March has provided a chaotic daily dance around here as we perform for the sun gods. We worship the thermometer and the forecaster, praying daily that the weather will hold, that it will provide just enough sun, just enough rain. Will we need to rush out of bed at midnight to bring the seedlings in as the temperature dips JUST below the safe zone? Do we have a window of time to cover the crops after the tornadic forecast, and just before the snow starts? It's wild and beautiful, every year. And while all of this goes on for the spring planting, inside a completely different dance is commencing; more of a Waltz.
Packets of eggplant, tomato, pepper, and petunia litter the table of my work station, in a tiny room shared with my husband's hobby. A tall shelf looms, empty and waiting for me to fill it with more grow lights and more trays of tender seedlings to hatch out. It's midnight in March, and I'm counting how many more rows of Listada De Gandia eggplant I should start. Maybe I should sneak in a last minute seed order for more micro tomatoes before dawn? Yes, definitely. And while I'm at it, might as well add a few more packs of beans and herbs, and a backup pack of zinnias. My last average frost date is still 8 weeks away, but the grunt work has to be done now. The direct sown plants like squash and melons can wait, but these laborsome treats that will fill the pantry with jewel toned jars of sauce and salsa need to begin now, in this March midnight hour.
So, as I wistfully recall my preparations for July to you, what can you do to ensure a summer bounty from your own garden? First, decide your goals. Want to cook down several quarts of tomato sauce to can? Or are you more of a green bean grower? I'm both! Set your goals and measure your space, first. Once you know what you're working with, pick your crops and check out their time to harvest. Long season crops like the aforementioned eggplant and peppers need to be started some weeks before they get planted in shorter season areas. Beans and squash can be direct sown.
While you plan out your summer, you also need to keep in mind how and what you would like to grow for the fall and winter gardens, after all, we are in it for the 365 day growing season! You'll want plans for what seedlings to have ready to plug into the abandoned tomato plots if blight or hornworms claim them. Keep an area empty for any quick season fall squash, as squash bugs will have disappeared by late summer(possibly taking your spring sown squash with them.) As more and more summer crops vacate the garden, fill those spaces with dreams of a winter harvest of greens and next July's garlic crop. With careful planning, there is no starving time.