Longer days and warmer temperatures signal that it’s time to begin serious planning of this year’s garden. Seed catalogs were mailed months ago and the big box stores have seed offerings on prominent display.
It’s a good idea to begin with a list of everything you want to plant including seeds, purchased seedlings, and larger items like trees, shrubs and vines. The list may be exactly the same as last year’s or it may itemize different plants for a newly developed garden bed or landscape area. Why not page through your favorite garden catalog and make a dream list – what you would buy if you could purchase every plant you desire? Probably the initial list will be overly ambitious and way too long, but that’s fine for now.
Check to find out if you have seed left or saved from prior years or if you’ll have to purchase new. As for plants, do you need to buy all those on your list or does a friend or neighbor perhaps have plants to divide?
Once you have a wish list, look at your budget – don’t forget to include containers, potting soil, fertilizer, watering cans, hoses, etc. – and give realistic consideration to the amount of time, space and ambition you have to devote to your garden. Edit your list accordingly. Overestimating will only lead to discouragement or wasted money.
Next, decide where you will purchase seeds and plants. Do the local economy a favor and buy plants and seeds as near to home as possible. Support privately owned nurseries and if you go the mail order route, try to use Wisconsin or Upper Midwest companies. Also, patronize local garden plant sales. Outagamie County Master Gardeners will hold their annual plant sale on Saturday, May 19 and Wild Ones Fox Valley offers native plants for sale the same day.
Mail order nurseries usually send seeds immediately but wait to ship live plants until planting time.
Read seed packets carefully to determine if you need to start seeds indoors ahead of time. For example, tomatoes always need to be started indoors and if you want a decent length of bloom time from some flowers they should be started ahead as well. If you are not prepared or equipped to start seeds indoors, wait and buy seedling plants in May.
The back of the seed packet will give instructions as to planting dates. Organize the packets in date order and get planting dates on your calendar. Don’t worry if you can’t meet the exact dates. A seed packet that says “plant as soon as soil can be worked” may find those seeds in the ground anywhere from late March to early May depending on the weather.
When live mail order plants arrive, open the box immediately even if you can’t plant right away. A good nursery will include instructions on how to care for your plants until you are able to put them in the ground.