Winter Garden Planning

“The most efficient and effective way to guarantee summer success is through planning your garden during the winter.”

We are heading into the coldest, bleakest months of the year, but this season has one highlight… something like the gardener’s version of the swallows returning to Capistrano: The arrival of seed catalogs in the mail.

The timing of these catalogs is no accident. Amidst the snow and wind, these beautiful, colorful pages give hope that our gardens will bloom once more. They also suggest giddy possibilities, sometimes beyond logic, that this time we’ll be able to grow peanuts in Idaho or mangoes in Alaska.

And above all, seed catalogs give gardeners a powerful tool, something everyone should do before putting that first seed in a pot or in the soil: Paper gardening.

Winter Garden Planning

The most efficient and effective way to guarantee summer success is through planning your garden during the winter.

Whether you’re gardening in pots on your patio, a suburban backyard, or a half-acre truck garden – all our growing efforts benefit from pre-planning on paper. The best thing about these tools is they are virtually free.

Understand that no matter how well you plan, some failures are inevitable. Gardening is rife with unpredictable factors out of your control. But as the old adage goes, “Planning prevents poor performance.” You may not be able to predict or control these outside factors, but you can plan for them – on paper.

winter garden planning | notebook, seeds, coffee

Start by figuring out your challenges. Are you in an area prone to drought? What’s your soil like? What kind of pests do you routinely face? What kind of space constraints do you face?

Whatever weaknesses you face, now is the time to figure out how to reduce or eliminate them. Perhaps you could install a drip irrigation system. Perhaps you should bypass the ground and garden in raised beds. Maybe you should raise your fence to eight feet to discourage deer. Perhaps you should incorporate vertical plantings to maximize space.

Next, sketch out your garden space, approximating the dimensions and shape. Unless you’re blessed with a huge area, you’ll have to restrict your garden dreams to within the confines of what you have available. Thankfully, whole industries and entire sciences have arisen to tackle the challenges of maximizing output within minimal space … and the best place to start is on that piece of paper.

Winter Garden Planning & Preparation Tasks

Take advantage of the colder months to start planning and preparing your vegetable garden so you will be ready to start planting in early spring! 

1. Reflect on Last Season

Take some time to think about your past garden seasons. What worked well? What plants, growing techniques, etc flopped? Are there things that can be done differently in the upcoming season?

2. Decide What to Plant

Be intentional. What does your family use the most? Write out the potential uses of each plant… Fresh eating, canning, dehydrating, etc. This will help you make sure that you are planting with purpose and reducing your food waste before you even start to grow. 

Also, the USDA hardiness zones have recently changed. Be sure to check to see if your zone has shifted because you may need to adjust the plants that you choose based on this. 

3. Plan the Garden Layout

Use The Homestead Journal Planner to draw your garden’s ideal layout. Consider sun exposure (sun mapping is a good idea), water accessibility, wind patterns, soil type, and companion planting possibilities as you design your spring garden. 

4. Take a Seed Inventory

This is the perfect time of year to go through your seeds and write down everything that you have so you can see what you still need to purchase. If you have seeds that are 5+ years old, you might consider tossing them OR planting them with the understanding that they may or may not germinate. 

Seed Packs in a Bucket

5. Purchase Seeds

Don’t wait until spring to buy seeds. Go ahead and purchase what you need during the cold season so you will be ready to go when it is time to start seeds.

6. Write Down Optimal Planting & Harvest Dates

Look at each seed variety that you want to plant. Do the math based on the average last frost date to determine when they should be started (indoors or outdoors) and when they should be ready for harvesting.

7. Prepare the Soil

Use the winter months to prepare your garden beds for planting. Test your soil’s pH, add any amendments, layer compost and other organic matter on the soil, and add weed control. 

Winter Garden Planning Resources

Grab these resources during the cold weather to get a head start before the upcoming growing season begins. 

1 . Homestead Journal Planner

This journal-style planner includes record-keeping & planning sheets to help you improve the productivity of your garden as well as the rest of your homestead!

Homestead Journal Planner | Winter Garden Planning

Write daily journal entries about what happens on your homestead, with your family, and more. Keep track of the weather every single day in the weekly calendar portion so that you can go back year after year and see what the weather was like. Having a cooler year than normal? Find a year that it resembled in the past and see what grew well for you that year!

The Homestead Journal Planner isn’t just a planner for one year, it’s a planner to help you build your homestead for years to come. Purchase the physical or digital copy now to get started planning for next year.

2. Kids’ Garden Journal

Winter is a great time to start introducing your children to garden planning! The Kids’ Garden Journal is the perfect tool for getting your kiddos excited about gardening! They can keep their own garden records and color on three different garden related coloring sheets! 

The Homesteaders of America Podcast

Check out the gardening related episodes on the HoA Podcast!

3. The Sustainable Garden Workbook

The Sustainable Garden Workbook was created to help you structure your garden space while providing essential tips for what food items store best long-term. Use this workbook to prepare for a successful garden-to-pantry season.

4. Free Garden Guides

Join the Homestead Insiders at The Prairie Homestead for FREE access to the Garden Planting Guide, Raised Bed Guide, and Cover Crop Guide!

5. Composting Made Easy Free Ebook

The Composting Made Easy E-Book will walk you through the basics of composting, teach you to make your own compost bins (large and small), introduce you to vermicomposting, and give you the information you need to make your own rich garden compost!


Winter Garden Planning: The Secret to Garden Success