Feb 062016

This post is a one I had written a few years ago.  While it is already February, there is still time to follow through with these steps in order to get your gardening process in order before it is time to put seeds and plants in the ground.

At the bottom, I have included links to the posts referenced below.


At the end of a gardening season I always find myself ready for a break.  However, by the new year I am ready to get going again, but always feel a bit behind.  It is like I am starting a race a minute behind all the other runners.  This year I hope to change that.

Before the end of the year I am going to do a series on creating a calendar for the next growing season.  By the time you are done, your calendar will have different important dates marked.  Things like frost dates, planting times, garden prep times and so on.  We will be breaking the process down into baby steps, doing a bit each day over the course of week or two.

Step #1: Get a calendar

With the Christmas season and the New Year coming up, we are going to start seeing offers for free calendars.  I wanted to go ahead and let you know about this upcoming series of posts so that:

  1. you would be on the lookout for a free calendar, or one that you might want to use
  2. to keep myself accountable

This series won’t run until after Christmas, so you have time.  However, don’t wait too long.  Before you know it you will be up to your elbows in cooking baking or up to your knees in shoveling snow.  This is a very easy step, so go ahead and just do it.

What should you be looking for in the calendar to use?  Preferably a calendar that has squares large enough for you to write in.  Now, whether this is a hanging calendar or a pocket calendar is up to you.  It just needs to be something that will not get put under a pile of papers, but which can be kept with your gardening supplies. You could even print something off from your computer if all else fails. Do not try to find the perfect calendar, it just won’t happen and is not needed for this.

As of right now here are the free calendars I know of :

Rural King – pick up a calendar when you visit the store.  I’m not sure what they look like.  However, if you are going there, take a look.

 – this offer is only good if you were already a member as of 10/29/12.

Live Better America – for members only.

(Here is a post from 2015 also mentioning a few sources for free calendars.)

As I come across more offers I will share them with you.  You may also find them at church, local businesses, your local municipality or utility providers, and so forth.

There are many, many free printable calendars out there.  A simple search will turn up more than you know what to do with.

Also, I have found pocket calendars at Dollar General for $1 or $.50 which would work okay for this.  They contain a calendar that goes for two years and is the one that I have in my purse.  The squares are large enough to write in, though a bit on the small side if you want to put more than one thing on a date.

The following are the steps I took to create a garden calendar.  Most of the steps are quick, though some may take a few minutes to find the information to add to your calendar.  Have fun with this activity.  It is meant to not only set you up for greater success in your garden, but also to help take away any anxiety or forgetfulness you might have.  It is not meant to be yet another chore that needs to be done.

Day 1: Getting Started

Day 2: Planning Backwards

Day 3: Begin List of Plants

Day 4: Adding Details To Your List

Day 5: “Start Seed” Dates

Day 6: Transplant Dates

Day 7: Finding Things Elsewhere, Part 1

Day 8: Finding Things Elsewhere, Part 2

Day 9: Create Wishlist

Day 10: Adding Details to Your Wishlist

Day 11: Expected Harvest Dates

Day 12: Garden Prep

Day 13: Compost

Day 14: Keeping Track Along The Way

Day 15: Order, or purchase, Dates

Dec 122014

Last Frost Date marked on calendar

In the past, I also did a series on Creating A Garden Calendar to help you get ready for the upcoming gardening season.  From seed starting to turning you compost pile, it took you step by step through the process of writing down when you needed to do what in your garden.  While this is not necessarily a FREE calendar, it is a great thing to do once you have your calendar in front of you for the upcoming year.

squash seedling among bean seedlings

Burpee has an online growing calendar that is easy to use.  Input your zipcode and it will show you planting dates for a long list of vegetables.  It has a few things marked as starting indoors that are a bit later than I like, but I believe it is just a personal preference.

All Things Plants  has a Garden Planting Calendar I like, as they not only show you the dates for various plants, but also explain some of the things you should be looking to indicate it is planting time.  Input your zipcode for specifics to your growing zone.


Shop Travel and Scenic Calendars!

If you live in West Virginia, you will be able to request a 2015 Roadsides In Bloom calendar.

We love the Read Across America program and have participated several years in a row.  If you go to their site, you can email to request a free 2015 Read Across America literacy calendar. Then do not forget to mark your calendars! Read Across America Day is March 2, 2015.


Apr 172014

calendar coffee computer

Last week I talked about organizing your seeds and keeping track of your seed starts once you have actually accomplished that task.

“But I haven’t even started those.  I am so far behind!” you might be saying.

Well, today is better than never.  While it may be too late to start tomato or parsley seeds, in most Zones it is not too late to begin planning your garden.  Where I am, our last frost date has not even occurred.  If you are wanting to garden this year, but already feel behind this post is for you.

If you are brand-new to gardening I would suggest you start small, with a few of the easier to grow plants.  Take your time to research and ask around, find what grows best in your area.  The extra time will pay off in the long run with better results.

list of plants for garden seed transplant

First, you will need to grab a pen and paper.

Secondly, list all the plants you would ideally like to grow in your garden.

garden plan and cilatro seed packet

Thirdly, draw up a layout of your garden.  This does not have to be fancy or to scale.  The layout  in above was when I was expanding my boxes and trying to lay it out better.  I took more time in making it.  The year after I picked up a scrap of paper, drew rough shapes and listed things in columns rather than squares.  I understood the column meant those plants were going in that order.  Do what work for you.  You can take time later to make it pretty.

weeks before first frost seed starting

Last Frost Date marked on calendar

Next, grab your calendar and mark the average last frost date.

First Frost Date Marked on Calendar

first frost date and 2 weeks before on calendar

Now mark the average last frost date.

After those two are done, go back to the list of plants you wrote out earlier and note when each needs to be started (weeks before last frost).  If there are any you still have time, and want, to start put a note beside the name.  If you will need to buy a transplant, note it.  I used ‘S’ and ‘T’ respectively – seed and transplant.

There you have it, you have now planned your garden.  It may not be 100% perfect.  It may not be pretty enough to brag about on Pinterest, but that was not the goal.  The goal was to plan it out.

seedling list 2014

Now for the fun part, getting your hands dirty.

Does your garden need to be marked off?  Tilled?  Amended?  Make notes of those needs also at the bottom of your list.

Do you need to start seeds now?  Make a list of what it is you will need, then go get it.

If you are already feeling behind, this is your chance to jump back on the wagon and enjoy the rest of the ride.  Don’t put off longer the things you need to do or else you will find yourself too far behind to catch up this year.

Enjoy gardening!




May 022013

Yesterday, Chiot’s Run had this week’s 5 x 5 Gardening Challenge.  They showed how they built their raised bed.  Though I didn’t put as much work into mine (I used straight boards and screws) it does go to show that there is more than one way to make a raised bed.  There are actually as many ways to do it as you can think of.

Organic Gardening shows 5 more ways to build  raised beds.   Three of the methods I had never seen before and was glad they chose to step out of the box of ‘normal’ raised beds.  I love how it showed that you can use what you have, and there is no ‘right’ material to use.

How to build raised beds

From OrganicGardening.com – How to Build Raised Beds

May is here already.  Yes, I’m a day late, but it is par for the course this week.  I got my hostas divided and replanted last month, as was on the to-do list for that month.  Dividing them while working in mud meant the process wasn’t the prettiest of activities.  However, after a few days with no rain the layout looks more promising.  I’m looking forward to this summer and having more plants to shade out some weeds.  Not only did I divide them and put some in two different beds, I also spread them out in the bed they were already in.  I love it when I don’t have to go buy more plants, or grow them, because the ones I want are already growing and multiplying in my yard.  Now for the plants I want to go away and stop multiplying, I wish there was an ‘Off’ button and I’ve been know to mutter under my breath at them.

Every garden and zone will have different items to do each month so please see what is needed in your particular garden.  While you are at Organic Gardening looking over their lovely raised beds, take a look at their to-do list for your Zone.  Their list is very similar to what I have on mine:

  • Plant tomatoes and peppers
  • Plant lettuce, herbs and more onions
  • Plant flowers, both in vegetable garden and in flower beds

(Are you seeding a pattern yet? Planting.)

Now to be more specific for my garden:

  • Finish putting fencing up around garden beds – this would have been finished yesterday, but I came up 3 feet short of fencing at the end of the day. 🙁
  • Plant zucchini
  • Trim bushes along entry walk

bushes with landscape fabric and mulch finished

  • Apply grass seed in front yard
  • Put fencing up around smaller garden bed
  • Remove concrete pieces under tree in corner of yard (left over from previous owners)
  • Remove bushes/trees that are growing under tree in corner of yard
  • Spread out dirt left over from replacement of water line – reseed in grass
  • Put together patio planting container
  • Plant cucumbers in topsy-turvy planters.  Hang.
  • Apply mulch around blackberry bushes
  • Make new cushions for porch swing


This is also a great time to get out your gardening calendar and update items on it.  Are there things you have done recently?  Items you are planning on doing?  Add them in to help you remember at the end of the season, or the beginning of next, what you did when.

I’m excited to see the garden finally come together.  All the planning and idea making … to see it a reality is great.

At the suggestion of a friend, I contacted the company I ordered plants from this year.  Not wanting to make waves I had been hesitant to do so.  Then I was reminded of their guarantee policy and figured I had nothing to lose from it (and I could stop the “woe is me” attitude). I told them about one blackberry bush not coming up at all (no buds, no leaves and when you scratch the stem to see if it is still green underneath … well, I gave up as I would have broken off a nail trying). They were really good about it and will be sending me another one in the mail soon.  Thank you Gurney’s.  I also inquired about the strawberries.  They suggested I wait another week or two as it is still a bit early for them.  Yes, I feel like a mother hen watching over her eggs worrying that they haven’t hatched yet.  “Grow, strawberries, grow.  You can do it!”

What is your favorite item on your garden’s to-do list for May?

Jan 092013

We are working our way through a series called “Creating a Garden Calendar“.  If this is your first time joining us, welcome.  You are not too late to join us.  Grab a calendar, pen, and beverage of choice.  You will be right where we are in no time.

Today we are going to take the final step in preparing our gardening calendars.  Write down the date to order your seeds.  Even better,if you are ready to do so, go ahead and order them. (Here are some discount codes/offers for Burpee, if you plan to order from them. Also, check the seed catalogs you ordered for more discounts from those specific companies.) Every year this feels like a big step and fills me with a mix of dread and excitement.  I seem to check and recheck my list about 10 times, then sleep on it, before putting the order in.  You would think the future of the world depended upon my order.

Also, write date when you need to start looking at the nursery/garden center for the plants you need.  This is something I seem to forget about every year until a friend mentions that she saw them at the store.

If you find that you are just not quite ready to submit those orders, that is okay.  There is no need to rush into ordering seeds and plants.  You already have down the date to do so and you know when you will need to start seeds or put transplants into the ground.

Did you decide to go ahead and order your seeds, or did you write down a future date?  Do you feel more ready for the 2013 garden season now that your calendar is started and you can see the dates?

Tomorrow, there will be a link up for posts regarding garden preparations.  If you have a current post, or an old one that you would like to link to be sure to come back and share it.  If you don’t have one to share, that is okay.  Stop by and see what others have been or are doing.

Jan 082013

We are working our way through a series called “Creating a Garden Calendar“.  If this is your first time joining us, welcome.  You are not too late to join us.  Grab a calendar, pen, and beverage of choice.  You will be right wehre we are in no time.

Today we are not going to be adding to the garden calendar.  Instead I want to mention something that may want to do as the gardening season progresses.  That is, make notes of dates, times or quantities on your garden calendar.

Things you can take note of as time goes on:

  • how much you spent on seeds
  • when you ordered seeds or purchased transplants
  • when “first” harvest of a specific plant happened
  • when you tilled
  • when applied fertilizer
  • when and/or how long you weeded
  • how many new canning jars or freezer bags/jars you bought and for how much
  • how many jar of something canned, quarts frozen, etc.

The purpose of this is so you will have a better understanding of your garden or preservation.  Next year you will be able to reference these dates, times or quantities to get a better sense of when things happen or how long they take.

What are items you want to take note of?  Are there things from last year that you wish you remembered this year?

Jan 072013

We are working our way through a series called “Creating a Garden Calendar“.  If this is your first time joining us, welcome.  You are not too late to join us.  Grab a calendar, pen, and beverage of choice.  You will be right where we are in no time.

Compost is something I tend to forget about, that is until I need it.  Then I wonder why it is I have not added more items to it weeks ago.  Even more importantly, why did I not turn it sooner so thing would break down faster?

Make a note on your calendar every two weeks or once a month to turn your compost pile.  This will aid in it breaking down faster and you having compost to add to your garden or beds.

If you don’t have a compost pile, think about adding one.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or elaborate.  It could even just be a pile away from the house where you dump all your extra food scraps, lawn clippings, leaves, soil from old pots, etc.

If you happen to live in a place where compost piles are not allowed, consider doing your composting under ground.  In one bed of mine I have a rock that marks the last place I buried scraps.  I have a system for moving from one side of the bed to the other.  After I bury items in the next place, I cover them with soil then move the rock on top.  In this way I am able to add compost to a bed that is very visible.  It is also right outside my door, which is nice on days it is rainy or snowing and I don’t want to walk all the way to the compost pile.


Jan 062013

We are working our way through a series called “Creating a Garden Calendar“.  If this is your first time joining us, welcome.  You are not too late to join us.  Grab a calendar, pen, and beverage of choice.  You will be right where we are in no time.

Wow.  You have come such a long way towards getting your calendar together.  Is it starting to look filled up?  We are almost done with this series, only a few days left, and I am getting so anxious to actually start my garden.  However, there is snow on the ground outside and temperatures are currently in the 30’s  (that is around 0 degrees Celsius for those not in the U.S.).   Not exactly gardening time now is it?  However, that is exactly why I wanted to create the calendar now.  Seed starting time is just a few weeks off for me, for certain plants that is.  Okay, now I’m starting to wonder and day dream.  It doesn’t help that I checked out videos on seed starting this morning.

The details we are adding to our calendars today have to do with garden preparations.  This is a bit hard for me to write specifics on as every garden and gardener are different.  It is impossible for me to say that you, personally, will need to remove old limbs and leaves, add a certain kind of compost and then till up your soil.  What if you live in an area that has no limbs or leaves?  Or it is possible that you have no need to till your soil due to gardening in raised beds.

With that in mind I am going to give you an idea or activities to add to your calendar, but the bulk of the thinking will have to be left up to you.  As you go through the list below, ignore what doesn’t apply to you.  Think of this more as a list to start from and perhaps jog your memory and just get you thinking about the process.  Also, these are in no specific order.  Some people prefer to do things differently than I.  For that reason I would encourage you to first write your list on a scrap piece of paper.  Once you have your items in order you can add them to your calendar.

  • add compost, lime, ash, calcium, etc.
  • turn soil over – till or with a trowel
  • add soil – for me this means that I need to make my raised beds taller.  I have been in other places where a garden has a low spot that just needs soil added.  Again, think about YOUR garden.
  • trim bushes, shrubs, and trees – those nearby and those that may be part of your garden.  Note your spring and fall times or reminders for this
  • remove debris – limbs that have fallen (compost these if possible, don’t thrown them away), old markers that were missed last year, etc.
  • take stock of: tomato cages (number and condition), landscape fabric or mulch, trellises, cages, markers, seed starting materials (pots, soil, trays, light bulbs, space), watering post and other materials you will use along the way
  • note a day to send in soil for a soil test
  • canning supplies – jars, lids, pectin, canners (what condition are they in, do you need/want to get your pressure canner checked, do you need more/bigger/smaller ones this year), shelving for jars (do you have space to store what you will preserve and for empty jars)
  • add drainage solutions
  • paint or waterproof decorative items

There are some items I will need to do in certain parts of the garden (till up soil from an area that used to be part of a flower garden) but not in others (raised beds).  It is easy for me to focus on just one part of my garden and ignore the others until it is too late. Don’t forget to think about your whole garden.

What is something you forgot about or forgot to do last year until it was too late?  Are there areas of your garden/yard that get neglected?  Is there something you think should be added to this list?  Please leave a comment so we can all be reminded of what needs done.

Jan 052013

We are working our way through a series called “Creating a Garden Calendar“.  If this is your first time joining us, welcome.  You are not too late to join us.  Grab a calendar, pen, and beverage of choice.  You will be right where we are in no time.

Now that you have down the dates to start seeds and put in transplants, we are going to look at bit ahead and note when you should expect your harvests to be ready.  This has several purposes:

  1. The first is that you will know when one harvest will be ready and will be able to plan extra curricular activities accordingly.  Do you really want to take that week of vacation in the middle of the green bean harvest?  If you do, then you may need to schedule someone to come over and pick the beans.
  2. You will be able to see if any of your harvest times overlap.  Sometimes handling all the corn coming in is hard enough.  It would be even harder if you had another crop or two ready for harvest at exactly the same time.
  3. If you are wanting to can several things as once, think salsa, then you may want them to all be ready at the same time.

Solving any overlaps may be as simple as choosing a variety of tomato that has a longer, or shorter, maturation length.  You may also be able to plant some things a bit earlier and some a bit later, or even skip a successive planting along the way.

It may also be that this is just something you will have to deal with.  Sometimes no matter what we do, gardening is an adventure whether we want it to be or not.

To find the “days to harvest” length, bring your seed catalog back or seed packets back out or check some of the links from Day 6.  Most of these have ranges, so I’m not sure I would plan a party around the expected dates.  Not only will these change by location (micro-climates) but also by weather you experience in a certain year.

Did you find that there were overlaps in harvest dates?  Were these things you wanted to overlap or not?  Why did you do, or plan to do, with unwanted overlap in dates?

Jan 042013

We are working our way through a series called “Creating a Garden Calendar“.  If this is your first time joining us, welcome.  You are not too late to join us.  Grab a calendar, pen, and beverage of choice.  You will be right where we are in no time.

Yesterday you created a wish list or new or additional seeds to put into your garden.  Today we are going to add the seed starting dates, transplant dates, etc. for the plants. These are the same steps you took for your basic garden plants.  You will find this information in the same places  you found it the first time – online catalogs, printed seed and plant catalogs, university web sites, and back of seed packets.

You may also wish to add the number of plants you hope to have, where to plant them, where to buy them from, or other details you think you will need to know when it comes time to order or buy them.

Did you find this step to be easier this time around than when you did it the first time?  Would it have been easier to write the information down as you found the seeds and plants? Did getting some sleep change your mind about which plants you want to have?