It’s Winter: Time to Start Planning for Spring!

Today’s Garden Tip comes from Annie Farrell, the VEGLADY, who runs Millstone Farm.

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Hi fellow gardeners,

 I am writing from Millstone Farm in Wilton, CT where we grow produce and raise livestock; we have educational programs and events that bring good, nutritious food to many people.  We sell to many local restaurants, three family-owned supermarkets nearby, and have a small CSA. We also donate a portion of what we grow to food pantries.

Now that the days are getting LONGER, I am itching to start planting. Catalogs are arriving, seed orders are getting done, (even before catalogs come as so much is online), and the vegetable garden plan is almost laid out. Make sure your garden has lots of southern light, watch out for tall, potentially shady trees that don’t have leaves yet, and test your soil.

There are many online vegetable garden planning programs, including Territorial Seed Company’s. These planning sites will help you figure out companion plantings, timing and spacing. Using your garden plan from the past season, try to rotate your veggies if possible. There are many online companion plant charts and guides:

The Vegetable Garden

Mother Earth News

If you took some notes, (mental or otherwise), you will have an idea of what worked in your space, and what didn’t. I tend to grow too many different varieties, but as I see how they perform, I try to narrow the selection down.

We buy most of our seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seed (http://www.johnnyseeds.com)and Fedco, but always look for new listings from tiny companies too, such as the Hudson Valley Seed Library.

Make sure you do soil testing every year, even after the last season, and get whatever amendments you might need.  Soil testing can be done through Lancaster Ag, Logan Labs, Cornell Cooperative Extension and others. Soil testing and feeding will help create a healthy garden, and healthier food.

Those of you who are growing Nutrient Rich veggies will want to be sure all the micronutrients are present, so your future plants will produce nutrient rich fruit and vegetables. If your soil lacks certain micronutrients, it will not thrive. Dan Kittridge’s company offers most of what you might need when buying fertilizers for Nutrient Dense planting. Visit HERE for more information.  Nutrient rich soil also helps the plants resist disease and prevents insect damage.

We like to prepare the vegetable garden beds during the previous Fall: cleanup old plants, mulch, and fertilize them, and we may add some nutrients before planting in the Spring too. If you had disease or insect issues, remove this debris and destroy it. Do not compost this infected material.

Some beds have various cover crops depending on what they need; winter rye is often planted or legumes like clovers, peas, etc. work to feed the depleted soil. When more organic matter is needed, cover crops are great. Some get turned in, some are left to decompose, some will remain permanently to create paths between beds. We use leaves to mulch, and do virtually NO weeding in the Spring.

In order to get a head-start on the Spring, there are other jobs you can do over the winter. If you haven’t already, oil and sharpen your tools. Make sure you have the supplies that you will need to start your seedlings, such as potting soil, flats, seeds, inoculants, etc. Your greenhouse can be cleaned and sanitized over the winter too, and check all its systems (heat, vents, irrigation system, etc) to be sure they all are operational.

Here’s an interesting idea to try. We grow year round in hoops, plastic greenhouses without heat, and it’s really amazing what will grow with less sun! Try covering a few beds with hoops in late winter, and then in Fall before frost, to get an early start, and grow right thru the winter.

Happy Gardening from the VEGLADY!