Planning Your Spring Garden

The weather outside may be frightful, but that doesn’t mean you can’t flex your gardening muscles this winter. Here are five simple steps to jump-starting your spring garden no matter how hard it rains, sleets or snows.

1. Find inspiration: Spring’s fall seed and plant catalogs have already hit mailboxes and online catalogs have updated their websites. Not only will thumbing (or clicking) through their colorful pages chase away the winter day’s gray, it will give you a ton of great ideas for next seasons’ plantings.

2. Start a garden journal or inspiration file: If you don’t already have a place to jot ideas and store inspiring images, now is the perfect time to set one up. Whether you buy a journal designed just for gardeners, a spiral-bound notebook, an accordion file to stash torn-out catalog pages doesn’t matter. Use whatever works best for you.

3. Review last year: Now that you have a place to make notes, take a look at what worked — and what flopped — last year. Did your row of heirloom tomatoes have you swimming in more pasta sauce than you could ever give away? Has your prize apricot succumbed to fireblight? And what about that obscure variety of pumpkin that didn’t set a single fruit? Decide what stays and what goes.

4. Make a plan: Start with a list of all the plants you hope to grow, including any that may already be in the space (including perennials, shrubs, and trees). Next, graph it out using mature plant sizes to make sure you have the spacing right. It helps to do the diagram of the available space and any plants that need to stay put in pen (don’t forget containers), then pencil in the rest. That way you won’t have to redraw every time you want to change things up. There are also a number of garden-planning software programs that help take the guesswork out of design. Don’t forget to rotate what you plant where to avoid plant disease.

5. Place your orders: Make sure you don’t miss out on your favorites, especially if you are buying heirloom seeds which often sell out fast. Many plant catalogs offer great discounts, coupons, and other specials if you order early enough. Want to save even more? Talk to fellow gardeners about sharing seeds. They may even have saved seeds or cuttings they’d be willing to give or swap.

Still longing for a little green in your life? A few well-chosen indoor plants or start a kitchen garden with your kids.