that this is written in pencil. Half the fun is picking up my charts and "moving stuff around", altering and perfecting where I want things to go. It's also a record of where I've planted so that I can avoid planting the same thing in the same spot two years in a row, which is something the veteran gardeners advise against.
So there you have it. This is how I spend my winters. Pouring through seed catalogs and gardening books, daydreaming about my lush summer garden. Admittedly, this is the first time I'll be using an actual schedule for my garden. Last year, I just winged it, but I wasn't happy with all my results. We'll see if all this plotting and scheming helps.