Handy Tips for Garden Preparation During the Winter

We’re officially in mid-winter and if you’re like me, you may be getting a little restless. Mid-winter is the perfect time to start planning your garden, as you can take your time and be intentional, all while being proactive. It’s best to start preparing early, so that you’re not inundated with gardening tasks come spring, when things get busy. Many people find gardening a bit overwhelming, but if you think ahead, you can take many things off the plate of your future self, so that each step is enjoyable. 

cherry tomatoes on a vine

Create a Garden Plan

First things first, we recommend creating a garden plan! You can make one up yourself, or utilize a garden guide like this one, that we’ve made specifically for flexible planning. It has lots of gardening tips and pages for you to draw out your plans! Once you have a guide, you’re ready to get started. Here are some things to start planning.

1. Plan what you want to grow

It can be easy to get carried away when thinking about all the fun fruits and vegetables you could grow next season, but use this time to make a detailed plan of the plants that are non-negotiable. For me, those are plants I use in my kitchen everyday and buy from the grocery store consistently. Produce like tomatoes, onions, potatoes, garlic, lettuce, kale, and carrots.  Once this is done, choose a couple of fun plants. I think it’s important to have some just for fun plants, because it keeps the garden exciting and new. If I have time, my bucket list plant this year is Leelanau Sweetglo watermelons!

2. Garden size

Planning the size of your garden will greatly depend on how much space you have to work with and how much you’re hoping to grow. First, decide the type of garden you’d like to create. For smaller spaces, raised beds and container gardens can be a great option, while in ground can be really good for larger gardens. If you already have an established garden, that’s amazing, just skip this step!

Once you’ve decided on a size, for example two raised beds that measure 4×8, you’ll be able to draw out the number of each vegetable you’d like to plant. Make sure to keep companion planting and succession planting in mind! 

3. Supplies needed 

It can be a good idea to buy some of your supplies early. This ensures that you’ll be completely ready for each seasonal task when it comes. It can also put less strain on your budget if you spread out your spending. While gardening is affordable, buying everything you need all at once can feel a bit overwhelming. A couple things you may want to collect early include:

  1. Seeds
  2. Seed starting heat mat
  3. Seed trays 
  4. Soil PH Monitor
  5. Garden gloves
  6. Pruning shears
raised garden beds with sweet pea seedlings growing in them

Buy Your Seeds

Buying seeds can be a little bit of a process. It’s not quite as simple as just picking out what looks tasty or pretty. We recommend getting a seed catalog, like this free one from Baker Creek Rare Seeds, so that you can mark it up and add sticky notes. Here’s a couple of things you need to think about when buying seeds.

1. Growing zone 

Figuring out which growing zone you’re in is hugely important for choosing seeds. Depending on where you live, you may not be able to grow specific fruits and vegetables. Look up a growing zone map to find your specific zone number. 

2. Don’t overbuy

It can be tempting to overbuy, but it is best that you don’t. It is easy to have eyes bigger than your stomach so to speak at the beginning of the gardening season, but your garden can quickly become overwhelming if you try to do too much. Flip through your garden catalog and make a list of everything you want. Then whittle the list down to what you feel is most realistic for you, while still keeping it enjoyable. 

lettuce growing in soil

Starting Seedlings 

One of the cheapest ways to garden is by starting your own seedlings. It can be a little intimidating, but it is actually very doable, even for beginners. The most important thing is to do your reading and have the right supplies. Here’s a couple things to keep in mind.

1. Temperature and water

One of the biggest things to keep in mind for starting your own seedlings, is temperature and how much you water. Your seedlings can grow mold if watered too much and wilt if watered too little. So making a watering schedule can really help keep you consistent. When it comes to temperature, the needs of your seedlings may vary. For plants that require a slightly warmer atmosphere, you may want to purchase a seedling heating mat like this one, to place under your trays. 

2. Soil and trays 

Having a good seedling soil can be very helpful if you want strong healthy plants. One thing we recommend is sterilizing your soil before use. Heat the soil in a pot of water for 30 minutes at 180 degrees fahrenheit. This will help keep your soil from growing molds that will kill your seedlings. It’s also recommended that you wash and sterilize your seedling trays, or whatever you use to grow your seedlings in, like yogurt cups. 

nasturtiums growing in raised garden beds

Prepping Your Garden Beds

Whether you already have beds in place, or are starting from scratch you can start prepping your beds for spring planting now, especially if you live in a warmer climate. If you live in a cold climate like me, you still have some options.

1. Cold climate prep

While it may be hard to lay out soil in the dead of winter, you can still get a head start by building raised beds or gathering supplies needed for container and in ground gardening. If you’re building your own raised beds, check out our super simple and affordable raised bed DIY. If youre goin to be growing your garden in pots o straight in the ground, start collecting planting vessels and cardboard (to lay down for in-ground gardening) right now!

2. Warm climate prep

If you live in a warmer climate, you can put your garden beds in place in the winter and spring. Lay down your garden beds and mulch them with natural compost, leaf matter, or manure etc. By laying out your beds now and adding compost matter, you will be giving the compost time to break down and be ready for planting come late spring. We recommend doing the no-dig method for best results for in-ground garden beds.

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