It may just be starting to snow in some areas, but if you’re a gardener, you know planting time is right around the corner. Ideal vegetable gardens should be about production, so that means getting the most bang for your buck and planting as soon as you can. Even winter can provide food if you have sown and prepped in advance. Why not make 2017 the year your garden produces for four seasons.
In January, if you have sown them, you can still harvest some root crops. If not, then this is an ideal time to prep garden tools and sheds. Oil shears and spades and keep them well protected from the continued cold weather.
This early period is best used for maintenance, but you should also lay out a plan for this year’s high production seasons in Spring, Summer and Fall. Draw out your garden and try to follow crop rotation guidelines: don’t plant the same vegetables in an area you used for them last year. Start anything you might be growing from seeds in planter pots indoors. Give tomatoes and summer vegetables a head start in this early part of the year.
Check gardening guides at your local co-op or online. Some have Moon planting times as well. Follow those calendars for specific crop plantings. Keep in mind the general idea that vegetables are best divided into cool season, warm season and hot season plants, along with those that over-winter.
As soon as spring begins the first thaws, if the ground can be worked, begin sowing cool weather greens like lettuces or parsley and other herbs that overwinter or take cold. They will begin sprouting at the same time as you can insert seeds for companion vegetables – the two will not compete for the same sunlight. As the greens die back in heat, the warm season seedlings can begin to grow into the light.
Warmer temperatures are best for beans, corn and cucumbers which will flourish in spring and sometimes produce second harvests in fall.
Summer has the longest days and plants have light requirements as much as heat. Plants that need long days will flourish best at this time like tomatoes, peppers and other Mediterranean or South American origin vegetables. Hot season vegetable and fruits include peppers, tomatoes, watermelon and sweet potato.
In late summer plant warm and cool season fall crops including your greens again. Any crop that enjoys cool weather will begin to flourish as summer crops die off. Parsnips, beets, cabbages and others will grow until a deep frost which will extend the harvest well into a traditional winter.
With a little advance research and a good garden plan, your 2017 crops could be the best you have ever had.