Even though we have frozen ground and cold temperatures here in Minnesota, most people who grow food in the summer, whether they are gardeners or farmers, do not have a winter vacation. When they are not planting, weeding, harvesting and marketing their produce, they are evaluating their last season, current budget and making plans for the upcoming season. January is a very busy preparations time for many growers here in our cold climate.
If you are growing in a container, backyard or a farm plot, now is the time to start thinking about what you would like to grow. Some herbs and vegetable crops require indoor transplanting in February and March (tomatoes, peppers, onions, etc.) while some like to be directly sown in the ground (cilantro, dill, beans, lettuce, etc). Here is a basic transplanting and seeding chart for Minnesota that can help you figure out when to grow what in terms of garden crops.
Finding good seed varieties (crops) that meet your needs is part of having a good plan for the season. There are plenty of good organic seed companies that you can buy seed from (see below). Also look for local seed swaps in your neighborhood to find a variety of free seeds available from your neighbors. Good sources for seeds and plants include:
Eggplant Farm Supply (Saint Paul, MN)
Kitazawa Seed Company
Mother Earth Gardens (Minneapolis, MN)
Plum Creek Seeds (Wisconsin)
Seed Savers Exchange
Wild Garden Seed
Once you have your crops picked out, spend a few hours sketching out where your crops will go. If you are growing in a small
space or in containers, figure out if your plants need full sun or not. Do you plants need a trellis (peas, pole beans, cucumbers, etc.)? If you are growing in a small yard or farm, figure out where your good soil resides and where the sun flows. Map your plantings according to the dimensions you have to grow on. Most of the time, people plant either too little and weeds take over their gardens. Or they plant too much and their gardens turn into a jungle, unmanageable. Follow the planting instructions on seed packets in order to being to understand proper spacing. To help guide larger garden designs, mapping with these free online design programs can help too.
In the spring, we will have a few rooftop container planting classes at the Tiny Diner (April and May) to show direct-seeding methods in the garden as well as healthy transplanting methods. Make sure to sign up for our newsletter to get these classes on your calendar!