This year I will be planting Cosmos in my garden. They are easily one of my favourite flowers.(Corey Bullock file)

Farm life: making plans for this year’s garden

Companion planting, soil health, and keeping weeds at bay are on the top of the to-do list.

Even though it’s still very much winter, it’s time to start planning this year’s garden. I’m sure many other gardeners can relate. It’s going to be one of the things that keeps me motivated and excited over the next two months. This time of year always makes me long for the splendid spring and summer months.

Luckily the days are starting to get longer again, and there’s that extra bit of sunshine at the end of the day to keep me going. It truly makes a difference to come home and be able to enjoy at least half an hour of daylight. To be able to walk my dog without the fear of darkness settling in. To be able to gather some firewood for the stove without a headlamp on.

I’ll be ordering my garden seeds this weekend from West Coast Seeds, and I absolutely can’t wait for their arrival. As I mentioned previously, this year I’ll be focusing on a much smaller area for my garden in hopes of having a more concentrated and easier to care for crop. Last year was a challenge, to say the least, but it also proved to be an invaluable learning opportunity.

I’ve been reading up on companion planting, which will be a definite focus this year. Companion planting is the process of planting plants together that help each other thrive. It minimizes risks to crops, protects them, and promotes natural growth patterns. I’m sure many of you know this, but I’m fairly new to the garden game especially when it comes to planting over ten varieties of vegetables and flowers.

This year my goal is to plant tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, radishes, carrots, squash, beans, lettuce, kale, spinach and a few varieties of herbs. I’ll also be planting marigolds around the perimeter of my garden, which help keep pests at bay, as well as some sun flowers, cosmos and pansies. Cosmos are one of my favourite flowers because they are easy to grow, and they also look so wild and so beautiful. As I continue to garden over the years I hope to be able to plant many more varieties of flowers, but I want to start off small this year so that I won’t get overwhelmed.

In preparation for the coming gardening season I’ve made myself a chart depicting when each crop should be started, including if it’s starting the growing process indoors or sewing directly in the ground. The chart also has options for both warm and cool season crops. I think it’s important to look ahead at when each vegetable will be harvested so I can fill that void once they’re gone from the garden.

My compost bin is looking very happy and I think I should be able to add it to the soil come spring. I think that having healthy soil is the most important step to a happy garden. I’ll likely be laying down the compost, followed by a fertilizer, and then tilling that into the soil. I do believe in using natural methods to grow, as opposed to using toxins or synthetics. Two natural methods for keeping weeds at bay that I may try this year are compost tea, and using straw as mulch between plants.

There are so many different aspects to a happy garden and I know that I will probably never perfect it, but I am happy to continue learning and growing and playing. I’m not sure that I’ll ever tire of being able to feed myself from my backyard. It’s a lot of work, and takes a lot of planning and practice, but it’s incredibly satisfying.

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Last year I grew basil, dill, thyme and rosemary. The thyme and rosemary are now in the house by the windowsill, and I preserved most of the remaining basil. This year I hope to plant a few more herbs along with these favourites. (Corey Bullock file)

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