Planning the garden for your homestead can feel odd when it’s only January. Depending on where you live, it could be cold and snowy (and not at all ideal for gardening).
Don’t let the winter blahs prevent you from envisioning your dream garden. Spring is just around the corner. The first step in any successful homestead garden is creating a master plan.
You’ll want to consider things like which seeds to buy—and whether to start your seeds indoors during the winter—plus making compost to improve the quality of your soil.
We want to set you up for success when planning the garden for your homestead. In this blog, you can discover helpful information like:
Part of planning the garden means anticipating mistakes so you can (hopefully) avoid them. One of the biggest errors you can make is to work with a garden that hasn’t been properly prepared for winter. The best time to do that is in the fall if you’re replanting an existing garden.
If you’re planning the garden for the first time, make sure you’ve identified a garden plot that gets ample sunlight. Plotting out the general layout of the garden can be part of this process.
Some of the other most common gardening mistakes include:
Planning the garden for your homestead requires keeping clear records about growing and planting. It can be difficult to remember from one growing season to the next what worked and what you should skip planting in the new year.
The most effective way to create gardening records that are helpful is to take notes throughout the year. You can do this in a journal or create a more complex version using a spreadsheet or gardening program on your computer.
Regardless of how you choose to record your homestead gardening efforts, here are some of the things you should jot down:
Estimating the first and last frost dates of the year is a critical part of planning the garden for your homestead. Seeds are living things. They don’t like to be left out in the cold and won’t thrive if planted before the last frost of the season.
One of the surest ways to avoid this misstep is by talking to neighbors who have been gardening for a while. They can offer tips on when the last frost of the season typically occurs in your area. Keep in mind that some parts of the country have microclimates where the climate differs from its surrounding area. It’s just another reason why talking to your gardening friends and neighbors can be helpful.
Another option is to turn to the trusty Farmer’s Almanac. It makes recommendations for critical low temperatures for frost damage to vegetables. You also can find a Frost Dates Calculator on the Farmer’s Almanac website that works for both spring and fall.
Healthy gardens require a delicate balance of minerals to grow and thrive. The sad truth is that most homestead gardens don’t meet the requirements. If yours is one of them, it doesn’t mean you have to abandon planning the garden.
There are gardening strategies you can use to improve the quality of your soil. Before you can decide which approach works best, consider getting your soil tested. You can do this yourself by buying a soil testing kit online or at your local garden supply store.
Basic soil tests provide information about the levels of:
Soil tests also provide the level of organic matter found naturally in your soil. Most provide recommendations for adjusting the levels of these minerals to create a healthier growing environment.
Using compost is one of the most effective ways to improve the quality of your soil. Most homesteaders can make their own compost by recycling organic matter instead of tossing it into the trash. You can put your compost in a dedicated pile on your property or use a composting bin.
Ingredients you’ll need for quality compost include:
Compost improves the structure of your soil over time. In the short term, it serves as a food source and helps your garden soil retain its nutrients.
There’s more to buying vegetable seeds than going to your local garden center and picking whatever you fancy. You’ll want to consider whether the seeds you choose have been genetically modified and if the vegetables you’ve chosen can thrive in your climate.
Some seeds are more suited to harvesting for reuse each year. Let’s break down the types of seeds to help you choose the kind best suited to your homestead garden.
Local is best when buying seeds for your homestead garden. If you choose to go this route when planning the garden, verify that local seed producers are growing their seeds and not buying them from a supplier outside the area.
If you can’t find a reputable local seed supplier, then the next best option is to order your seeds online. We prefer heirloom and non-GMO seeds for our garden. Some of the best places to find them include:
You’ll need to look at the yield for each type of seed you want to plant to decide how many to buy. High-quality seeds generally produce a 90% growth rate.
Don’t forget to compare the number of seeds you buy to the space you have for planting. Lastly, make sure you’re not growing more than you can reasonably eat. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for food waste.
This is another one of those “it depends” answers. Your location, plus the season’s first and last frost dates, should guide you when planning the garden.
You’ll also want to closely examine the vegetables and other crops you’ve chosen to grow in your garden. Each has seed germination to harvest time that defines ideal planting times. Some also may grow faster than others.
If you live in a colder winter climate, some seeds can be started indoors and transplanted to your outdoor garden when the weather permits. Using soil blocking is one of the most effective ways to grow healthy seeds indoors.
Planning the garden for your homestead shouldn’t be stressful. Start now and enjoy the process. If you need more guidance, don’t be afraid to reach out to your local cooperative extension office.
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