The moment the first seed catalog arrives in the mail, my fingers begin to itch.
I start dreaming of ordering new flowers and fruit trees, and building new raised bed and garden features.
I imagine how beautiful the flowers will be, and how delicious my own tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers will taste after a winter of cardboard vegetables from the grocery store.
Before all of those things happen though, it pays to make a little time to do some planning, budgeting, and taking stock.
After a long, dreary winter, it's so easy to go crazy ordering from seed catalogs, loading up on bedding plants, and planning ambitious new projects. A few plants bought here, a couple of online orders there ("This won't ship for 2 months, there will be plenty of time to prepare a new flower bed for it") doesn't seem like too much at the time. When added all together though, I am sometimes shocked by the amount I spent, and the hours of work I've unintentionally set for myself (and my long-suffering husband).
Most of us don't have limitless time, garden space or funds to work with, so a little planning will prevent garden regrets later.
It's only smart to do a little research before you "buy it now" online or head out to the garden center. It generally doesn't cost any more to find a plant that is ideal for your space, needs and time constraints than it does to bring home an impulse purchase. You'll probably be a lot happier with the planned, researched, budgeted-for purchase in the long run.
If you want to grow tomatoes, read the reviews and look for varieties that fit your needs. Do you prefer a nice acidic tomato? Maybe you want to do one big batch of canning in the summer and then be done. Or perhaps you eat a sandwich with a great big sweet tomato slice every day, all summer long for lunch. Do you have limited growing space, or limited mobility? Are you growing tomatoes for your own occasional snacking, or to feed a family of 10 year-round? There are tomato varieties to meet all of those requirements, and a little research and note-taking will ensure that you get what you want from your investment.
If you are planting an apple orchard, take the time to learn which apples have the characteristics you want, and make sure you have the right spot, with enough space for them. I need apples that are resistant to cedar-apple rust and fireblight, won't require a tall ladder to harvest, are fairly sweet, and that are good long-term keepers. Maybe you prefer apples that are ideal for baking or cider-making, or you want to be able to harvest fresh apples for several months. While a few apple varieties will self-pollinate, it's still best to choose at least 2 varieties that will cross-pollinate each-other. It costs the same money to buy the right apple tree as it does to buy the wrong one. Since it takes several years of tending and waiting from planting til first harvest on most fruit and nut trees, it pays to get it right.
Are you dreaming of a new raised bed, building a greenhouse, or some other large garden project this year? It's far too easy to over-spend, underestimate how long the project will take, or build in the wrong spot if you don't do a little planning first. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt, and it takes a lot of the enjoyment away from gardening. Take the time to work out a budget, estimate how many hours of work the project will take, discuss possible locations and make a plan with whoever is going to be helping do the work and pay for the project.
Take a look around your garden, make a list of chores that didn't get done in the fall or that still need to be done before spring, and make a plan to get it done. I'm always meaning to take some time to clean, oil and organize my garden tools, clean up the flower beds, prune the fruit trees and sort through my seed-starting equipment and garden seeds before the planting season arrives. If I don't make a list and schedule time for these things, they don't get done.
What are your gardening plans this year?