Last fall, my friend did a few first steps so we’d be ahead of the game in the spring. These included taking a soil sample and sending it off to the labs at UMass Amherst for testing, and purchasing a subsidized compost bin from the city. He also collected nearly 20 yard waste bags of leaves that neighbors had left out for collection. We wanted to make sure there were no dangerous heavy metals in the soil and would use the leaves later for compost and mulch.
In the depths of winter, everyone benefits from dreaming of the summer! The arrival of several seed catalogs in my mailbox get me thinking about planning the garden. I gather up my catalogs and we spend a cozy afternoon making the initial plans for the garden space.
The first step is to check out the yard. As flurries decorate my hat, I trudge through the deep snow and take some measurements with a big tape measure. I try to remember that the bare branches of the tree will leaf out and shade the back corner of the yard, and that snow is covering thorny shrubs in some areas but grassy lawn in others. The best garden beds are placed in locations that get sun for most of the day and don’t interfere with other uses of the space.
After selecting the best locations, my friend browses through the seed catalog and marks off the plants he likes. We make a list of these selections, and add columns for seeds per square foot, yield per square foot, and desired yield. That will allow us to decide how to divide up the beds.
Garden Planning Check List:
- Fall/whenever ground thaws: Do a soil test! http://www.umass.edu/soiltest/
- Winter: Go to johnnyseeds.com, seedsofchage.com, or other seed companies and get a free magazine to browse
- Measure yard space and identify best locations for garden beds
- Make a list of desired veggies and how many square feet of each you’d like. Check out resources on “square foot gardening” for detailed information.
As you can see, we didn’t worry about making our brainstorm pretty or understandable for others! On the sheet below, you can see a rough map of the back yard along with a table listing low and high range of square feet wanted for each veggie based on sun needs, plants per square foot, and estimated yield per plant.