My best tips for summer garden planning.
It’s that time of year again. Where we sit in our warm houses staring out at all the snow wishing and dreaming of spring. Waiting impatiently to get our hands in the dirt and start our vegetable garden.
Even though it feels that the summer heat is far off, now is the best time to start planning that summer garden and buying your seeds. The time to start your seeds is fast approaching and I like to have a plan so that I am prepared.
Every year I sit down in January and February to lay out my garden plan and today I am sharing my tips for summer garden planning. I decide what I want to plant and how much of each. I use my garden to try and preserve for all winter long.
This means that a lot of planning has to take place. I also don’t have an exceptionally large garden with endless space, so having a plan helps me to use my space wisely and be able to plant everything I need.
Does having a garden save you money?
Before I jump into my tips, I want to answer this main questions that seems to always be lurking. Does having a garden really save you money?
First, I would say, it depends. Are you starting your own seeds? If you are going to your local nursery and buying started plants, you are going to spend loads of money.
My first growing season that is what I did. I think I walked out with 1 broccoli plant, a handful of onion plants, 6 celery plants, 6 cilantro plants, a dwarf lemon tree, and lettuce seeds. My very first garden was small and in the fall.
I don’t remember the exact total but I do remember it was close to $100. For what those plants produced, it would have been cheaper to buy that produce at the store.
However, the next year I decided to start seeds. I didn’t know what I was doing but I watched some YouTube videos and went for it. I had a full summer’s garden worth of seeds and spent about $50 on them. This was a much better bang for my buck.
I didn’t use all the seeds during that grow season, so I was able to use the leftover seeds again the next year. So, in my opinion there are definitely ways you can save money in your garden.
Now let’s jump into it! Here are my tips for summer garden planning.
Tip 1: Make a list of what you want to grow this year and buy your seeds.
Right now is a real good time to be making a list of everything you want to grow this year, checking to see what seeds you need to buy, and then buy your new seeds.
I have tried many different seed companies over the years. However, this year I am buying all my seeds from The Grateful Harvest Seed Company.
The Grateful Harvest Seed Company is a small family owned company right here in Missouri. They saw a need two years ago, when other seeds companies were running out of stock or closing their doors all together, and put their passion for growing their own food and serving others to good use.
Some of my seeds from last year came from them and I was very impressed with the germination rate and the health of the plants. I know this family personally and have been to their farm. I have had the pleasure of walking the rows of their garden, been able to see their methods, and admire their healthy plants.
As they grow, their goal is to be able to grow all of their own plants themself or with people they personally know and trust so they can control their entire supply chain.
They have over 130+ varieties added this year, with a total of about 230 seed varieties to choose from. This year they are offering the giant crimson tomato seeds, which is the rarest tomato in the world right now. You better believe I bought a seed packet of that this year!
I will use a few varieties from last year that I bought from Baker Seed Company, but all new seeds are coming from The Grateful Harvest Seed Company this year.
I am excited to see my new plants and varieties thriving this year in my garden!
Tip 2: Make a to-do list on when to start your seeds inside and when to transplant them out in the garden.
I am a list person. I love to make a good to-do list and thrive off of getting to check things off.
Even if you are not a list person, I would argue to say that the best use of your time for your garden right now would be making a to-do list. Having a list of when to start your seeds and when to transplant them outside, based on your last frost date, is a great way to not miss anything. This helps this busy time to run smoother.
The best way to do this is by heading to the Grateful Harvest Seed Resource page on their website. Click the “vegetable sheet” and it will give you the breakdown by vegetable, when to start the seeds, if they should be direct sown or transplanted, and even the planting instructions. It is a great resource to have when planning and planting!
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Once I have my summer garden checklist I will either keep it next to all my seed starting stuff as a reminder, or write the dates in my calendar. Don’t skip this step, I promise you will end up saving you a lot of time in the long run.
Tip 3: Map out your garden.
Now comes the fun part! It’s time to map out your garden on paper to make sure you can fit it all in and know where you are planting all those seeds you are starting.
I like to use a garden journal when doing this so it is all contained in one location and easy. It takes a little bit of planning up front, but it makes all the difference. Doing it in a garden journal also helps you to keep it organized for the next year. When you are able to look back to the past year and see what worked and didn’t work, it makes the new year easier to plan.
I will draw out my garden beds and decide if I need to add any more garden space or change anything around. Then, I take what I plan to plant this year and lay it out with what I am planting in each bed.
I like to use the book Carrots Love Tomatoes to help me with companion planting so I can maximize my space, help with pest control, and to ensure my plants can thrive with who they are planted with.
This is a great time to decide exactly where things are going so you can determine the beds that are partial shade, full sun, and areas of your garden that may get way too much water. These are all important in determining what plants go in what bed. Deciding which beds have your root vegetables and which beds have your melons and tomatoes helps with maximizing your space.
If you just go out with all your starts ready to put them in the ground with no plan, you will wind up wasting a lot of space and your plants may be put next to other plants they don’t care for. Having a plan really makes the planting part so easy!
Other gardening books that I turn to during this process:
- Family Garden Planning
- The Beginners Guide to Vegetable Gardening
- The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible
- Carrots Love Tomatoes
Tip 4: Gather all your seed starting supplies.
When snow is still on the ground and just when it seems the cooler days are never going to warm up, it’s time to start your seeds. Right now is the time to start gathering all your supplies.
First thing you need to do is see what you already have. The best ways to save money when starting seeds is to use the same seed starting trays and cups year after year. I have a tote in the shop that I keep all my seed starting supplies in.
Right now I will take it out, see what I have and if anything needs to get thrown away, and if I need to buy anything new. When it comes to seed starting you don’t need much!
My tips for summer garden planning and saving money.
You can even go completely free but using egg cartons and old yogurt and sour cream cups to start your seeds. There are so many ways to get the supplies you need to start seeds and you can do it with costing very minimal.
Your biggest investment up front is the grow lights, if you choose to use them. I recommend using grow lights to maximize germination, especially if you don’t have a greenhouse. Using a well lit room with windows doesn’t always do the trick. Once you have the grow lights, you get to use them year after year!
You do not have to be a pro gardener to get started! Simply a desire to grow your own food is enough. Every year I learn something new and grow in my abilities in the garden.
With these tips for summer garden planning you are ready to get your first garden in the ground this summer. I highly recommend everyone growing something, even if it’s just 1 potted tomato plant. It has become very therapeutic and I couldn’t imagine not having a big garden every year!