Yesterday the garden was covered with snow. Today the temperature is is near 50 and we are back to mud.
So it goes with late winter/early spring in Pennsylvania.
The warm weather has me itching to start gardening. I've been able to spend a little time outdoors pruning the grapes, berries, and roses. I find myself gazing over the garden. In my mind's eye, I see a bountiful, weed-free garden untouched by ground hogs or blight.
No garden is so lovely as the one dreamed in February.
Since I'm asked questions by beginning gardeners, I'm going to share advice to those just beginning the gardening adventure. Today we'll talk about planning.
A garden should begin in February - with wise planning.
In Luke 14, Jesus speaks of counting the cost before starting a building project. Gardens benefit from planning too.
A common mistake of beginning gardeners is to make the garden too large. Evaluate how much time you can invest in making your garden a success. An overgrown garden in August will only demoralize your desire to try again next year. Growing a huge market garden and letting it rot in the field is a waste of money and effort. If gardening is new to you, better to start small and increase slowly. Successfully grow one tomato plant, before planting a dozen.
Evaluate what your family eats. Do you like to eat a lot of salad? Or do you want to freeze green beans? If no one will eat brussel sprouts or eggplant, don't bother to plant them.
There is also a limit to how much a family can eat at one time. One family is unlikely to eat a dozen cabbages unless you plan to preserve them. Stagger plantings so your produce is not all maturing at the same time.
Put thought into your garden location. Very few vegetables will grow in the shade. Choose your sunniest spot. If you have a spot where a thick stand of grass is growing, or even a healthy crop of weeds, underneath the vegetation is probably some good rich soil that will support a garden.
It is nice if the garden is handy to the kitchen, but more important is sunlight and good soil. My garden is behind our house and over a hill. Not handy at all but it is the best soil on our rocky acreage - so that is where we put our garden.
If your soil appears to be poor, only plant low demand vegetables such as beans, beets, and potatoes. If you attempt to grow a plant that demands highly fertile soil it will only be a waste of money. After a few years of soil building, you can tackle the more demanding vegetables such as cauliflower, peppers, and melons.
Next time we'll talk about buying seeds.
What advice do you have to a gardener beginning their first garden?