Garden how to

The key to knowing WHEN to plant your garden + a free cheatsheet

Here is part 3 in the gardening series of blog posts from Glory Garden.

I used to be so confused and uncertain about when it was the right time to plant our garden.  Over time, I have realized that almost all garden vegetables fall into 1 of 2 categories:

Group 1- Plant as soon as the soil can be worked
Group 2- Plant after danger of frost is passed

So when exactly is that?

"Plant as soon as the soil can be worked" usually happens in the first week or two of April here in Sioux Falls (unless we get a blizzard!).  As soon as the snow melts and the ground is no longer frozen, you should be planting the seeds in this category.  These plants are frost hardy which means that they will not be damaged by frost.

"Plant after danger of frost is passed" means that these plants are frost-tender and could be killed by a frost.  So wait until AFTER the last frost (usually mid May in our area) to plant these.

Why not wait until mid-May and plant both categories at the same time (and just get it all done at once!)?  Listen- this is really important:  The plants in group 1 suffer in the heat of summer and need to be planted ASAP in the spring.  If you wait to plant your lettuce and until mid-May, by the time it is ready to eat, the hot summer days will have made it bitter.  Your radishes will be spicy, and your beets will bolt.

How do you know which category each vegetable falls into?  I made you this free cheat sheet to print out and refer to: Vegetable List Cheat Sheet

If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will respond!

Why I don't shop for seeds at local stores- and where I DO get them

I personally hate seed shopping in stores.  

For one thing, my family is always impatient to go (anyone else have this problem?).

Secondly, I usually don't find the varieties I am I looking for.  For example, one year I was amazed at the difference in quality between bush blue lake beans and contender beans.  So now when I buy bean seeds, I always want to make sure I get contenders.  (A garden journal can be helpful to compare your experiences with the different varieties of vegetables.  You can read about garden journaling in my last blog article:

Rather than making hurried and pressured seed-buying decisions in the aisle of Menards I prefer to peruse gorgeous seed catalogs and order online.  This way, I can refer to my garden records, research my questions online, and compare prices in the comfort of my home.  In addition, seed catalogs usually offer helpful growing information that is typically not found on a seed packet.

My favorite seed companies are:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  All their seeds are heirlooms, their catalog is BEAUTIFUL, and shipping is only $3.50!

High Mowing Organic Seeds.  All organic seeds and free shipping!

Sample Seed Shop.  This business has a lousy website, but the low cost of seeds makes up for it- most seed packs are only $1.50 each!  This is great if you want to try 20 different kinds of tomatoes (like me- ha) and you only need a few seeds of each variety.

Are you concerned about unknowingly buying GMO seeds?  I was concerned about this as well, until I found out the simple truth:  There are only two vegetables with varieties that are produced via genetic modification: squash and sweet corn.  None of these varieties of squash and sweet corn are available for home gardeners to purchase.  Just to be doubly-sure, you can check to see if the seed company you are buying from has signed the "Safe Seed Pledge" (which states that they will not buy or sell GMOs).  Yes, the three seed companies I listed above have signed it.

Now it's your turn:  Where do you buy seeds?  What is your favorite seed company?

The #1 thing you MUST do if you garden + free download

This one thing is so important, I consider it foundational in gardening:

Garden journaling.  

If you think that sounds too much like a "diary" you can call it "garden records" or a "garden log".   What it means is simply jotting down some very important dates and notes throughout the season so that in future years  you can look back on it and learn.

I'm going to be so bold as to say
If you aren't keeping a record- you aren't improving.

Here's why:
Unless your super power is unlimited memory, you're probably like me:
You learn something>>> but you don't write it down>>> so you forget.  Therefore, you aren't improving because next year you won't remember those ah-ha moments you had this year!

Let me give you a few examples of lessons I would have forgotten if I hadn't written them down:
"Cucumber plants must be kept picked or the plant will stop producing new cucumbers and just focus on growing monster cukes."
"Cukes seem to turn bitter AFTER rain!?"
"Kohlrabi turned yellow and wilty.  Watered with epsom salt and saw excellent improvement."
"Fall crop of lettuce got eaten by grasshoppers.  Planted again and covered with insect fabric."
These are valuable notes that will help me improve in the years to come- and help me not make the same mistake twice!).

Now here's how to actually organize your garden journal.  Get yourself a notebook or 3 ring binder (any size you want).  On the top of each page write the name of a vegetable and put them in alphabetical order.  Example: page 1- Asparagus,  page 2- Beans, and so on.  Each year on the appropriate page, record the following information:

3 vital statistics
#1- What variety of seeds you planted
     This will help you remember the varieties that you liked or didn't like.
#2- What date you planted them
     If you planted your tomatoes on April 24, 2016, and they got killed by frost, you could look back the        next year and decide to wait and plant your tomatoes in mid May.
#3- What date you got your first harvest
      Trying to figure out when the beans are going to be ready for canning?  Your records will help!

You can either use plain pieces of notebook paper,
OR you can download the garden page templates that I am giving you for free:

If you are just getting started garden journaling, I'd recommend using this one:

If you are ready to geek out and record lots of details, use this one:

Hint:  You know those beautiful seed catalog covers?  They are perfect to slide in the front of your garden binder.

Leave questions in the comment section and I will respond to them.  Feel free to share on fb or forward this to your gardening friends!

This post is part 1 in the gardening blog series.  Coming soon:
A simple switch that can help you grow more food in less space
The key to understanding WHEN to plant your seeds and starts in your garden
Bonus:  Why I don't buy my seeds from local stores and where I DO get them