Planning Next Year’s Garden

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Wed, Nov 13, 2013 - 12:18am

We endured our first hard frost and snow last night, so our 2013 gardening season is officially over. It’s time to get out those saved seeds, your seed catalogs, and a paper and pencil. Frankly, nothing much else can happen during the cold season but planning next year’s garden. What are your plans? Here are a few points to ponder:

Inventory Time. If you’re a seed saver, or if you had leftover seeds, now is the time to take an inventory. If money is tight, or if you have it down to a science (I don’t, yet) plantings can be based on what you have on hand. It will also save you the embarrassment of ordering a packet of heirloom whatevers, only to find that you had some in your stash. Tip: put  Packed in “2013” on any bags or jars of seeds you save this time. It helps to know how old your seeds are. I try to have two year’s worth of any seeds so I can share some with neighbors if things go south.

Soil Sampling & Testing. Now is the time to get a soil sample analyzed by your local Cooperative Extension Service. It’s best to know what things you need to fortify the soil with and mix them in before you plant in the spring. Tip: send them about three cups of soil.

Plan Out Any Crop Rotations. We cannot plant tomatoes (or anything related to them like peppers and eggplants) in two of our beds until these beds are solarized. Soil solarization kills any diseases  living in the soil. We will be moving the peas, okra, carrots, and pole beans to a new location.  You are keeping a garden diary, I hope? Look for gaps in your nutrition or seasonal yields. Example: Two years ago we had specific times when the lettuce failed so this year we planted kale and other greens to make up the lack.

 

Decide on Any New Major Plants. Look for productive space not in use. Examples: I am planning on adding thornless blackberry canes in a bare spot on a slope. We will train arctic kiwi vines up the scrollwork iron porch columns.  We will add two espadrilled pear trees in a blank spot on a wall, and a shitake-plugged oak log in an otherwise unproductive shady area. I also want more asparagus (hubby weed-wacked them, ouch!) and a bay laurel bush for bay leaves. We are also planning on moving five bushes, removing one, and increasing the size of a bed. One major project will .be to change out the Bermuda grass in the back yard for either St. Augustine grass or centipede grass, since they will not invade the raised beds via rhizomes like the Bermuda grass. We may not get to it all, but hey – reach for the stars, at least you won’t shoot your foot off. Tip: rent an auger for a day  if you have a lot of deep digging to do. Totally worth it.

Structures. Nice days in the winter here can be as warm as 45-50 degrees, so we can build things in the winter. We are considering “paving” in between our raised beds with wood chips. We still need to build a hen house, a shed for our well’s bell tank,  and fix the roof on our shed so I can use it as a gardening shed. We’re slowly changing over raised beds from pine to cedar, and raining their heights. The small natural predator pond (goldfish eat mosquitoes, toads eat garden bugs) is still a twinkle in our eyes, but we’ve started assembling supplies for it.

Pruning. Now is the time to prune back our grapes, and certain trees.

And of course, deciding which seed goes where is the best part of all. We are really looking forward to all of the things we will grow next year. I can almost taste them.

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