Posted by Carol O'Meara, Boulder County Extension
How quickly can a New Year’s resolution crumble? Several weeks ago, I wrote a list of the things I would or wouldn’t do in 2014. Although a few were reaching for the stars, I felt confident that the first of these, “I will not believe everything the seed catalog tells me,” was a promise I could keep.
I lasted one day. I wish I could blame this on my friend, who dropped by so we make a list of seeds to buy together this year. But the truth is, I was weak. The pages were glossy, the photographs lush with color; when they introduced the new stars of the season I could only sigh and acknowledge defeat. The Pandora’s Box of catalogs is open, and the season of dreaming is upon us.
Getting an early start on your garden plan is a smart move this year, since seeds sales are expected to be brisk. Last year, millions of U. S. households tried food gardening for the first time and if you started your shopping late, you might have found your favorite seeds were gone. There’s wisdom in shopping early, but unless you want to end up with more plants than places to put them, take a cozy morning and draw up your garden plan.
Begin with measurements of the square footage you can devote to your garden, then sketch out the garden on graph paper. I use one square per square foot, drawing in paths, raised beds, and trellising.
Next, make a list of vegetables, herbs, or fruit you’d like to plant. Look up the space each one needs to grow, and note that next to the item on the list. Draw the plants into your garden sketch, planning for them to have enough room to grow to mature size. Place taller plants to the north of the garden so they don’t shade the shorter ones as they grow.
As your map fills in, you’ll be able to tell if you’ve plenty of room for everything on your list or if you need to scale back your expectations. In my case, I won’t grow potatoes this year; they take up a lot of room and my interests are leaning towards more peppers. You might decide that planting fewer of everything is best.
Once you know what plants fit in your garden, you’re ready to shop. The choice of seeds versus seedlings is a personal one; it depends on whether you have the room to care for seedlings for eight weeks. Purchasing plants ready to pop in the ground is an easy way to jump into the garden.
But if you want a kitchen garden your foodie friends will envy, start your own seeds. Hundreds of varieties fill stands at local garden centers and catalogs are arriving in mailboxes for January perusing. Pouring over their pages is a good way to educate yourself in the cornucopia of choices for your food; a means to learn about everything from artichokes to zinnias.
But you can easily get lost in the belief that a gardener can do no wrong, because those writers gush over every plant in the catalog (just once, I’d like to see a little honesty). Get with a buddy to plan your purchases, stretching your dollar while increasing your gourmet choices. Order early, and you won’t be disappointed.