Lengthening daylight hours and hints of springtime signal the time to plan your garden. This Tower Power blog post is the first in a series of three to guide you in planning a successful year of gardening. We've crafted an infographic of the basics to get started!
🔗 USEFUL LINKS FROM THE INFOGRAPHIC ABOVE:
1) Plant Hardiness Zone Lookup:
2) Companion Planting Infographic and Database:
A Garden Journal or Sketchbook - This doesn't have to be fancy. It can be as simple as putting blank pages into a binder or use card stock or repurposed cardboard as the cover. This is a great activity to do with kids!
In your Garden Journal, you will record temperature and weather patterns, your garden designs, when and what you plant, as well as, your discoveries, successes and failures. This post has specifics on what to include in your journal. If you prefer going paperless, online options are available for a fee, like this one launching this Spring 2017 from GrowVeg.com.
No matter how you decide to collect garden information, the most important thing about a Garden Journal is that you keep one. Once you have your journal ready, you are ready to begin planning your garden!
Location, Climate, and Weather
Begin by observing and taking note of the largest patterns present in your location such as the climate, seasons, and movement of the sun during different times of year. On this grand scale, Plant Hardiness Zone maps can help you determine the length of your growing season and which types of plants will thrive in your geographic area.
These zones are based on weather patterns and the average lowest temperature. If you live in the United States, enter your zip code here to find your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone. If you live outside the U.S., BackyardGardener.com provides helpful resources. The Old Farmers’ Almanac will help you find the range and number of frost-free days with the Frost Date Calculator.
Record in your Garden Journal:
- Plant Hardiness Zone
- Average lowest temperature in winter
- Dates when frost-free season begins and ends
- Number of frost-free dates
Space and Tools
On a smaller, site-specific scale, the amount of available space and microclimates on your property will help determine the best place for your garden or gardens. Microclimates are small areas or habitats determined by variables such as surface type, walls, wind, water, trees, or other physical features. Answering the following questions will provide a clearer idea of where and how to create your garden.
Record in your Garden Journal:
- Do you have full sun, partial sun, shade, or a combination of these?
- Where are your available spaces? Patio, balcony, on concrete, in the yard?
- How many hours of daylight do these areas receive?
- Which areas are easiest to access?
- What kind of tools do you need? Containers, shovels, tiller, hose, watering can?
Gardens serve many purposes. Food, medicine, beauty, therapy, habitat and wildlife restoration are a few general themes. What is the primary focus of your garden?
For inspiration, check out this list:
(Click on graphic to enlarge)
The North Carolina Cooperative Extension also has great Garden Themes for Kids.
Explore different types of garden plants, herbs and flowers. Select varieties that will work with your available space and chosen theme. If you will have a small space or vertical garden, look for bush or container varieties. These are smaller in height and grow better in containers.
These sites provide great images and information for plant selection:
- The Old Farmer's Almanac Growing Guides
- The National Gardening Association's Plant Care Guide for Vegetables
- Better Homes and Gardens Plant Encyclopedia
Plant companions are helpful friends that benefit others. For instance, marigolds are friends with many plants in the garden due to their ability to repel pests. Surrounding tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, and brassicas (kale, broccoli, cabbage) plants with marigolds to defend them from nematodes and leafhoppers. These charts will help you discover which vegetables, herbs, and flowers grow well together and which ones should be separated.
Cliché as it sounds, timing is everything in gardening! The successful growth of your plants depends on the season, length of time for seed germination, and days to maturity. Pay close attention to these factors as you decide when to start your garden.
The amount of time you have available to spend gardening is also something to consider. Are you working full-time, a full-time parent, or both? Are you retired? Do you travel a lot? Think about how much time you will be able to commit daily to tending your garden.
Garden Tower Designs
If you are planning to grow in a Garden Tower 2, check out these tools: