Springtime brings new chores on the homestead as well as the readiness to start a new garden. There is something about planting a spring garden that excites every homesteader! Seeing those little sprouts appear means warmer weather is on its way.
But before you hop right in and start planting, there are some things you should keep in mind. Let’s learn how to plan and prepare your garden the right way with some simple steps. After all, it is important to be prepared right?
How To Plan A Spring Garden The Right Way
Location, location, location
The most important step before planting a spring garden is finding the right location. There are a few factors that will help you to decide the best spot for your garden. You must consider the temperature, the amount of sun, the wind, the soil, and whether the plot was planted in before. Let’s look at each one in detail.
One of the downfalls in Spring tends to be the weather. Just when you think it is going to be warm enough to plant, it gets cold. To try and avoid losing all your hard work to the weather, know your last frost dates! This doesn’t have to be exact, but close helps. Here is a great post that breaks down frost dates by zone.
If your last frost date is normally around the middle of March, for example, you have 2 choices. The first is plant about 3 weeks before and start your seeds inside or in a greenhouse. This way your seedlings have protection regardless of the weather. You can wait until the weather cooperates before setting them in the garden. Read how to start plants indoors at Stone Family Farmstead.
The second is to wait a few weeks after that date before you plant directly in the ground. You will still take a chance. But at least they stand a better chance than planting too early.
The amount of sun
When thinking about where to plant your spring garden, pay attention to the sun. Keep in mind that where the sun shines in Winter and where it may shine come Spring or Summer may change. Of course, this is only if there are trees nearby.
I have a beautiful sunny spot to grow cool-season crops in my back yard. However, once summer comes, that spot is no longer sunny because the sun has moved beyond the trees. Keep this in mind when choosing your location for the sun.
The wind is a condition many people do not consider when planning a spring garden. For some, the wind may not affect anything. However, if your garden is in a position that receives heavier gusts, you will risk the plants being damaged. This is especially damaging to small seedlings and younger plants.
Plants that climb like beans, peas or even cucumbers can be damaged easy by forceful winds. So make sure your spring garden is not in a windy area.
The soil and previous plantings
Before planting in any plot you should always check the soil. If it is sandy or maybe has a high amount of clay, you will have to amend it before planting. Before you start your spring garden there, have the soil tested to see how fertile it is. Then make the corrections necessary.
Testing the soil goes hand in hand with knowing if it was planted in recently. Some crops can rob the soil of its nutrients. Keep track of what you plant each year and its location. This way you know if nutrients need to be added. There are soil testing kits available to help you with this at most garden centers. Your local Ag center also provides soil testing. They can then tell you what should be added to the soil for planting successfully also.
Companion Plants and Layout
So now you know the location is good and ready to be planted in. You have the necessary nutrients, the sun is shining enough on your plot, and the wind and temperature are correct. Now we need to decide what to plant and where.
Let’s dig into companion planting and layout ideas in more detail.
When deciding what to plant in your spring garden, you need to know which plants are compatible and which plants are not. You see some vegetables like beans can be grown with corn. The beans use the corn stalks to climb yet the leaves of the corn help protects the beans. But some vegetables, when planted next to others are not so great together. I have included a list of companion plants for herbs for you to print out as a guide. You can download the Companion Herbs PDF.
Don’t forget that you don’t have to keep just vegetables or just herbs. You can use companion planting and combine vegetables, herbs, and even flowers in your spring garden. A great example that is common practice is to plant marigolds around your garden. Marigolds make a great pest deterrent for other plants and most marigolds are edible too! Learn which plants are compatible with what for a successful spring garden.
The layout of your garden should be easy as almost any layout will work. But there are things you should keep in mind. For example, corn grows tall and if planted next to a much shorter crop it may block the sun. Make sure you know which direction the sun rises and sets so that the shorter of the plants can receive the sun it needs.
Other than the sun, most any layout will work. Here are some other things to keep in mind when deciding the layout of your garden;
- Allow space for walking between rows or sections
- Allow room for a sprinkler or hose to be weaved through the bed
- Make sure to level the ground for even drainage
- Pay attention to areas that may have large roots from nearby trees
- Allow room for each plant to grow without being crowded
- Make sure the garden plot is not to close to a traffic area (dogs, kids, mowers)
- Try to plant together based on watering needs
Seeds or Plants
You are well on your way now to a healthy spring garden. Now you can decide seeds or plants. Do you want to start with seeds, whether indoors or directly sowed in your garden? Or would you rather buy plants already started? If buying seeds, you need to read the package and make sure you are following the directions for planting. This is important for them to grow healthy.
If you are buying plants, pay attention to the tags. If you don’t want pesticides or artificial fertilizers, you need to be careful where you buy your plants. Most major garden centers receive their plants already treated with pesticides and sometimes worse. Keep these things in mind when buying your plants.
I always use seeds, mostly heirloom seeds and I try to make sure they are good quality! I recommend Mary’s Seeds and Bakers Creek Seeds. I have always had great success with both! Just make sure you are planting high quality and clean seeds or plants.
One of the most important factors for maintaining a healthy spring garden is the water. Knowing how much water is required for your plants will determine what to plant together also. You don’t want a plant that requires a lot of water next to a plant that prefers dry conditions. As I said prior, read the label of the plant or the seed packet to determine watering requirements.
There are many ways of watering your spring garden. Here a few ways:
- Hand watering (not recommended for a large garden)
- Portable sprinkler
- PVC pipes with drip holes
- Soaker Hoses
- Pop Up sprinklers (for a permanent garden space)
Whichever way of watering is most convenient for you and provides enough water for your plants is fine.
Fertilizing is a must. Don’t panic, this is not rocket science. I add nothing to my spring garden except a really good compost which I rototill into the soil before I plant. However, if you find your plants are needing some sort of fertilizer, try to stay organic. Things like Epsom salts are great for tomatoes. Egg shells add calcium. Remember that chemicals that go into the ground, also goes in the plant right? Well then remember this too. What goes into the plant also enters your body when you eat it at harvest.
There are so many great posts all over the internet that you can read on what the best organic or natural fertilizers are. Do your research!
Lastly, when maintaining your spring garden, keep those pesky weeds out. I simply take my small garden hoe and till up the weeds then scoop them out of the garden. Some people til them into the soil, but I recommend removing them completely. You can burn them or simply dispose of them in the trash pickup.
One thing I recommend here is not to add them to your compost pile unless you want them to come back stronger for the next garden! Get rid of them. Out of sight out of mind!
Now you are equipped with the best gardening advice on how to start a spring garden the right way. Make sure your weather is cooperating, the soil is prepared, and the temperature is correct. Read your labels or seed packets and know your watering needs as well as the fertilizer requirements. Know what plants make good and bad companions to other plants. Then, set up a watering system and sit back and enjoy your garden harvest.
Are you ready to start your spring garden yet? What will you plant? Do you have other tips or tricks? Share them in the comment box below.
Watching and tending to a garden is my piece of heaven. Placing the food on the table that we have grown and processed makes me feel good, fulfilled, and accomplished know we have provided everything ourselves for us to enjoy eating.
There is no better feeling than to know you are well on the path of self-sufficiency! Congrats on all your progress!