Dream Time: Plan Your New Year’s Garden

It’s the quiet time of the year. The holidays have passed, and with them the whirlwind of social engagements. The dark days are gradually getting brighter, but our gardens are still mostly dormant. It’s a time for garden planning and garden dreaming. Eager to get growing in the gradually lighter and slowly warming days, gardeners take to the seed catalogues and enthusiastically place orders. Before you decide what you’d like to plant, take a moment to reflect on last year’s garden and consider how this can shape your plans for the coming year.

Now, you don’t need to get too formal: you’re not necessarily looking at creating a list of gardening resolutions. Instead, think about your goals for this year’s garden.

Take a step back for a moment. What worked in your garden last year? Did certain plants take off and produce abundantly, while others languished a little? This is where a garden journal or photographs come in handy. Taking notes throughout the gardening season will help you shape your plans for the next year.

Look at your garden as a space. What is the soil made of, and how wet or dry is the soil in each of your garden beds? How much sun does each area receive, and how warm does it get in different parts of your garden? This year, can you change your garden spaces or shift your plant choices to better suit your space? Perhaps you’re working with a location that’s in partial shade or one that has particularly wet soil. Look for seed varieties that are particularly suited to those more challenging environments. You might be working in a small space, such as a deck or a community garden plot. Use that space over the course of the entire gardening year by planning for succession: plants like tomatoes can go into your garden after your early spring greens have left, giving a yield of multiple crops from the same garden bed.

Did you have any unwanted visitors in your garden last year? Pests can reduce the yield of your garden crops. Look for seed varieties that are resistant to these pests, but grow a diverse garden as well. Planting multiple crops in a single area can distract pests from the vegetables that they’d enjoy. Rotating your crops from one bed to another helps reduce the incidence of soil-borne disease as well. Create a garden that’s a sanctuary for beneficial insects and birds, and you may find that your pest troubles decrease. Adding flowers and herbs to your garden will attract bees and butterflies, essential pollinators that help the rest of your plants grow.  Add habitat elements as well:  logs, rocks, shrubs, water, and other landscape elements help attract the bugs and birds that help your garden grow. This is the time to consider adding some of those structures to your garden.

Most importantly, when you’re planning your garden, consider what you love to eat, preserve, and give away. What are your family’s favourite foods to eat from the garden? What’s lovely for salads, suitable for nibbling, or ideal for making into salsa?  Would you like to add a child’s garden or a flower garden this year? What strange new vegetable varieties would you like to try?

This time of garden dreaming can be a gardener’s favourite time of the year. We love our gardens in the growing energy of the spring, and we love them as cool green sanctuaries in the summer. Of course, we also love them in the fall, when the harvest is abundant. But the winter is a time for dreaming, and it’s a time when all of the lushness of your gardening year can come together as you plan your 2014 garden.

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