For Release February 5, 2002

Itís Garden Planning Time

by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

Long before the first garden seeds go into the ground, there is a very critical step that needs to be taken. That step is called planning. Why do I bring this up now? Well, garden catalogs have been hitting the mailbox for about a month now. With the recent snow and ice, Iím expecting an epidemic of spring fever to go ripping through the region before too long. When you mix spring fever with garden catalogs, the results can sometimes be tragic!

Start by making scale drawings of all your vegetable and flower gardening areas. If you donít already know these, it is still easy to take the measurements even with snow on the ground. You will also want to mark on these scale drawings what the soil conditions are like, which way is north and what the sun and wind conditions are. For example, the flower bed in front of my house would be 3 feet by 50 feet, west side of house, afternoon sun, hot and dry, clay loam soil. From this I know how many square feet I have and what my limitations for plant growth are. I can quickly look at this and know that I shouldnít plant a partial shade cool weather flower like impatiens here!

Next, start a list of what you think you might like to grow this year and how much of it you want to grow. This is very important in vegetable gardens. If you want tomatoes for fresh eating, then one or two plants per person would be a great plenty. If you want some tomatoes for canning or salsa making, then you need more plants. The Extension Office has a handy little bulletin to help you decide how much of any garden crop to plant per person.

Now you will need to match your wish list up with the reality of the space you have available. More often than not, you will then start to reduce your list. You may decide that while youíve always wanted to try to grow parsnips, maybe itíll be easier to buy them at the grocery store. If space is not an issue, maybe your time and effort will be a limiting factor. A 1,000 square foot garden is usually adequate for most small family gardens. A 5,000 square foot garden will take a lot of time if you want to have any time to do anything else this summer and not let the garden turn into a weed patch.

Once you have all your wants matched up to space available, take the time to determine if what you want to plant is truly adapted to your location and growing season. Remember, there is a difference between plants merely surviving and thriving. If in doubt, give me a call at the Extension Office. This is usually more of a concern with flowers and perennials than with average garden crops.

The last step, prior to ordering the seed, is to perform a reality or validity check with your spouse and family. Your memories and desires may be, shall we delicately say, somewhat tainted. You may remember wonderful dishes made with summer squash, while all your family can remember is neighbors not answering the door bell and peeking out from behind drawn curtains as you tried to bring them more zucchini. Once you have finished this final check, you can order your seeds and plants.

There has been a lot of discussion the past several months about whether it would be safe to send garden seeds in the mail. Apparently, the postal service has backed off on its plan to irradiate all the mail. Seed companies have received the green light to ship seeds via the postal service and you shouldnít have to worry about mail order seeds either not growing, or growing in an abnormal manner!


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