The first day of spring (March 19) will be here before you know it! Winter is a great time to plan for the upcoming growing season. To help you prepare, here are some tips related to three important wintertime tasks: seed inventory, crop planning, and seed ordering.
Kindred Herbs interns planting seeds
What seeds do you already have? It can be tempting to start your planning process by flipping through seed catalogs and placing orders for all of your favorite herbs, veggies, and flowers. But ordering seeds is actually one of the final steps in planning your spring and summer garden.
To avoid wasting perfectly good seeds and money, start by taking stock of what you already have. Use pen and paper or a spreadsheet to catalog roughly how many seeds of each variety and plant you already have. Make a note of the date on the seed packet and whether the packet was opened or not. Seeds that are only a year old should germinate fine, and the same goes for unopened seed packets that are a couple of years old. Older than that and you may have poor germination, so if it’s a crop you rely on for meals, medicine, or beauty, you may want to buy new seed this year in case you get poor germination with the older packet.
Once you’ve inventoried what you already have, now the day dreaming begins! What do you dream of harvesting this spring and summer? What seeds do you already have, and what else do you want to grow? How much food, medicine, and flowers does your household need? What plants grow well in your area, and how long do they take to grow? How much room do they need? Start by exploring these questions in order to identify your goals and collect data about the plants you want to grow, and then use a combination of calendars and maps of your garden to create a plan.
Crop planning can be a simple or complex process, depending upon how accurate and detailed you want to be. If you start with your goals, you can work backwards from there to identify how much to plant and when.
As you plan out your garden, remember to leave space for perennials, medicinals, and pollinator-loving flowers. In addition to providing beauty, habitat, and medicine, inviting more pollinators to your garden leads to better pollination of your vegetable and fruit crops and better harvests!
A simple crop plan (source: Seattle Urban Farm Co)
Here are some recommended resources related to crop planning to get you started:
Seed packets and catalogs.
Most seed packets and seed companies offer planting information, such as best times to plant, days to maturity (how long it takes a plant to go from seed to harvest), ideal planting conditions, and more. Be sure to find out the climate where the seed company is based or does their planting trials--if they’re in a climate completely different from your own, consider doing some additional research from sources with a climate comparable to yours.
Although this chapter is about crop planning for a CSA (Community Support Agriculture) program, you can adapt the same strategy for your home garden. The method explained here is a more complex way of crop planning, but for those who want to be detailed and more accurate, it’s a great resource.
Even if you use a simpler crop planning method, this chapter has other useful resources such as “Calculating the Number of Plants Per Sowing Required to Meet Harvest Goals” (p. 130), “Determining First, Last, & Frequency of Sowing Dates” (p. 131), example crop plans, planting templates, and a sample crop harvest schedule for the Santa Cruz area (p. 142).
Johnny’s has a whole online library of resources for farmers and gardeners, and this section features useful resources, worksheets, and calendars for crop planning.
Although this chart is most accurate in Santa Clara County, it provides a general sense of when you can plant and plan to harvest common vegetables in the greater Bay Area.
Seed & Transplant Ordering
Now that you know what seeds you have and what seeds you’ll need based on your crop plan, identify what seeds or plant starts you’ll need to order. There are many companies out there, and the more local the seeds and transplants, the better adapted they’ll be to your climate. Other considerations include whether you want your plants to be heirloom, non-GMO, organic, open pollinated, and pelleted or not (check out Johnny’s glossary to learn what these terms mean).
Here are some of our recommended seed and nursery companies:
And of course, Kindred Herbs! Although we don’t sell seeds, we do sell locally grown, organic medicinal herbs--many of which also add beauty and pollinator habitat to your garden! We’ll be hosting a plant sale this spring, summer, and fall, so stay tuned!
We hope you enjoy the process of planning out this year’s garden! If you know of other useful resources for crop planning and preparing for spring, please let us know!