Gardening is a popular hobby in Utah, and it occupies many of us from early spring through late fall. For people who love to garden, waiting through the winter months can be frustrating. Whether you’re a veteran gardener who wants to try something new, are new to gardening generally, or you want to start a garden in a new home, winter is an ideal time to plan and prepare for the upcoming planting and growing seasons.
Planning your garden before the rush of spring planting is upon you will allow you to create the garden you want, and budget for its associated expenses. To help you get started on your garden planning, here are some things to keep in mind.
Choose your location wisely. This is an area where most people don’t put much thought. People often put their vegetable gardens wherever they will fit after the rest of the yard is planned. Often this in a corner of the yard or at the side of the house. This in itself isn’t a bad thing, but it can pose some challenges you will have to work around.
For example, are there parts of your garden that are shaded most of the day by surrounding trees, fences, or the house? If so, it will affect how your garden should be planted. As a general rule of thumb, plants that are grown for their fruit, such as tomatoes, corn, squash, melons, and peppers, need to be in the sunniest locations. Plants that are raised for their leaves or roots, like lettuces, carrots, potatoes, and radishes will do okay in partial shade. Remember that gardens need water. With the hot, dry summers we experience here, gardens will need to be watered regularly. Putting your garden near a source of water will make this easier.
Think about your soil. In any type of gardening, success usually begins with good soil. Most vegetables do better in soil that drains well and is rich in organic matter. If your soil is of poor quality or doesn’t drain well, the addition of organic materials, such as compost and peat moss, can help. Check with your local nursery to see what they recommend for soil augmentation in your area.
Pick your plants. Deciding what you want to grow can be a huge undertaking. Often, we run out of space before we run out of plants. Take your time to decide which plants you would like to prioritize. Then, research each type of vegetable and how much spacing it needs between rows and between plants. Some plants, like cucumbers need several feet of space, while carrots and radishes need very little. Choosing plants by your particular tastes and insuring you have enough space for each of them will ease frustration come planting time.
Sketch it out. Once you know how much space your chosen plants need, draw out your rows and map where you will plant each vegetable. Keep in mind the areas that get the most sun as you do this. For the best success, it is a good idea to rotate your crops, meaning you should plant each type of crop in a different location from the previous two years. Rotating crops keeps the soil from being depleted by the specific nutrients consumed by each type of plant.
Budget. Once you have determined what you will need to augment your soil and which crops you want to grow, you can start calculating the costs and coming up with a budget plan. Most seed companies have full online catalogs, so comparing prices is a breeze.