by Texas Homesteader ~
It’s still winter but it’s time to focus on garden planning, companion planting, crop rotation & more. Come see how I’m preparing the veggie garden even during the cold dreary days of winter.
Late Winter Garden Planning
It’s early in the season and most of us aren’t even thinking about dropping seeds or plants in the garden. Here in Texas (hardiness zone 8a) we typically don’t risk planting outside until Easter when in all probability the danger of the last frost is past.
I’m not gonna lie, I jump the gun with my planting dates sometimes. There are times I get away with it, and other times I have to start all over. So I strive to wait until the danger of the last frost is past.
But there are still garden tasks to tend to even though actual planting time is still weeks away. Come see…
Preparations: Planning The Garden
I do my Garden Planning using this homemade spreadsheet. I formatted it in Excel noting planting row layouts, perimeter size, etc. You can use Excel or another basic spreadsheet program to map out your garden too.
Each gardener’s planting layout will look different. So I suggest you use a program like Excel to layout the specifics of your own garden. You’ll be able to use the layout year after year so it’s certainly time well spent now.
Using my own personalized excel document allows me to see what & where I planted last year so I can rotate my plantings to help keep pests at bay.
I also included a quick note about companion plants in my excel sheet. That way I can make sure veggies that are planted close can play nice together.
I use this Companion Planting Chart from the Farmer’s Almanac as my guide.
Planting Heirloom Seeds Early Inside
Now that my vegetable garden planting plan is all laid out, it’s time to get some seeds started. I have an easy way to start before spring here too, as opposed to waiting until the date indicating the danger of the last frost is past.
I refer to it as my Indoor Greenhouse. I like to use heirloom seeds, but I still like putting actual seedlings in the garden in the spring. This step lets me do both!
My setup is just a clear lidded tub. The lid helps keep the humidity level right for my seedlings. I’ll plant seeds in little pots and place everything inside this clear tub.
Then I’ll place the tub in a south-facing window to allow sunlight and warmth for my little seeds.
Seed-Starting Pot Options
I used to use repurposed plastic yogurt containers and such for planting my veggie seeds.
But I really loved the convenience of those little biodegradable pots where you can drop pot & all into the ground when it was time to plant.
In a typical #UseWhatchaGot moment I decided to was repurpose used cardboard to make my seed-starting pots.
It was FREE & it was easy – a few quick snips & folds is all it took. Now I can plant the seedling, cardboard and all, right into my garden when spring arrives.
The cardboard decomposes and actually feeds the earthworms. Win/win!
Removing Late-Winter Weeds From The Garden
But we recently got an unseasonably warm day. So you bet your socks I was out in the garden!
The early spring weeds have already started to rear their ugly heads. Weeding is my least favorite garden thing to do.
But if you weed early and often you keep smaller problems from becoming big problems.
I discovered on this day that some problems are bigger than others…
Now I don’t know what type of plant this beast is, but it grew alongside a weed barrier which kept it from getting its roots very deep into the ground.
So I was able to get it pulled out roots and all. DANG! This helps me understand why it’s such a struggle to keep the weeds at bay – look at that massive root system!
Can You Cut A Crepe Myrtle Tree Shorter?
Our driveway runs alongside our garden on one side. When we moved here we planted a row of gorgeous Crape Myrtle trees along our driveway. They run from our front gate all the way to our house. It makes for quite a lovely entrance.
But the Crape Myrtle trees next to my garden fence grew so tall over the years that they shaded the garden much of the day. That shade coupled with the drought last year kept my garden from producing hardly at all. We just can’t have that now can we?
I realize that it’s frowned upon by the gardening guru Neil Sperry to hack back a Crape Myrtle tree from the top. But my only two options are to hack a couple of them from a tree into a shrub and keep them that size or dig them up completely.
I love their beautiful blooms and growing ease. So I opted to lower their height instead of ripping them out.
So I asked RancherMan to cut the height of a few of the trees directly adjoining my garden fence to only 3-ft high. They’re actually beautiful that way in amongst the full-sized trees.
They’ll sprout and grow taller each year of course, but my hope is that we can keep them trimmed to around the height of the fence each year.
I love the look of the row of beautiful blooming Crepe Myrtle trees along our drive. Even the ones that are now bushes instead of trees.
Stirrup Hoe Makes A Quick Weeding Trick
Now that the trees around the perimeter of the garden have been trimmed, let’s get in the garden & do some weeding!
My favorite garden tool this time of year is the stirrup hoe. When the soil is damp like it is now, the stirrup hoe cuts weed roots just below the soil’s surface.
I first cleaned up the planting rows by removing any remaining dead vegetation from last year’s garden. Then I used my stirrup hoe to clean up early-spring weeds that were trying to grow in my rows. Just a few swipes and BOOM!
Here’s a before & after for ya. This bed that I typically reserve for garlic and my 3-sister’s garden was taking a weed beating!
But using the stirrup hoe I weeded it in 4 minutes. Yeah, I love this thing!
It doesn’t help as much in the heat of summer when the ground is hard as concrete. But DANG it sure makes fast work this time of year.
Vegetable Garden Raised Bed Options
I started out with defined raised beds RancherMan built me out of wood. But those raised beds were problematic with the ever-troubling Bermuda grass.
So we ripped them out and I began planting in rows. But I’m not getting any younger, ya know.
So I’m turning about 75% of the planting rows into raised beds. For some of them I’m using old galvanized troughs and large 35-gallon tubs as containers.
But then I got a new Heavy Duty Raised Bed to add to the mix. This one is by far my favorite.
And the folks at Hopkins Homestead have agreed to give our readers a discount if you want one of your very own!
Vegetable Garden Decisions To Be Made
Each year I decide if I’ll turn another row into a raised bed or leave it for in-ground planting.
My guess is all of them will eventually be raised beds with the exception of 4 rows for rotating things such as tomatoes & okra as well as my garlic & onion beds & 3 Sister’s garden bed.
Your garden should work best for you, don’t be afraid to change things up from time to time and as things change in your life!
In the coming weeks I’ll go pick up several loads of Free Bark Mulch and re-mulch my walkways. That will help to make sure they stay weed free too. Work smarter, not harder I always say!
I’m so anxious to get in that garden. I’m dreaming of that bountiful harvest it’s bound to provide us once again this year. But I know it will be time to plant before I know it!
My Favorite Garden Hacks
- Easy Garden Planning Spreadsheet
- Getting A Jump: Planting An Indoor Greenhouse
- Repurposed Cardboard Seed-Starting Pots
- 3-Sister’s Garden – The Original Companion Planting
- Where We Found A Better Raised Bed
- Planting A Large Galvanized Trough
- Tricking Birds AWAY From Your Strawberry Plants
- Easy Compost For A Healthy Garden
- Propping Tender Seedlings
- Cheap (or FREE) Wood Mulch For The Garden
- Using Vining Plants For Living Mulch
- Homestead Hack: Remember Where You Planted Seeds
- Keeping Potted Plants Watered
- Planting A Blueberry Bush In Galvanized Tub
- Stevia – Growing Your Own Sweetener!
- How I Use EcoBricks In The Garden
- Repurposing A Coffee Can For Deep-Soak Watering
- How Leaves Benefit Your Garden
- My Simple, Zero-Waste Herb Drying Setup
- The Lazy Gardener’s Plant List – Plant Once, Eat For Years!
- How To Tell When Watermelon Is Ripe
- Luffa A Surprising Zucchini Substitute!
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