Download this free organic vegetable garden checklist that walks you through an entire year of tasks you can do to grow your own food, making notes of dates, weather & varieties for an easy record keeper, too.
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Welcome to Tuesdays In the Garden with a theme of Tips & Tools to Help You Garden Better and Easier! Sounds great, right? I'm updating one of my favorite tools for you, an organic vegetable garden checklist, and you'll find tips to plant containers, use succession gardening, attract pollinators, keep track of your plants, and more by following the links after my article. Happy gardening!
Did you grow up in a home with a garden? If you did, then you are one of the lucky ones with an idea of what should be done and when. I didn't, so when I first started dipping my toes into vegetable gardening (after thinking flowers was all I'd ever grow…), I was at the mercy of the garden centers. You know - if they're selling lettuce seedlings, it must be time to plant them.
There are a few problems with this, though:
- You miss early planting opportunities. Stores may not stock lettuce seedlings until a month or more after I could actually be growing them.
- Stores are notorious for offering seedlings too early for optimal planting: I've seen corn sold in March (waaaay too cold for corn - plus corn is best direct-seeded), tomatoes and peppers in April (still too cold, especially for peppers). Much of the time the seedlings don't actually die, but they never thrive and produce a lot less than if planted at the best time. So people (me included in the beginning) succumb to spring fever and buy them each year anyway.
- Lack of variety. I've mentioned this many times as the key reason to start your own plants from seed. Most people think it's to be frugal, but the real reasons to grow your own plants from seed is to be able to choose the varieties you want AND to grow them on your time-table.
I read and read and soon started to figure out that I needed some guidelines if I wanted to grow what I liked and get the most produce from my efforts. After many years of cutting out different monthly "to-do" lists from newspapers, the county extension office, and gardening books, I had some ideas and made some changes. But mostly I had a file that I didn't use because it was so stuffed.
Which is why I finally compiled them all into a master to-do list that has been so helpful to me that I just had to share it with you as part of the Vegetable Gardening 101 series.
The Organic Vegetable Garden Checklist
This 5-page gardening checklist includes not only basic tasks, but also the things we gardeners always hope we will do if we ever get to them. In other words, this is a dream garden schedule - an optimum planting schedule for zone 8 gardens (where I garden), plus seeding and fertilizing information (though it's adaptable for your garden zone by changing some of the dates).
It is set up as a year-long schedule in order to be able to plan an early spring and fall garden, as well as the typical summer garden.
The organic vegetable garden checklist includes:
- when to start seeds indoors, harden off, and plant
- when to plant transplants (TP) and to direct seed (DS)
- when to fertilize organically
- a general fruit pruning schedule
However, the most important thing you need to know about this checklist is:
In all the years I've used this (and they are many), I've NEVER done everything on the list!
Like I said, it's a dream garden schedule, but life doesn't always work like that, at least at my house and I'm pretty our houses are similar! For example, I don't think I've ever started any plant in January...I'd always like to, but I tend to be planning and dreaming then, totally forgetting that I could actually be DOING something. And I've not really taken advantage of my cold frames in order to get some greens earlier than the 1st of May, but it's a goal of mine, so it remains on the list.
The point is, don't be intimidated by all that's included! You're not meant to do everything on the list, just the things you want to. You may not grow blueberries for example. But if you ever do, you'll know what to do for them and when.
Get Your Gardening Checklist!
Use as an At-a-Glance Garden Journal
A discovery I made after using this for a few years was that it works as a super easy garden journal! I had always tried to use more involved notebooks, but would peter out after awhile. It's so easy to add a note about a variety planted, what the temperature was, or when the first harvest was collected right on this to-do list that always hangs in our laundry-mudroom.
So, you can use this checklist not only as a to-do list to remind you what you could be doing, but also as a journal, recording when and what you plant from year to year. Jot down notes on the left side to remember when the first tomato ripened, when you have late snow or frost and then keep your past checklists in a binder for an easy and painless recording system. (Go here to see how I organize all my garden paperwork to serve as a painless journaling system.)
Adjust to Your Garden Zone
While this garden to-do list is tailored to a zone 8, Pacific Northwest (west of the Cascades) garden, it can easily serve as an organizing tool for most zones by changing the dates to suit your local planting schedule. Use the checklist as a springboard and change it up based on your local newspaper and extension office's "gardening to-do" lists that are published frequently.
I've heard from many readers who have found that even though they live in the midwest or northeast, there are many tasks that are done at similar times and need just a bit of adjusting. Some have kept the lists, but just changed the months, moving them later or earlier as needed.
I have found that using this organic vegetable garden checklist makes the planning of my vegetable gardening easier, and my hope is that it will help you, too! Please let me know if and how you use it or any suggestions you have about improving it.
Get Your Gardening Checklist!
Find more gardening tips & tools at my gardening buddies blogs below:
Tips for Spring Window Boxes at The Freckled Rose
Tips for Pollinator Garden Success at Homemade Food Junkie
Printable garden planting guide at Simplify Live Love
Succession planting tips at Frugal Family Home
Tips to create beautiful hanging baskets at Hearth and Vine