Hey friends! Today we had a gorgeous warm day, it got up to 60 degrees, but with no wind and full sun – it felt like it was in the 70s. One of the kids’ favorite pastimes in the summer is to get out the garden hose, strip down to their diapers and get a few cups onto the back patio. They could sit there for hours (and sometimes do!) just filling up their cups, dumping them out, and splashing each other with the cool hose water. We had a playdate like this with the hose this afternoon and it got me thinking: How lucky are we that it feels like Spring is already upon us, here in mid-January?!
Of course THAT got me thinking about how I’m going to plan, space and choose the vegetables that we’ll plant in our spring garden. It’s so exciting that a whole new season is almost upon us! But it can also be a little overwhelming since it seems like just about ANYTHING can be planted in Spring. How can I choose?!
While some people could probably plant everything on their wish list, I have another limiting factor – SPACE. I have a strip of soil around the back corner of our yard where I can plant. I haven’t measured it exactly, but it’s probably something like 20’ long by 4’ wide. While that may sound like a lot of room to some of you (and it may sound like closet space to others), well – you should see my garden wish list! It’s long, and there’s no way that I can get away with planting everything on my list in that space. But I can probably think creatively to plant most of the things on my list, and that will also help me to make sure that I only plant things that we will actually end up eating and enjoying!
So let me take you through the steps of how we are deciding what to plant this Spring.
HOW WE’RE DECIDING WHAT TO PLANT
I’m putting everything on my list through the following criteria:
- Obviously first, I need to know my zone and what things CAN be planted in the Springtime. I’ve spent some time researching this and I know our zone is 9B (a warmer zone), so we have a lot of options available to us. I first make my “wish list”, with everything I could possibly want to plant before I narrow things down. If you’re not sure of your gardening zone, a quick google search for “<<insert your city & state name>> garden zone” should give you the answer.
- Next, I look at each plant through this criteria: I want to make sure that to the extent possible, the plants we choose are high yield, requiring less space. I talked about this a little bit in my Recap of my Fall and Winter Garden 2021 post, which you can read here. Because we eat a LOT of produce in our house, and because we also have limited space for gardening, I want to make sure that we choose a good number of plants that we will be able to harvest from regularly instead of planting single-harvest items – which also take a bit longer to grow. Basically I’m telling the earth in a very nice way that I’d like more for my money (interpret: more garden harvest for my small amount of land)! I’ll make a few exceptions for produce items that I just REALLY want to try (Looking at you, melons!!!), but this will be the general criteria that I stick to.
- Finally, this may seem obvious, but I want to plant veggies, herbs, and other plants that we will actually eat in our day to day life. While it may sound exciting and different to plant Rhubarb, the reality is that we are just not going to eat much of that plant on a daily basis. So why waste the space? I could plant yellow squash, green beans or bell peppers in that area instead, and I know for certain that our family will eat just about anything we get from those garden plants.
WHAT TO “DIRECT SOW” vs. THE POTTED GARDEN
The next question I’m asking myself is what I want to direct sow into the ground, vs. what I want to plant in pots as a “functional house plant” or a patio garden plant. I told you I’d get creative in order to plant more things…well I wasn’t kidding!
Sure, I’m going to use the space we have in the back yard to garden. But it also brings me SO much joy to be able to have house plants and patio plants that are edible, beautiful, and functional all at once! So I’ll be planting some things in pots which will remain indoors or on our back patio.
How do I decide what to plant in the ground vs. in pots?
It would be a pretty lousy idea to plant potatoes in a pot since they grow almost completely underground. It would just look like a big pot full of dirt – certainly not aesthetic or a functional use of a pot!
- SUNLIGHT REQUIREMENTS
The first question I’ll ask is: how much direct sunlight does this plant need? I know my back patio will get about 6 hours of full sun each day during the Spring, and the amount of full sunlight will increase as we get closer to the summer months. Of course the plants are potted so I can technically move them to higher sun areas if I need to, but I don’t want to have to think about it that much. I need plants that will do OK if I just leave them as they are in a partial sun location (like my patio). So I did a little research – which plants on my list do well with that amount of sunlight? Can I plant those in pots indoors, or on my patio?
Generally speaking, herbs will tolerate partial shade a little better than other vegetable plants which is why herbs often make good indoor plants. I’ll definitely be potting several of my herbs!
- Sage – requires medium to full sun
- Thyme – likes full sun but will tolerate partial shade
- Cilantro – requires medium to full sun
- Mint (already potted this one in my kitchen window) – medium to full sun
- Oregano (already potted this in my kitchen window) – prefers full sun, but some varieties can thrive in partial sun
2. HOW & WHERE WILL THIS PLANT GROW BEST?
Now, I’ll ask the next question: Can this plant grow vertically, or does it need to grow horizontally?
I ask this question because some plants that naturally grow horizontally can be manipulated to grow vertically on a trellis. Even squash, or pumpkins with heavy produce can grow to support their fruit vertically on a vine with a little help (such as a sturdy trellis)! I know that if I wanted or needed to, I could grow any of the below list of plants in pots or patio garden boxes using a stake or trellis.
But tomatoes, yellow squash or peppers are more medium-smaller sized plants, so I could probably get away with planting 2-3 of these plants which would be a much more manageable size for my patio.
- Green Beans (6-8 hrs Full Sun)
- Yellow Squash (6-8 hrs Full Sun)
- Zucchini (6-8 hrs Full Sun)
- Peppers (6-8 hrs Full Sun)
- Tomatoes (at least 6-8 hrs Full Sun – better with more)
The remaining plants on my list will probably be planted direct-sow into the ground. That list is below:
- Onions – 13-16 Hrs Full Sun
- Sweet Potatoes – 8-10 Hrs Full Sun
- Potatoes – 8-10 Hrs Full Sun
- Watermelon – 8-10 Hrs Full Sun
- Cantaloupe – 8-10 Hrs Full Sun
- Cucumbers – 8-10 Hrs Full Sun
So there you have it! A quick review of what, and how I’m planting my spring garden for 2022. I have a few more weeks until we actually get around to planting all of these items above, since the evenings are still in the 30-degree range here, even though we’re experiencing warmer temps during the day.
PLANTING INDOOR SEEDLINGS
One final tidbit for you – if it’s still too cold outside to direct plant your seeds into the ground, it can be a great idea to plant your seeds indoors in a seedling container. You don’t need anything fancy, you can even grow seeds in some fertilized soil inside of an empty egg carton!
But this is a great idea because it gives your plants a chance to get a head start on the season, helps you to get an earlier harvest. In addition, transplanting seedlings rather than direct-sowing into the ground can help ensure that you have more control over the environment that your seeds are growing in. You can move them outdoors on a warm, sunny day or indoors if there is a chance of frost. This protects them and ensures they will survive being planted earlier than when they may naturally be able to grow.
I hope this was a fun read for you and that you have the best time planning and strategizing your own home-gardens. I wish you lots of happy planting, and DEFINITELY happy harvesting!
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