I finally sat down Sunday afternoon and mapped out our 2013 garden plan. It's never a job that takes long, but it does tend to require some quiet concentration. Remembering what was planted where last year (so as to properly rotate), considering what areas get the best sun (so as to put family favorites there), sorting through my seeds to see what I have and what I need to order....it usually takes a few searches for old blog posts and several sheets of notebook paper.
My biggest problem is that the two biggest beds in my garden (where I have mapped out "Cosmos" and "Beans") don't get great sun. Cosmos grows like magic for me, and no one at my house will be heartbroken if the beans don't produce much. But I don't dare put something I love there for fear it will fail completely.
Back to the planning, though--I also find it helpful to make lists of what I will need to buy as plants and what I will buy as seed.
Unlike a lot of gardeners, I don't even try to grow everything from seed. When I'm only growing five tomato plants, for example, it's really more economical to just go buy the plants, especially because I would never grow five of the same kind. (Five different packs of seed at $2-3 apiece, plus grow lights and water and labor vs. five plants at, maybe, $3.50 each--you can see how that works out.) I might feel differently if our local greenhouses had limited varieties, but we have one that sells about a hundred kinds of tomato each year, which is plenty for even the most picky tomato grower!
I do order seeds for most things that can be directly planted in the ground at or around the time of our last frost--so lettuce, carrots, radishes, kale, sunflowers, squash, most herbs, peas, beans, etc. In the past few years I've been more concerned with where my seeds are coming from than I was when I first started out. I like Seed Savers, Seeds from Italy, and, of course, the wonderful Cubits folks. (Who kindly help sponsor this blog, and are a delightful seeming family even apart from that!)
And speaking of seeds, this year I did a germination test for the first time. I had some old morning glory and bean seeds that I couldn't remember when I had purchased. To see if they were still good, I wrapped several of each in a damp towel and put the towel in a plastic bag. I put the bag in a warm place for a few days, and, sure enough, all of the seeds sprouted, indicating that they're good-to-go for planting in a few months.
Of course, despite the mapping out and testing, the plan is always subject to change. I'm still considering whether to put in a potato barrel this year. And, after enjoying some of a friend's awesome home-pickled okra on New Year's Day, I'm tempted to make room for a few plants, if I can find a sunny spot.
Mmmm...the sun. I know that in July, I'll be dreaming of snow and cold, but right now the thought of grubbing through the dirt and letting the sun's warmth sink into my bones is much more pleasant than remembering that it's supposed to be in the teens tomorrow.