In my last post we focused on a year in review-- what we could learn from last year's garden. Now grab the seed packets from last year-- the ones you plan to grow again. And any that you've already ordered for this year.
This is where it gets fun! We're gonna create a master checklist AND a garden calendar to stay on task and on track for a success growing season!
Sorting and organizing
Go to the 'Growing Notes' section on the pack of the packet. Does it recommend starting indoors or direct seeding? What have you done in the past? Did it work for you?
Now decide-- is this packet in the 'Starts' pile for starting indoors OR in the direct seed pile. Are there any that can be either started or direct seeded? Make a pile of the varieties you will start, those you will direct seed, and those that you will do both!
(Note: I'm working on a chart with seed starting, transplanting, and direct seeding recommendations for all of our varieties. Coming soon!)
Starting Starts First!
Let's start by focusing on the ones that NEED to be started. Organize them by starting date— according to how many weeks before your last frost date they need to be planted. (To look up your final spring frost date for you location, search with your zip code at this link.)
A word of caution-- Keep in mind that average last frost date is just an average. It can vary A LOT-- by as much as 2-3 weeks! This is important to consider 'cuz you don't want to start your plants TOO early! You may end up trying to hold them inside for longer than you planned, if the weather pattern is colder than normal. Then you run the risk of your plants getting leggy from a lack of light. Or getting root bound 'cuz they're outgrowing their container. Or starting to yellow 'cuz they're running out of nutrients. All to be avoided!
Making a checklist!
So back to your packets-- We’ve prepared a Seeding Planner to help you create a master checklist to make calendaring easy. You can download and use the printable PDF version, or our computer spreadsheets in Excel or Mac Numbers.
Enter your list in your seed starting planner starting with the ones that need the earliest start! List the crop/variety name (and if you got seed from more than one source— the seed company’s initials. This will help you track success.) Enter the desired planting date.
If you are using the computer spreadsheet, you can always enter your planting dates and 'Data-Sort' (Excel) or 'Organize' (Mac Numbers) the table by sorting to column B, so your earliest start date is at the top of the list. [And when its time to focus on transplanting, sort or organize the table by transplant date- column F, with your earliest transplant date at the top of the list.]
We also created a garden calendar for you to take the seed starting plan and enter it into each month! You can use it in spreadsheet form, print it out and use the paper version or both. You can find the printable copy here, or our computer spreadsheets here in Excel or Mac Numbers.
Color Coding for A Better View!
I find it helpful to use color coding to denote planting dates for flowers, herbs, veggies, and fruits. For the paper version, I love to use Avery Removable Color Coding labels. I use these repositionable rectangles and dots to ‘schedule’ things on my garden calendar. I use round ones for seeding dates, color coded for each type of plants: flowers, herbs, veggies, and fruits. The rectangular stickers are for tasks like planning/organizing, transplanting, weeding and other maintenance tasks— one color for each type of task. To take it a step further, I like to use Washi tape to denote anticipated harvest windows-- more on that later.
If you are using spreadsheets, you can color code by using the different colored fills for individual cells. OR use different font colors.
'To Seed' Dates
Transfer your entries from your Seeding Planner into your calendar. First, enter each seed/variety into the 'To Seed' section at the top of the appropriate month. When you've finished the monthly placings, go to each individual month and select actual planting dates for each seed/variety and write it into your calendar, using color coding to better visualize.
'To Transplant' Dates
Now that you have all the "To Seed" dates entered into your calendar, let's look at the "To Transplant" column and set up transplanting dates. This is a guess at this point. Most transplants will happen AFTER your last frost date. And remember that can change due to weather patterns. So you're definitely 'penciling' this in-- but let's shoot for the ideal. If your last frost date is normally May 20, for instance, schedule your transplanting dates after that. Some crops, like onions and cilantro are more frost tolerant and can be planted earlier than most. But for most transplants, after the lost frost is a MUST.
'To Harvest' Dates
You'll notice that the calendar also includes a "To Harvest" column. Fill out what you expect to be harvesting during each month in that top section. Now pencil in harvest 'dates' with your garden-- starting with 'harvestability checks' well ahead of when you would expect the crop to actually BE harvestable. Being strategic and vigilant will help you maximize both quality and quantity.
'Put Up' Dates
You could even schedule canning or freezing dates-- you can always move them if necessary! Just get them on your calendar, so you can be more intentional about what you put up and when. That way you won't get to the end of the season and think-- "Uhh-- I didn't put away any __(fill in the blank)__!!"
Keeping It In Sight!
When you're done filling your calendar, tack a printed copy of the months on the wall for a yearly view. Or put them in a binder with your daily planner. This calendar is organic-- you are working with plants and weather systems that are fluid. You WILL need to adjust your calendar throughout the year. Your calendar WON'T be done until the end of the year-- use it to jot down when you ACTUALLY planted, or transplanted, or harvested, or preserved it! This is such valuable information for next year! These are your garden notes to inform your future self.
Using moveable stickers and washi tape on your paper calendar will make it easier to make changes. A spreadsheet calendar can help 'cuz you can easily make changes and reprint a paper-- OR just keep it digital. You get to choose how you want to use it-- just make sure you use it.
Challenges, resistance and success
The challenge is to be diligent about keeping those seed starting, transplanting, and harvesting commitments. This is you-- turning intentions into commitments.
You'll encounter resistance-- guaranteed-- when a task is looming. Just remind yourself, "I got this! I can do hard things!" The resistance you'll feel is a natural reaction and just means that you're DOING IT! Feel the resistance, choose to have your own back, keep your commitments, and do it anyway.
You're likely already feeling the resistance with thoughts of-- "this is too hard"... OR... "I'm confused". That's what I'm talking about-- That's the resistance! That means you're getting out of your comfort zone. Celebrate that resistance. Embrace it. There's no growth without it!
How will you set yourself up to be successful? Maybe set reminders for important planting dates on your computer? Or set reminders on your cell? Check the calendar and incorporate important dates into your weekly and daily plans?
Getting everything on the calendar will give you peace of mind-- knowing you have a plan and seeing it all laid out. It takes away that 'resistance' excuse we all like to use-- "I don't know..." What if you DID know? You DO know. Making a plan and scheduling the plan will help you be more successful in all of your planting efforts! When timing is everything— a schedule is golden! This is you-- on your way to transforming that garden dream into a fulfilling reality!
It just gets Easier and EASIER!
One more thing-- this garden plan-- this physical tangible calendar-- THIS is your 'cheat sheet' for next time! This process will become easier and easier with every year-- using previous years' planning calendars and notes of how the season actually went down-- as a template for next year! So roll up your sleeves, face that resistance, and let's do this!
Our best to you,
Theresa & Dan
PS. More 'helps' are on the way-- so stay tuned!