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Natural Awakenings North Central New Jersey

Plan Now and Plant by Spring: Preparing for the Spring Organic Garden

With the full force of winter finally here, you may be dreaming of a warm weather getaway or the coming of spring.  And with spring comes the opportunity to eat more local, freshly harvested organic fruits and vegetables.  Local produce can be no more than a few feet away if you start planning for your own garden right now.  Here are the first few steps that we take when planning our gardens and that you can consider if you are planning your own:

  1. Design and Size of Your Garden Bed: The first task is to decide on the size of your garden bed. Size will be determined by the types of produce you plan to grow and the number of people you will be providing produce for. Vegetables such as sweet corn, potatoes, winter squash and pumpkins require a very large space. A typical family of four selecting these crops would need a minimum of a 10’ by 20’ garden. Excluding these vegetables, a family of four can get by with a 10’ by 12’ garden. If you use high-density gardening techniques with a raised bed design, a 4’ by 12’ garden may do the trick.
  2. Location: Location is extremely important. First and foremost, find a location with a minimum of 8 hours of available sun. The garden also needs to be near a convenient water source and ideally should be as close to the kitchen as possible.
  3. Spring vegetable selections: Now comes the fun part: get some seed catalogs and start selecting your family favorites! You will need to make sure all of your choices will fit into your garden (see “Garden Planning”) and are easy to grow from seeds or seedlings.  There are so many wonderful choices that will be producing by the spring or early summer. Recommendations include spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, lettuces, cabbage, arugula, radish and Swiss chard. New gardeners should order seeds that will be planted directly in the garden, whereas more advanced gardeners can grow selected seedlings under a grow light or on a sunny window sill (more on that next month).
  4. Garden Planning: Now that you have a garden size and a wish list of produce, you can plot out the garden. There are many great online planning apps available (we use the Mother Earth News gardening app).  You can also use graph paper to create your garden plan and, using a book such as Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening, divide your garden design into 1-inch squares (1 inch = 1 foot scale).  The number of your selected vegetables that can be planted in each square foot can be found in Mel’s book.

Those are just a few of the steps to plan for your own garden.  We will provide a few more tips next month.  So if you are snuggled up by the fireplace, get out your seed catalogs, start planning, and spring will be here before you know it!

Yard2Kitchen designs, builds, and maintains organic garden beds in New Jersey. Contact Kenny Baldo at 732-410-6173 for more information or a consultation or

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