by Texas Homesteader ~
I’m sharing vegetable garden planning tips for late winter. Even though planting time is weeks away it’s time to focus on garden planning, companion planting strategy, crop rotation & more. Come see how I’m preparing the veggie garden even during the cold dreary days of winter.
(Note: Some links in this post will take you to other related articles for further information. But links preceded with * are affiliate links. If you click and buy something I could receive a tiny commission.)
Late Winter Garden Planning
It’s early in the season and most of us are dreaming of our beautiful garden, although it’s nowhere close to time to actually drop seeds or plants in the garden. Here in Northeast Texas (new hardiness zone 8b) we typically don’t risk planting outside until Easter when in all probability the danger of the last frost is past.
But there are still garden tasks to complete even though the actual planting time is still weeks away. Come see…
Preparations: Planning The Garden
I plan my garden using a homemade spreadsheet I formatted in Excel. Noted in this document is planting row layouts, garden perimeter size, past year’s plantings, seed inventory etc.
You can see my entire Garden Planning Procedure here.
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.
How To Make Your Own Garden planting Planner
Each gardener’s planting layout will look different. So I suggest you use a program that works best for you to layout the specifics of your own garden.
Some options to consider for your own garden planning:
Planting Heirloom Seeds Early Inside
Now that my vegetable garden plan is made it’s time to get seeds started. I have two easy ways to start them early:
My indoor 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 sunny south-facing window to allow sunlight and warmth for my little seeds.
A smaller trick is to use empty milk jugs to start my seeds. The lid closes over the seedlings when they’re small to keep the humidity level high. But you can tip the lid back to help harden off the plants when it gets close to planting time.
Seed-Starting Pot Options
I really loved the convenience of those little biodegradable pots . You can drop the seedling – pot & all – into the ground when it was time to plant.
In a typical #UseWhatchaGot moment I decided to 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!
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 much shade started significantly impacting my garden’s production.
I realize that it’s frowned upon by the gardening guru Neil Sperry to cut a Crape Myrtle tree from the top. But my only two options are to change 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.
Removing Late-Winter Weeds From 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 bigger problems.
So when I get a warmer day I’m in the garden doing some weeding maintenance work. 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!
Stirrup Hoe Makes A Quick Weeding Trick
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 out of wood. But those raised beds were problematic with the ever-troubling invasive 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 couple of new Heavy Duty Raised Beds to add to the mix. This kind of bed is by far my favorite.
Gardener’s Note: 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!
Free Weed-Stopping Wood Mulch For Garden Walkways
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 my 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
- Planting Seeds In A Milk-Jug Greenhouse
- Planting An Indoor Greenhouse
- Repurposed Cardboard Seed-Starting Pots
- Easy Compost For A Healthy Garden
- How Leaves Benefit Your Garden
- Using Manure In Your Compost & Garden
- 3-Sister’s Garden – The Original Companion Planting
- Planting A Large Galvanized Trough
- Where I Found The BEST Raised Bed!
- Planting A Blueberry Bush In Rustic Galvanized Tub
- Stevia – Growing Your Own Sweetener!
- 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!
- How To Plant & Grow The Best Tomatoes
- Keeping Potted Plants Watered
- Repurposing A Coffee Can For Deep-Soak Watering
- 3 Rainwater Collection Systems We Use
- Cheap (or FREE) Wood Mulch For The Garden
- Using Vining Plants For Living Mulch
- Surprising Use For Empty Clay Pots In The Garden
- How To Save Outdoor Plants Even During A Hard Freeze
- Tricking Birds AWAY From Your Strawberry Plants
- Protecting Tender Seedlings From Wind
- Homestead Hack: Remember Where You Planted Seeds
- How I Use EcoBricks In The Garden
Find Your 2023 Updated USDA Plant Hardiness Zone
Texas Master Gardener’s Companion Planting – Plant Friend & Foe
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