For some of us, when we look outside at the snow and ice, our thoughts drift toward wishing we lived in a warmer climate where the gardening never ended. I sometimes find myself in this boat. I remind myself though to take this respite to plan for next year. I take time to review notes of the past season, so I don't make the same mistakes as last time. I peruse the many seed catalogs that pile high from late December to February. Drawing up plans and revising them is another task for the winter.
It has been said that gardeners have short memories and long pencils. That to say we are very optimistic in the spring when planting time comes. We conveniently forget that there will be many challenges again. We should take time to anticipate them and be intentional about how we will deal with the pests, diseases and critters. A garden journal is useful for this. What should you write in it? I write a list of seeds I start and when I showed them. I note when they germinated, when they get their first true leaves 🍃 , and when I pot them into bigger pots. Then, I write down when I put them in the garden. Throughout the season I record when vegetables flower, when they initially set fruit, and when the first harvest is, and how much I pick.
Also to jot down is any pests or diseases that show up and how they were dealt with. Then when not happens again we can check what we did last year. Also, what time of year it was and the weather conditions. If you tried a different variety and it is more resistant to maladies, you could know to plant that kind again. If it is an heirloom you can save the seeds, which will develop into a more resistant strain next year. A free membership at garden.org allows you to do this all electronically. You enter the plant name, then it has a list of plant events you can select from, and then give it a date. At the end of the season you then rank st the same place how the plant performed. You can also add pictures to the plant's entry. I like this option because everything is in one place. You can easily have your phone with you and snap pictures when you are in the garden. You can also make notes on your phone.
Seed catalogs do a good job at luring you with perfect picture and perfect descriptions of what they are trying to sell. Having a garden plan will help you be realistic with your purchases. Less is more. Don't try and crowd too much in your garden! Make an initial list of what you see, and then edit it later. Be realistic. Look for varieties that highlight taste. I look for words like "productive" and resistant as well. Make a list of your priorities and stick to them. This will help you have restraint. If you are starting your own seeds, baby plants soon become big, and you will run out of room under lights inside. Your plants will be stressed for light, and go out into the big bad world weak and spindly. It is better to do less, and have healthier seedlings, eventually leading to more food in your mouth. Plants hat have a rough start in life result in stunted adults.
Following the above suggestions will mean a healthier and more satisfying garden in 2017.