Crop Planning: Part 3
We're in the homestretch now! Part 3 is going to be short and sweet. After part 1 and 2 you should have your garden map and planning spreadsheet completed. Your seeds from last year should be organized and any that you still need should be purchased (or at least ordered). Next up is a plan of action for making it all happen.
There are a number of different platforms for scheduling out there:
good old fashioned paper calendars hung on the wall,
weekly or daily planners,
calendar apps in your phone that will notify you when a task is due,
hand written document listing the tasks required in chronological order,
or a word document printed off with that listing.
Do what works best for you. I do a combination of these. I have a small note on my wall calendar for the weeks that tasks need to be done and then I have a word document with a detailed list of what needs to be done hanging by the door to the garden.
It is easiest to start with your most detailed option first. To begin, open up your spreadsheet so that you can see the entire timeline. Find the first date that has a task. On my spreadsheet, that occurs during the week of March 8th and it is seed starting (indoors) my pepper plants.
If I am using a calendar application on my phone, I open up that date and enter a task of "Seed starting: peppers". Same thing with a physical planner. If I am typing out a document, I would make a title of the date, a subtitle of "Seed Starting" and then make a list underneath that subtitle with "peppers" as the first of the list. That's not too hard, right?
Continue on, going down each weekly column in your time-line and entering that information on your calendar or document. I find it helpful to organize into the headings of seed start, direct seed, transplant and harvest under each date. It makes it much easier to quickly scan and see what is coming up. Make sure to list the harvest of your vegetables, each week it is harvested. I know it would be easier to just list the first day, but listing it every week will get you in the habit of continual harvesting and will also keep you from forgetting about a long harvested vegetable.
Once of the biggest advantages of having a physical document is the ability to quickly scribble all over it when you need. This is great for noting:
if you had to adjust the date something is seeded, transplanted or harvested
why you had to make that adjustment (weather, out of town, dog decided to dig up your veggie bed and you needed to replant, etc.)
any pest issues, when they occurred and what they affected
what was easy or hard to harvest
what you need more or less of next year
what tasted great or didn't
if something didn't work out, and why (and if it is worth trying again)
if you definitely need to grow something again (it was that awesome)
There will most definitely be adjustments! Mother nature likes to throw a wrench in our perfectly planned out gardening season. It will happen every single year, so be mentally prepared for it. No matter what your calendar says, if there is still 2 feet of snow on the ground, wait to plant your squash. While some of these adjustments to your calendar will be oddities, some of them may reflect patterns specific to your particular climate. If the adjustment is one that will need to happen year after year, it is easy to make that change a permanent one by updating your spreadsheet for next year. This way your crop plan gradually becomes more specialized to your particular garden, and your style of gardening, each and every year. You are making constant improvements! See the article Late Fall To Do: Season Review for more on analyzing your notes from the year. Whichever mode you use for a calendar, ensure that you have some way of keeping notes.
That's it folks! You are done planning out your vegetable garden. Altogether you should have:
a map showing you where each vegetable will be located in your garden,
a spreadsheet telling you how much of each to plant, how many seeds of each you need, and exactly what date you need to seed, transplant and harvest each of those vegetables,
and a calendar telling you exactly what to do each week of your gardening year.
Ensure these papers are located somewhere close to your garden for easy access. I have mine clipped to the shelf I use to start my seeds. It is also conveniently located by the door I use to access my garden. So when I come back inside with a huge smile on my face because I just ate the best tomato of my life, I can remember to note which variety that was so I can plant it again next year (and maybe more of them too!).
What To Do Next Year
The entire point of this exercise is to make crop planning in the future much, much easier and faster for you. In the following years, all you will need to do is:
make an updated map with your beds rotated from the previous year,
add or delete vegetables from your spreadsheet as needed and change the dates in the top left hand corner,
quickly update your calendar with adjustments from the previous year, or new vegetables you have added.
Keep in mind, you don't actually need to make any changes at all. Each year could be as simple as rotating the beds and changing the date in your spreadsheet. That's it. Remembering to repeat your successes is just as important as not repeating your losses. Even with changes, this should take you maybe an hour or two each year. So much time saved! Of course, that doesn't count the time you spend browsing those seed catalogs!
Don't forget to enjoy the reprieve from gardening that winter affords us. It is a time to reflect and dream; preferably in front of a cozy fire with nice glass of wine or hot cocoa.
Yummy gardening everyone!
Late Fall To Do: Season Review (for a list of seed companies with websites and/or catalogs)
Bartholemew, Mel "All New Square Foot Gardening" 1981, Cool Springs Press, Franklin, Tennessee, USA. For charts on germination times and temperatures, percentage germination, days to maturity, planting schedules, seed storage, and most vegetables, herbs and annual flowers.
Stacey Murphy (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCK8WWphD0zYS4c5jsLOOOmg) for lots of videos on everything to do with growing food.
West Coast Seeds (www.westcoastseeds.com) for vegetable, herb and fruit seeds. Also lots of vegetable gardening guides and information for Canadian gardens.
T & T Seeds (https://ttseeds.com/) Longstanding Manitoba company with a huge variety of seeds as well as trees, shrubs, perennials and gardening accessories.
Veseys Seeds (https://www.veseys.com/ca/) Canadian company selling a huge variety of vegetable, herb and fruit seeds.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (https://www.rareseeds.com/) for specialty and hard to find heirloom seeds. Note this is an American company so check hardiness zones and days to maturity before selecting seeds.
Watts, Melanie J. "Growing Food in a Short Season" 2014, Douglas and McIntyre Ltd., Madeira Park, BC, Canada