Five simple steps are all you need to help you towards your best garden ever. These gardening tips and organizing ideas will help you plan for a season full of flowers and vegetables, using free printable resources for you to download!
One of my favorite things to do in January, February and March is to dream and plan for the new season's garden. This is the time to go through garden catalogs and see what new varieties there are and what you'd like to try in addition to your old standbys. To plan new areas to plant or revamp old gardens.
It's the time to have the garden of your dreams - before weather, bugs, and life get in the way. A time to write down your garden goals to see if you can harvest your own flowers and food this year.
If you've heard the gardener's mantra at the end of the season, "well, there's always next year," then you know what I'm talking about. In our dreams before the new season is about the only time our gardens are perfect. So I just take it and run with it.
And other than harvesting, it's the part of gardening I enjoy the most - and most people don't even think of it as gardening! Oh, but it is - and I think it's a key to having a garden that you're in control of that has a chance to actually produce what you'd like it to.
Take time to enjoy these steps now and you really will be on your way to your best garden ever!
5 Steps to Take Now For Your Best Garden Ever
1. Dream and Imagine
Take time to look through catalogs, magazines, and gardening books and think about what you would like your yard and garden to look like. You can tear out pictures for inspiration (um, not the books, though!) and then brainstorm a list of the things you like: new pathways to add, new seating, vegetable and flower varieties to try, and more.
Make or add to a Pinterest board - here are some of my gardening boards where you can find a ton of inspiration: Garden Tips & Techniques, Flowers & Plants, Fruits & Vegetables, and Container Gardens. I even have a DIY Garden Idea board if you'd like to plan some hardscaping or garden craft projects!
This is fun - don't skip this step! It really helps to get you excited for the season when you think of all the possibilities. Just list everything you like - you'll get more realistic in the next step.
2. Realistically Plan
Okay, now you've got the dream - how do you make it a reality? To plan realistically you've got to think about:
- What can you do this season?
- What should wait for future seasons?
- How much time time and other resources do you have?
- What is your budget?
Go through your dream list from step one and mark off the things that really aren't possible at all or move them to another future dream list.
TIP: Write it all down in a section of your gardening journal so you can refer to it later - there are pages for this in the Garden Success Plan Notebook that is FREE for all subscribers to AOC's weekly newsletter. Simply fill out the form below or Click Here to sign up!
For me, a look I love is the huge swaths of rolling English gardens full of flowers and shrubs. But I've done that (in two houses now - see our cottage-to-ranch garden tour here) and know the upkeep is not for me anymore. So I think about just my favorite flowers and where I can add a few of those (hydrangeas are definitely one for sure).
Again, there's a page in the Garden Success Plan Notebook where you can list your favorite flowers, trees, and shrubs and also one for your favorite vegetable and fruit varieties so you don't forget.
If you are new to gardening (or starting a new garden), I have a few resources that may help you create the easy-care garden we all desire:
- 10 Steps to Start a Vegetable Garden
- Design Your Vegetable Garden for Easy Care
- How to Plant a Garden the Easy Car Way (both vegetable beds and flower beds)
3. Sketch Out Your Plan
Once you've decided on what you can do this year, make a basic sketch on graph paper of the bed(s) you want. Use 1/4-inch graph paper and make one square = 1 foot (if that's too big, you can make each square equal 2 feet). Use one graph paper page for each flower bed or vegetable garden. (The graph paper you see above is included in your Garden Success Plan Notebook!)
For flower beds, make circles roughly the size the plants will need (i.e., 4 squares deep and wide for a 4-ft. wide plant) and use a number in each of them. Then list the numbers at the bottom of the paper with the plant names they represent.
4. Purchase What You Can
Now that you have a list of the plants you want to grow, make a list of what to buy. If your list includes bare-root plants or trees, you can start looking for them now in catalogs or nurseries to plant once your ground isn't frozen (if you live in a cold area). For us zone 8 gardeners, we can easily plant in February and March.
If you start vegetables and flowers from seed, you'll want to get your order in as early in the year as possible. Believe it or not, many of the most popular varieties are sold out by the end of January or February. You can always buy from seed racks in early spring, but your options are more limited.
You can read here why I think it's a great idea to start your own seeds, and this series will guide you through starting them all the way through planting the seedlings (as well as give you other vegetable gardening tips).
To make seed purchasing easy and make sure you don't buy what you don't need, use the "Seed Plant Needs" worksheet included in the free Garden Success Plan Notebook.
5. Start Implementing Your Plan
With your plan in hand, it's time to get started! Here are some things you can do as the season progresses:
- Start your seeds according to your last frost date (some seeds like peppers need to be started a good 2 months before setting out).
- Take advantage of a nice early spring day to create any new beds you sketched, taking these steps to create a new flower bed or use this tutorial to build a raised vegetable bed.
- Apply paper or cardboard and compost on existing beds.
- Look for sales on the plant varieties you on your lists - now that you've planned, you can take advantage of them.
- Plant your seeds and transplants as soon as you can for your garden zone.
Whatever you do, make sure to enjoy working in the dirt and turning something bare into a lush area that can provide you with beauty and food. It's always the end product in mind that spurs me on - I can't wait to cut the flowers for the kitchen or harvest the first lettuce of the season. Let that inspire you, too!
NEW: Download the beautiful checklist below to help keep you on track to your best garden ever and go along with your Gardening Success Notebook! Fill out the form below to subscribe to the newsletter and become an AOC VIP and gain access to the exclusive Subscriber's Library where you'll find the new checklist as well as the multi-page gardening journal (and lots more):
What are the ways you prepare for a new garden season?