Harvesting Garlic from your backyard garden

The timing for harvesting garlic can be a little tricky.  This post will help you understand when you should be harvesting garlic from your backyard garden.

Harvesting Garlic

Garlic is a relative new comer to our garden.  We have been gardening for over 20 years, but 2017 represents only our 7th year of growing garlic.  One of the most frustrating things for me when we first started was when to harvest.  It’s hard to find a good description of when you should be harvesting garlic.  So hopefully this will help you!

When should you be harvesting garlic

First off, for most of us that live in the north, mid July is when you will really start thinking about harvesting garlic.  If you live further south your harvest time may be earlier.  You know harvest time is approaching when you start to see the tips of the leaves starting to brown.  I will usually wait for the first 2 or 3 leaves on the bottom of the plant to brown and wither.  When this starts to happen, give your plants one more good watering and then stop watering for anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks before harvesting garlic.

Turning the water off on your plants does a couple of things.  First it forces the bulbs to pull energy down from the leaves.  Second it allows the soil to dry out.  Mature garlic doesn’t like to sit in wet soil.  This will effect the storage length of your garlic and can also promote rot.  Let those last 2 or 3 weeks the bulbs are in the soil be a time for them to start the drying process.

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Your garlic is ready to harvest when about half the leaves have dried up completely.  That’s the trick!  If you plant has 12 leaves, then when 6 are dried and wither it’s time to harvest.  It really that simple!

Harvesting Garlic

Harvesting garlic is simple but you need to be gentle with the bulbs.  Using a shovel or even better a digging fork, gently lift and loosen the soil around the bulbs.  Then very gently pull the bulbs from the pre-loosened soil.  All the time during harvest be careful not to tug on, bruise or damage the bulbs as this will shorten your storage life significantly.

For some extra help on harvesting garlic check out this YouTube video I did last year:
When to Harvest Garlic

Curing Your Garlic

Curing is the next step.  Hang your garlic in small bunches or lay them out on a screen in a cool, airy, dark garden shed or garage.  Be sure the spot you choose has lots of air circulation and the garlic is out of direct sun.

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Curing takes around 2 to 3 weeks.  Curing is complete when the outside layers are dry and papery and the cut stem is dry about 2 inches above the bulb.

I also did a video on curing garlic last year so you can learn more here:

How to Cure and Store Garlic

Carefully clean any remaining dirt from the bulbs.  Trim the roots to about 1/2 inch.  Soft neck varieties can be braided as an attractive way to store them or you can cut the stems off to about 2 inches and store them loose in a mesh bag.  A cool dark spot with temps between 50 and 60 degrees is ideal!

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Hard neck varieties can store for up to 6 months.  Soft neck varieties can store for up to a year under the right conditions.

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Seedlings you should start in June for a fall harvest

I know in June it’s hard to even imagine cool fall temperatures. But there are seedlings you should start in June for a fall harvest. This post in meant for those of you living in Zones 4 to 6.

seedlings you should start in June

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Temperatures are approaching 100 degrees in our zone 5/6 garden. We still have the 6 hottest weeks of summer to look forward too. But despite all this heat there are seedlings you should start in June. These June started seedlings will be ready for transplant in mid August, just in time for the first signs of early fall!  You will be starting this seedlings indoors in your seed starter or at the very least in a sunny window seal.

Let me start this post out by reminding you if you want to learn more about seed starting or year round gardening I have video courses on both topics. Follow those links and you will get up to a 50% discount.

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What seedlings you should start in June

There are many cool season crops that can be planted in both the spring and fall. I’ve even found a few cool season crops that do even better in the fall than spring. One thing to keep in mind with fall planting is declining amounts of sun light. If the crop you are planting says it will mature in 75 days from transplant add at least 10 days to that number when planting in the fall to compensate for less light when the plants hit maturity.  You should target having your fall seedlings ready to transplant out into the garden roughly 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost.  This will give these plants plenty of time to develop and will also have them maturing once the hot summer temperatures are gone.

Here’s your list of seedlings you should be planting in June for fall harvest:
Broccoli

Fall grown broccoli will do really well. Be sure to choose varieties with the shortest maturity dates. Target varieties that mature in around 75 days.

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Cabbage

Both traditional and Napa type cabbages do well in the fall. Again look for varieties with short maturity dates of around 75 days. Don’t bother with the larger head types this time of year, they just won’t have time to mature.

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi needs time to size up in the fall, so getting starts going in June will have them ready for harvest shortly after your first frost. A little frost will improve the flavor of kohlrabi!

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Kale

Because it is more of a leafy green, kale will do fine if planted directly in the garden in the fall. But if you would like big healthy leaves early in the fall then get some seedlings planted now in June.

Brussels sprouts

Love them or hate them, Brussels sprouts make a great addition to a fall garden. Maturity dates are very long, so get seedlings started in June. These June planted seedlings won’t be ready until as late as November, just in time for Thanksgiving dinner!!

Chinese greens/cabbages

You will be able to plant many of these Chinese greens again by seed in the fall. But for an early harvest try starting some seedlings in June. They will be ready in early September.

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Lettuces

If you decide to plant lettuce seedlings in June choose summer crisp varieties. These heat tolerant lettuces can be planted out in the garden in August for harvest in September. Look for varieties like Nevada, Muir, Concept or Cherokee. Plan on continuing to plant lettuce seedlings every 3 weeks from June until September for a continuous harvest until December!!

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You will notice that nearly all the plants on this list of seedlings you should start in June are Cole family crops. All these cool weather loving crops need extra time to mature in the fall. They should be planted outside around 6 to 8 weeks before your first frost. Remember that the closer to 10 hour days, (in November) the slower your crops will grow. So you need to get the seedlings planted now, in June, so your plants have plenty of time to mature in the fall.

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Harvesting and Using Garlic Scapes

Using garlic scapes gives you an early second harvest from your garlic plants. Garlic scapes are a tasty addition to your early summer menu.

Garlic Scapes

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What are garlic scapes?

Lets start out our discussion on using garlic scapes by talking about what they are. Garlic scapes are the flower stalks of your garlic plants. Usually they will look like curly, pig tail like stems. If left on the plant long enough they will stand straight up and flower. It’s not really the best idea to leave the flower stalks on your garlic plants. Flowers draw energy away from the bulb and effect the quality and storage length of your garlic.

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You most often see garlic Scapes on hard neck garlic varieties. You will see an occasional scape on a soft neck plant, but hard neck varieties always grow Scapes. So if you want Scapes then you should choose to plant hard neck varieties.

Harvesting Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes start to appear about 4 to 6 weeks before the time to actually harvest your garlic bulbs. Scapes will first appear as small stems with this little flower bulb on the end. They will grow to be as long as 2 feet long. They almost immediately start to curl as they grow. I usually wait until they have at least one and a half curls in them before I harvest them. Scapes are better quality if harvested before the curl starts to straighten out. Once that flower stalk starts to stand up then the scapes loose some of their appeal.

Garlic Scapes 2

Harvest by simply cutting off the stem where it emerges from the plant. I usually clip them off with a pair of scissors or garden clippers. Be sure to remove them before they start to straighten out and flower. Letting them flower will draw too much energy from the plant and will produce inferior garlic bulbs.

Garlic Scapes 4

Using Garlic Scapes

You use garlic Scapes just like you would green onions. You can use the entire scape and cut it up how ever you like. Garlic Scapes have a very mild garlic flavor and will go great in almost any dish that calls for garlic. You can use them in the place of green onions as well, just realize they will have a garlic flavor not onion.

Younger scapes (harvested shortly after they form) are very tender and can be eaten raw. As the season progresses the scapes will become woody and less tender and the flavor will also be stronger. These scapes will need a little bit of cooking to tender them up!

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We use garlic scapes jut like we would Garlic and we often add it raw to salads.  Here are few other ideas for using your garlic scapes from a few of my blogging friends:

Lacto-fermented Garlic Scapes

Garlic Scape Infused Olive Oil and 5 Great Ways to Use It

Garlic Scape Pesto / Dip

Lacto Fermented Garlic Scape Recipe

Storing Garlic Scapes

Store harvested Scapes in the fridge. We have had them last as long as 15 days. If you have a lot of Scapes plan on using them up quick or sharing them with family and neighbors.

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Each year I leave one plant with the scape attached.  I know that when the stalk stands tall the the flower head opens that my garlic plants are ready to harvest!

For more information on Growing garlic take a look at these posts and videos:

Planting Garlic in the Fall fb

How to Cure and Store Garlic

When to Harvest Garlic

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DIY Friday – Simple Cucumber Trellis

Building a simple cucumber trellis for your garden will help the production of your cucumber plants.  This plan uses easy to find lumber and will cost you less than $10 to build!

Build a Simple Cucumber Trellis

This post contains affiliate links, clicking on them with not cost you any thing extra, but does allow Stoney Acres to make a small commission on your purchase through the Amazon Affiliate Program!

I love to have some structures in the garden.  Not only are they handy to use but they add interest and character to the look of your garden.  This simple cucumber trellis has been a great addition to our vegetable garden!

Cucumbers are one of those garden plants that really begs for a trellis!  Many plants will grow on a trellis but in my opinion cucumbers need a trellis to reach their full production potential.  A big sprawl of cucumber vines with the fruit growing on the grown will never be as productive as vines growing vertically.

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A simple cucumber trellis need to be sturdy and move-able.  You shouldn’t grow cucumbers in the same spot year after year, to help prevent pest and disease problems you need to put them in a different spot each year.  So a few years back I came up with this simple, cheap trellis.

Here’s all you need to build a simple cucumber trellis:

18 feet of 2 x 2 lumber

4 heavy deck screws 2 1/2 inches long

12 to 20 – 1 1/8 inch eye hooks

Some garden twine (or in my case baling twine)

Simple Cucumber trellis 1

Lumber

The lumber is the cost variable on this project.  If you use redwood or cedar it will last longer but cost a lot more.  Pine or fir will be 1/4 the cost but may not last as many years.  Also you can by 2 x 2’s in pine but if you want to use any other type of lumber you will most likely buy 2 x 4’s and have to rip them on a table saw.

Simple Cucumber trellis 2

We chose to use Douglas Fir 2 x 4’s which we quickly ripped in half on the table saw.  We then cut 3 of the resulting 2 x 2’s to 6 feet in length and cut a 45 degree angle on the bottom of 2 of the boards.  The Douglas Fir should easily last 6 years, more likely 8.

Eye Hooks

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These eye hooks are simple to use and should outlive the lumber and can be reused if you ever have to rebuild.

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Drill a small pilot hole and then screw in the hooks by hand.  We chose to put hooks on the sides of the trellis every 10 inches and along the top rail as well.

Out in the Garden

Now head out to the garden with your drill and deck screws.  Drive the two side posts into the ground about 1 foot deep.  We were lucky to have a post driver to do this, but if you don’t have a post driver you can use a heavy mallet or even a hammer.

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Once the side posts are in, place your top rail on the posts and secure  with a couple of deck screws on each side.

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Now simply string your twine between the hooks in what ever pattern you like.

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I have found that cucumbers need a little extra support at the bottom so I wrap an extra piece of twine around the posts at about 12 inches.  This gives a spot for the cucumbers to climb through when they are still small.  They don’t really start putting out runners and “grabbing” onto the twine with tendrils until they are about 12 inches tall.  If you give them this first row to go through the plants are supported on both sides at the bottom.

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When the Season is over

When the season is over you can just cut off the twine (that brown garden twine usually only lasts 1 season).  Then back out the screws at the top, pull the side posts out of the ground and bring the whole thing indoors to your garage or garden shed for the winter (this will help the wood last longer).

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And there you go!  A simple, sturdy trellis for your cucumbers (of course you can use this trellis for just about any climbing veggie or melon).  The trellis keeps the fruit out of the dirt, the leaves and vines have much better air circulation and it’s easier for you to find the fruit and the bee’s to find the flowers.

What other simple garden structures do you use in your garden?

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Hardening off your transplants

An important part of growing your own seedlings is hardening off your transplants. Don’t skip this step or you risk loosing your transplants completely!

Hardening off your transplants

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You have dutifully cared for your new seedlings indoors for 6 weeks and you have a tray full of beautiful plants that look ready to head out to the garden. What now?

There is one more step on the seed starting process that you shouldn’t skip.

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Hardening off your transplants

Hardening off your transplants is the important final step before planting your seedlings in the garden. For the last 6 to 8 weeks your seedlings have been growing in near perfect growing conditions. If you have done your job right your seedlings have been receiving plenty of water, light and nutrition. They have also been growing indoors with very moderate temperatures and no wind. All of this leads to very healthy starts but they are also a little pampered and tender.

The process of hardening off your transplants, slowly prepares your new plants for the harsher conditions out in the garden. Skip this step and you risk causing a shock to your plants from which they may never really recover. Hardening off your seedlings is accomplished by slowly exposing your seedlings to the conditions out in the garden.

When to start hardening off your transplants

Start hardening off your transplants at least a week to ten days before you intend to plant them in the garden. For the first 2 or 3 days bring your seedlings out side for only a few hours, at the most 4 hours. If you are hardening off your seedlings in the cool spring then these first few days could be directly in the garden. If you are hardening off your seedlings in the hot summer or fall you may want to make those first few days under a shady tree so the plants can first get use to the heat with protection.

As the days go on continue hardening off your seedlings by increasing The amount of time they spend outside each day by a couple of hours per day. If you are hardening off your seedlings in the early spring be sure that some of the time spent outside also includes time at night so your plants can adjust to the cold night time temperatures as well.

How long should you harden your transplants

I usually shoot for at least a week to ten days of hardening off time. Be sure to include hardening time in you overall calculations of time for your seedlings. You want most seedlings to only spend about 6 to 8 weeks in pots, any more time than that risks your seedlings becoming root bound in the pots. That 6 to 8 weeks must include the hardening off time so start setting your plants out at the 5 to 7 week mark.

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While you are hardening off your seedlings you need to continue watering and fertilizing as you normally would. In fact be extra sensitive to the water needs of your seedlings while they are hardening. Those small pots don’t hold a lot of moisture and can dry out quickly on a hot or windy day. So be sure you check the condition of your plants often while they are outside. Once your seedlings have been hardened off get them out of those restrictive pots and into the garden!

Remember hardening off your transplants is a process you don’t want to skip. Doing it creates stronger and healthier plants for your garden. In fact I recommend hardening off store bought seedlings for at least a week as well!

 

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May Planting Guide – 27 crops to plant this month

For zones 4 to 6 May is the time when the bulk of your warm weather crops are planted. This May planting guide will cover all the warm season crops that should be planted this month.

May Planting Guide

This post contains affiliate links, clicking on them with not cost you any thing extra, but does allow Stoney Acres to make a small commission on your purchase through the Amazon Affiliate Program!

Let me start out by giving you a quick link.  This post is meant for those of you living mainly in Garden Zones 4 to 7.  If you don’t know what your garden zone is follow this link to find out!

I think May is my favorite month in the garden. This month is when all the work gets done for my summer garden!! In this May planting guide I will take you through what crops should be planted in your garden. This May planting guide is meant to help those of you in zones 4, 5 and 6 to get your summer harvest started! Your average last frost date is the key. Most of your May planting will be based on that date.  So if you don’t know it find it out before you start planting. The easiest way I have found to find that average last frost date is to Google “average frost dates for “your town”.

Cool Season crops you can still plant

If your May and June weather is still pretty mild you can get away with planting a few cool season crops. Those of you in zone 4 will have the best luck with these.

Cabbage

Cabbage is one of those cool season veggies that continues to do well in the warmer weather. Plant cabbage using seedlings any time in May, frost won’t effect this hardy plant.

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Beets

Beets also do well in warm weather and can be planted any time in May. Again frost really doesn’t bother this plant.

Lettuce

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Lettuce does really well in May. Choose faster growing leaf varieties that will be mature in 45 days or so, before the real heat of summer sets in. Or you could try some of the summer crisp lettuces. These varieties are breed to withstand the heat of summer. Varieties like Nevada, Muir and Concept, will do great in the summer and avoid many of the traditional problems lettuce have when it gets warm.

May Planting Guide – Warm Season Crops

The bulk of the crops this May planting Guide will cover will be warm season crops. Once your final chance of frost is gone for the year (and in some cases a little before) it is time to start planting your warm season crops. Below is a list of all the warm season crops you can get planted in May.

Corn

Both sweet corn and popcorn can be planted in May. Corn is a warm season crop and will be effected by frost. I have found that you can usually get away with planting corn seeds about 10 days before your last threat of frost. The seeds will take between a week to 10 days to germinate so they will be protected in the soil from frost. If you would like to learn more about growing your own popcorn take a look at this post. Also if you would like to learn about my favorite method for growing corn in a small garden check out this post.

May Planting Guide 2
Tomatoes, peppers and egg plant

All 3 of these warm season crops are VERY frost sensitive. So you will want to wait until your average last frost date to get them planted. Even after that average last frost date you need to keep a careful watch on the weather reports for a couple of weeks to be sure a late season frost isn’t going to ruin your crop! One option to consider is planting your tomato family crops in a Walls O’ Water to keep them safe from the frost until June.

Melons

Plant watermelon, crenshaw, cantaloupe and other melons in May. These plants can all be planted either by seedlings or by seed. Melon plants are also VERY frost sensitive so be sure to get them out after the chance of frost is past. Consider buying some Heavy Fabric Row Cover cover to help protect your melons from a late frost.

Squashes

All of the squash family are also considered warm season crops and are super frost sensitive. My preferred method of planting squash is by seeds, but they can also do okay if planted by seedlings. Just be sure the seedlings you choose are VERY small and haven’t started vining yet. The squash family includes summer squashes like zucchini, crookneck squash and patty pan. This family also includes winter squashes like pumpkins, butternut, spaghetti and banana squash. And of course don’t forget our favorite, cucumbers!

May Planting Guide 3
Potatoes

This May planting guide also includes potatoes.  Potatoes usually take a long time to germinate and are more frost hardy than many other warm season crops. So you can get potatoes planted early in the month. Get them in the ground as soon as you can and consider spacing your plantings a bit, maybe one planting early in the month and the other at the end of the month. This will spread out your harvest of potatoes in the summer and fall.

Beans (Green and shelling)

One of our favorite warm season crops is green beans. Both the bush and pole varieties can be planted all of May.  Keep in mind that again they are frost sensitive. So if you choose to plant them early in the month be prepared to protect them with a frost blanket.

Herbs

May is a great month to plant nearly all of your annual herbs. Basil, dill, oregano, parsley and more will all do well when planted in May. Herbs are slightly more frost resistant but you still need to take care that the plants are not exposed to a heavy frost! May is also a great time to plant perennial herbs as well!

Okra

Once your soil has warmed to over 70 degrees you can plant Okra. It is very frost sensitive and also likes heat so you should put off planting this veggie until late in the month when things have really warm up!

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Parsnips

For those of you with a short growing season you should consider getting some parsnips in the ground in late May. Parsnips are a cool season crop but they also have a VERY long growing season of between 100 to 130 days. So if you want a crop in the fall and early winter then those of you will shorts seasons will want to get them planted in late May.

Everbearing Strawberries

May is a little too late to plant bare root strawberries.  But if your local nursery has strawberry starts of everbearing varieties get some planted. If you choose everbearing plants you will even get a small harvest this fall!

Sweet Potatoes

If you have been growing sweet potato slips indoors, late May is the time to get them in the ground. Remember that sweet potatoes are frost sensitive.  They shouldn’t be planted in the soil until SOIL temperatures reach 70 degrees.

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I hope this May planting guide has helped you to get started on your warm season crops. Please just keep in mind that you need to know your average last frost date to determine when you should be planting most of these crops.

Did I miss anything? Let me know if there is something missing from my list!

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Planning Your Garden – 6 ideas for your best garden yet!

Planning your garden is an important step that many gardeners neglect. Get yourself some paper, make a map, and plan out your garden this year.

Planning your garden

If you haven’t already started planting your garden, I’m sure you will be soon.  Please take a few minutes before you start this year to create a written garden plan that includes a map.  Then take that map and include it in your garden journal so that you have it for the next several years.  For me planning your garden is one of those tasks that can be completed in the dead of winter. It’s nice to think about my summer garden when the world is covered in snow!

This often over looked step in the gardening season can save, you time, prevent diseases, and make for an overall more productive garden. There are 6 things you should be planning for in your garden.

The how and whys of planning your garden.

An annual garden plan that includes a map is an important tool for your garden. This map lets you see what was planted year to year. As good as you think your memory is, your garden will begin to blend together in you mind after a few years. It’s important to have last years map to help with this years planning. This map helps with many of the other planning tasks outlined below.

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Plan for succession planting.

The next step in planning your garden is to plan for succession planting. Succession planting in its simplest for is just figuring out a planting schedule that will allow the most use of your garden space. As one crop matures you should plan for another to take its place.

Here are a few examples:

Peas, this early spring crop is usually finished up by mid June in my garden. This leaves a whole bed and a whole summer to deal with. You need to plan what will follow in this bed.

Short season crops like spinach or lettuces can be followed in the summer with warm season crops.

Planning your garden 2

Plan for larger warm season crops like tomatoes having a faster growing cool season companion. Depending on the bed size I often plant either beets or broccoli on the south side of the bed where I plan on planting my tomatoes. These cool season crops don’t take up too much space and will be close to maturity when I set out my tomato seedlings. They will finish up growing and be harvested before the tomatoes start to take over the beds.

Plan for crop rotation

The next step in planning your garden is to plan for crop rotation. Rotating your crops through your garden beds is a vital practice for every gardener. Even those of you with small gardens should practice crop rotation.

Crop rotation is too big of a subject to try to tackle in this post. But I have a three part series I wrote on crop rotation that will help you out with that topic. The first post in that series can be found here.

Plan for companion planting

Planning your garden includes making a plan for companion planting. The growth and production of many plants is enhanced if they are closely partnered with other plants. Learn more about this interesting practice by reading this post by my blogging friend.

Plan for Shade

The amount of sun your garden receives each day will vary a lot based on the time of year. Shadows from trees or buildings, particularly those on the south side of your garden are much longer in the spring and fall. So you need to plan accordingly. Leafy greens can do well in the shade so plan those crops for the shady spring spots and then replace with sun love crops as the shade recedes

Plan for seedlings

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If you grow your own seedlings be sure to take a little time to plan out the dates you want to get them started. Remember that most veggie starts need between 6 to 8 weeks before they are ready to transplant. To learn more about growing your own seedlings check out our Seed Starting Simplified course.

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Plan planting times

As you yearly garden plan comes together make notes and put together a schedule of the actual dates you will be planting out in your garden. We all have busy lives and having a planting schedule that you can transfer to your calendar is a great way to keep your garden on track.

Planning your garden is an important step. Take some time over the next 6 weeks or so to sit down and map our your garden year.

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