A Little Spring in Winter

Garden Books

It has been an unpredictable ride so far this winter with weather. One morning we took our dogs out at 7 am and it was 47 degrees; the next morning- same time, same place, it was windchill of 9 degrees! I don’t know if I should be in a t-shirt or bundled up in multiple sweaters. How about you?

I know some of you have consistently colder or warmer temperatures than I do currently. But no matter where you are, those of us who have visions of gardening in upcoming months, are busily leafing through seed catalogs and gardening books. To look and dream while turning the pages encourages the mind and heart to believe that spring will arrive in the future! I love January and looking at my garden plan and adjusting based on what worked last year, what needs to be tweaked and maybe planning something new to plant this year.

My plan is simple and uses excel. I track everything from seed inventory, ordering seeds, starting seeds and planting seeds in my garden. You can see by the tabs at the bottom I also track varieties that I have, companion plants, what I harvest and can and more. Every year I pull the one up from the previous year and adjust. January is a fun time to pull this out!

But there is nothing like going through the catalogs right? I have more seed packs than I can count (literally), but there is always another tomato or squash that I must have!

tomato page from catalog

How about you? Do you have favorite catalogs or gardening books that you just have to look at in January?

Happy Unleashing (that gardener in you in January!)


Laying Out a Garden

IMG_20150609_091003001This is our 3rd year now in the gardening game and I am attempting to be a little more methodical about it. School has helped me understand the importance of planning in my garden. I shared my planning method with you several weeks ago. For some this wouldn’t work but for me it does (and is necessary). I am in excel during the day so it makes sense I would use it to plan my garden.

Jasmine of course joins us on all our garden activities.

The other thing we have done to make things easier in laying out the gardens and in the rotation of them is to standardized the size of them. Not 100%– the spring garden is still smaller as it really can’t be expanded where it is. “Potato Hill” as we call it is set in its size as well.  It too is planted in rows but you can’t really tell now!


But the others (there are 3 of them now) have all been sized to 45ft x 35ft. Where did that number come from? Only from the fact that Garden #3 was that size last year and it laid out really nicely. So we thought if we are bring rotation into the mix they should all be this size. Then it is easy from year to year to swap tomatoes to squash to beans, etc.

I like to plant in rows. I know it can be prettier to not use rows and aesthetically can be so nice to have “areas” of things. I also know that the plants can benefit from that in many cases. BUT that randomness doesn’t work for me- I have tried it with a big fail. And once things start growing and sprawling you really can’t tell that I am anal in my row planting anyway. 🙂

Hubby and I have come up with a method that works for us to lay these out. It is a two person job for us and that is good. It is fun to do and once it is laid out the seeds go in.

Here we go:

First we prep the garden. Our gardens are still either fairly new or brand new. This one, which is Garden #4 is a new one this year. It was in our field so we tilled it and added compost. Eventually I want to get away from the tilling of them, but for now that is what we do. Once this is done we have a clean slate to work with.


Next cut pvc into 3 foot lengths. We have tried this with 1/2″, but it does not work as well. Use 3/4″- it pounds in well and you will use them over and over. Cutting at a 45 degree angle allows it to go in the ground better.


Our rows are 50″ apart. We have 10 rows per garden. Layout 10 per side and start measuring.


First row starts a couple feet in.



Then the string comes. We use bright pink just because I like it. 🙂



We continue on; hubby places the pvc and I tie string.



After the 10 rows are in, we run one string across the other way so we can easily visualize the 1/2 way point in the garden. Many rows are planted in 1/2 so this helps section things off. IMG_20150609_092458396(1)

Ready for planting! The shovel is a garden marker. The girls made us garden markers last year out of different things; each have a number on them-this is #4. Really cool!


Pull out my plan & get those seeds in. You can see two colors here. Green are planting #1; yellow is planting #2 which will occur in 2 weeks. The blanks are simply that–empty. Nothing will plant there. This is the squash bed and with the way pumpkins and squash spread, they need some space so I skip rows. You can also see how each row is planting in 1/2 (hence the string across mid garden.)


Hope this helps if you have been challenged with garden layout. I know there’s lots of ways to do this. How do you do yours?

Happy Unleashing!



White in the Yard; Green on the Brain

Like many of you we have white surrounding us.


But I am deep into garden planning and my plan tells me that I am about to start seedlings!

garden plan

This weekend looks like I will be in the pole barn starting peppers, onions and eggplant. Starting plants is one of my very favorite activities. I blast music, get stuff under my nails and set my babies up for success!

Now for the line item that says to start prepping our gardens, hummm….well…. I don’t think so. Covered in new snow as of this morning, with ice underneath. It is going to be a bit before I am prepping outside. But I can start plants inside and I am so excited to do so.

The first line on my spreadsheet has the stuff I need to keep in mind in my planning. Most are self explanatory. If you aren’t familiar with the term “persephone” that is when daylight hours dip below 10 hours a day. That is really important for many plants and determines when you start things; especially if you fall and winter garden.


My garden plan is in excel (like I have shared before I am a geek) and my garden plan workbook has multiple tabs.

garden tabs

In plant varieties, I have specific varieties for each type of plant I would like to grow. Those that are not in green are seeds I already have. Those that are green, started as yellow– meaning that I had to get those. Since I have ordered and received my seeds they are now in green.

varieties in garden plan

Inside the companion tab I have plants that are great partners and those marked that should not be together. Yellow indicates same family of plants.


In the rotation tab I will indicate which garden each variety gets planted into for the next four years so that they are rotated. Rotation is great for the soil and great for your plants if you are able to do that.

Cost is simple– I track each expense so I can see how much I spend.

Some resources I have used are the “Week-by-Week Vegetables Gardener’s Handbook”, “Carrots Love Tomatoes”, “The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible”, anything Eliot Coleman and my school resources (of which are many!)

I have not been this formalized in my first two seasons and while I have had many successes, I have also had learnings. Most of those lessons entail just doing something at the wrong time, so I was committed over the winter to get this together. My plan includes reminders on thinning, weeding, hilling tomatoes and sharpening hoes as well.

Do you have a formalized plan of some type? Could be post-its, could be on a calendar itself, maybe it is in a notebook because you prefer to write out your plan, maybe you use another tool like Evernote. Whatever you do I think that it is just the planning that is important.

Are you in planning mode or planting mode?

Happy dreaming of green!