Just because there is no food coming from the garden does not mean the season is over! It’s time to plan for next year.
A garden is an ongoing project. It should morph as you experiment with it. If something works, write it down to do again next year. If something does not work, write it down and find something more suitable. If you don’t take note of failures and successes, your garden will never be as productive as it can be.
Draw a map of your garden (if you don’t already have one), and plan on rotating your crops. Certain plants are prone to disease and insects that live in the soil. To keep planting the same thing in the same soil year after year helps that disease live on and makes unnecessary work and crop loss for you.
Turn the tomato patch into a pea patch next year. Diseases that decimate tomatoes will not bother peas. Replace the squash bed with a stand of carrots. If you plant squash again, your insect and disease problems will come back and multiply. Crop rotation is an important part of organic gardening. Now is the time to plan for it.
I used my kids’ leftover spiral notebooks for major planning. I draw maps, write down seed and plant information along with fertilizer and compost details. If you’re not a paper-and-pencil kinda person, like I am, Excel spreadsheets and garden planning software are invaluable.
My favorite part of the holiday season is when the seed catalogs start coming. They are loaded with information about planting times, spacing, environmental needs, and harvest of flowers, vegetables and herbs. If you are a new gardener, use these pages to help plan your garden.
Know what your family will eat and how much. There is no point in planting beets if no one will eat them! Save your garden space for what you will use. Consider whether you will put food up or not. Factor that into your plans. A seed catalog will tell you how much food to expect from each plant.
Plant extra so your kids can have a small area of the garden, too. They’ll learn about plants, bugs, water, sun and where food comes from. This will also keep them from destroying your garden. Trust me, especially with very small children.
Just because winter is approaching, it’s not time to stop thinking about the garden. Plan, plan, plan, and you will be well-rewarded next year!