Garden Calendar

The most wonderful time of winter.
The seeds have arrived!

It truly, finally, really really really feels like spring is just around the corner. Which means it's time to address Better Farm's planting timeline to ensure we get everything going at the precisely right moment. Mapping gardens, starting seeds, and turning compost also happens to be the most wonderful way to shake off the heaviness of winter.

There are a few very important components to consider when planning your garden calendar. They are: analyzing what worked and what didn't in last year's garden (taking into account unusual weather patterns); listing what food and flowers you want to grow this year; mapping your garden; starting your seeds; nourishing your seedlings; readying the greenhouse (or wherever you keep your transplantables); and, finally, transplanting and/or direct-planting. All of the above-mentioned bullet points are affected entirely by what planting zone you're in. So if you haven't already, hop over to the USDA's website to determine which zone you're in (be advised that these zones were recently updated to reflect a slight change in climate, so it's worth taking a peek!). Here's our map for New York:
As you can see by the illustration, we float in the North Country around Zone 4, with occasional forays (depending on the year) between zones 3 and 5. Based on this information, here's what the garden calendar looks like for Better Farm from January through June:

  • Begin brainstorming which seeds we want, what flowers we want to grow, and what we'll be getting locally. Fresh crop of seeds sprinkled in aquaponics and hydroponics
  • Order seeds, organize seeds from last summer (left over and saved from 2013 plants)
  • Recalibrate house plants: transplant into larger containers, fertilize with water from aquaponics and hydroponics, trim, pollinate, and separate as needed
  • Sprinkle another round of seeds in the hydroponics and aquaponics
  • First week of March—plant slow-growers inside (or in greenhouse if weather allows): Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, artichokes, broccoli, etc.
  • St. Patrick's Day—plant peas outside
  • Late March—plant rest of slow-growers in greenhouse: tomatoes, leeks, onions, etc.
  • Unwrap fruit trees
  • Pull burdock around pond
  • Clear beds for regrowth: leeks, asparagus, garlic
  • Plant potatoes outside
  • Mulch like crazy: In rows, between rows, around fruit trees
  • Build raised beds as needed
  • Turn compost
  • Begin harvesting asparagus 
  • Bring bulbs outside and plant
  • Plant new trees
  • Plant spinach outside
  • Clean up insect hotel for new visitors 
  • Nurture seedlings; move any baby plants from inside to greenhouse
  • Six-month cleanout of aquaponics and hydroponics, fertilize, transplant, sprinkle new seeds
  • Continue nurturing seedlings in greenhouse
  • Turn compost
  • Transplant hardiest immature plants from greenhouse to gardens
  • Mulch garden, trees
  • Rake out herb beds, bring excess mulch to compost pile or main garden
  • Transplant all remaining seedlings from greenhouse to garden
  • Direct-plant squash, lettuce, all herbs, beans, etc.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.