I'm in zone 6a, mid January and we are in the grips of winter. Winter, one can argue is a challenging time for gardeners and farmers. Most things are dead or dormant waiting for spring. So far, we have had a relatively mild but wet late Fall – early winter. The lack of cold and snow makes it harder to not be out digging in your gardens. The lack of snow also makes it harder for temperatures to be constant in your growing beds. As climate change is continuing to alter seasonal patterns, it is important to play even closer attention to forecasts. Climate change is yet another variable that both gardeners and farmers must consider in their production plans.
In the winter is the ideal to create your production schedule for the coming growing season. At our property, we historically have been in production from April till the end of October. However, this year with a more detailed focused plan, we are aiming to be in production from March until the end of November. While for many home gardeners this may seem ambitious by employing season extenders and matching crops to their preferred season – it is easily achievable!
Build success with a plan!
The first thing that I did to get ready for returning to production is I got artsy! I found my ruler, blank paper and it was a throw back to my grade seven drafting class! Yes, I start with sketching out my production plan so I can have a visual. All of my beds are numbered and with each successive year I consider the following:
What worked/ Didn’t work in last year’s production
i.e., Are there knock our starts that I must grow again? Did certain varieties under perform based on yields? What were the main factors that resulted in positive or lack luster yields?
Crop Rotation—Even our production area is a small urban lot crop rotation is important! Instead of individual species rotation, I rotate by plant families.
i.e., garlic, chives and onions all belong to the allium family. So, in my plan I ensure that members of the allium family that don’t have a fixed location move together year to year.
Now, with a bed plan with selected varieties that I wish to grow this year- I think of how and when production will begin. To begin the growing season, I will grow crops that can handle some cooler temps as long as they have protection. Crops such as broccoli, radish, kale, cabbage, orach, peas and even some lettuces don’t mind cooler temperatures as long as they are under cover. The cover involves in a hoop house, which if you don’t already have in your yard –is it a great addition! Plus, with our mild winter makes for a perfect time to add a hoop house to one of your garden beds. Check out Savvy gardenings’ post on how to build a hoop house!
Lastly, it is seed time! First, I survey my seeds left from last year to see what I need to use up! While seeds are designed to last for some time, there germination rates do decrease the older they get. Also, you don’t want to be buying seeds you already have. If you need to buy some seeds to fill in gaps, I recommend Annapolis Seeds, Hope Seeds, Edible Antiques and Hawthorn Farms to name a few.
Now comes the part we’ve being waiting for since Yulemas at least—planting! For cooler season crops, if you wish to plant out in March, I would seed inside under grow lights in early February. This would be for crops like leeks, kale, onion, radish etc. Be cautious though as February is too early to start your seeds for heat loving crops like tomatoes, peppers, squash, corn etc. With a little planning and some easy physical labour this year you can be eating fresh greens before anyone else on your street!
How do you plan for your growing seasons?
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