Having all the seed for this year allows me to begin to plan my garden during the cold, damp days of February, and I can almost feel spring’s warm sun.
The first step in preparing to plant the garden is deciding what goes where. Thirsty cucurbits, such as melons and squash, should not be planted too close to less thirsty plants, like tomatoes. With a little research, I can carefully plot my plants so that they can receive the sun and water they need, without being compromised by any neighboring plants or trees.
Equally important to the success of any garden is preparing the soil for another growing season. I have heard an old saying many times over the years: Treat your garden soil like it is a bank. Every fruit, veggie and flower is a withdrawal, so there must be deposits made, or your soil will eventually be bankrupt.
I prepare my soil by tilling in (lots of) compost every year and by adding fertilizer to the mix.
I also try to practice a little crop rotation, but I find that hard to do, as I do not have a large garden. I never plant the same thing in the same spot two years in a row, but I sometimes plant something from the same family, because it is unavoidable. I especially struggle with keeping the hot and sweet peppers separated (to reduce the chances of cross-pollination), but with only two ends to my rectangular garden patch, the options are limited.
Every effort we make in planning and preparing our gardens brings us benefits. Just remember that it is OK if we make mistakes, as that is one of the ways we learn. Boy, have I learned a lot.
If you plan to grow anything from seed this year and haven’t yet selected your seed, I suggest you do so soon. There is still time to order from a catalog or an online source, and I am confident retailers are preparing for a visit from us gardeners. I’d be surprised if you don’t feel a little sunshine yourself.
• University of California-certified master gardeners are available to answer gardening questions from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 953-6112 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions for Heather Hamilton can be sent to email@example.com.