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Planning Your Herb & Food Garden for This Year

It's that time of year! Spring is officially here and the garden sections at our local co-ops and hardware stores are bursting with bright annual colors and fragrant spring bulbs. I've been spending some extra time planning out my garden for this year and getting seeds started. Adjusting to four distinct seasons (instead of my southern California-ingrained "almost everything grows year-round here" mindset) is new for me, so I've been devoting a lot of time to the study of local planting calendars. As I've been mapping out my own little plots and sketching beds and boxes for my talented husband to build, I've come across some really excellent gardening resources that I thought I'd share with you. I'd also love to hear about your favorite tools and resources - share them with me in the comments section at the end of this post!

GARDENING RESOURCES

  1. Kitchen Garden Planner - This website has the best online garden planning tool that I have ever come across. It is so easy to work with. You start by designing a single raised bed, planter box, or garden space. Drag and drop the plants you want to include in the space and the program will automatically plug in the correct amount of seeds you need (based on square foot gardening methods). Save the bed when you are finished and then work on the next one. After you've saved each individual garden bed/box/space, you can drag and drop the finished beds into your "site plan" and place them where they'll be in your yard. If you scroll down after finishing each bed, you'll find growing guides specific to each plant you've placed in the space. It's such a handy tool and you can save your plans and access them later as well! If you don't want to start from scratch, the site also offers pre-planned raised bed and planter box charts available. It's an insanely handy tool! It doesn't include drag-and-drop medicinal herbs, but it does include many culinary herbs, along with a host of veggies.
     
  2. This book. I've been reading through it as I plan out my space and am finding it useful, especially for calculating yields and determining how much I need to plant. I'm also reading this book and I have some vintage favorites like this one that I plan to review next.
     
  3. Master Gardeners Groups - Back in southern California, we frequently visited a demonstration garden that was kept by our local branch of Master Gardeners. There was always a Master Gardener available there during the daytime to help with answering gardening questions. Each one was knowledgeable in our local growing conditions and common local pests and diseases and was able to help gardeners identify the issues they were experiencing in their garden so they could determine how to target the problem in an effective way that wouldn't harm the ecosystem. I've just recently located the local MG branch in our new hometown and am looking forward to visiting them soon. It seems like many areas have a Master Gardeners group, so I'd highly recommend checking to see if there is one near you. They often host gardening classes as well.
growing organic herbs by erin stewart aromaculture.com-1.jpg

MY FAVORITE SEED COMPANIES

  1. Renee's Garden - She has a lovely selection of florals, including butterfly and pollinator blends, as well as a wide variety of organic edibles and herbs. I've had great germination rates with their seed.
     
  2. Botanical Interests - I've had good success with this brand as well. The organic selection is excellent. In southern California, we had a garden chain called Armstrong Garden Center that would clearance out their seeds at the end of each year right around Christmastime and we would always stock up on this brand. We've had great germination rates with these too.
     
  3. Strictly Medicinal Seeds (formerly Horizon Herbs) - If you're wanting to grow organic medicinal herbs in your garden, beware - their vast array of seeds will pull you in until you look down at your shopping cart and realize that you need to drastically pare down your selection. ;) I've ordered live plants from them in the past (my baby Hawthorn tree made the move to the PNW with us and is just starting to show signs of spring growth) and have also just purchased a selection of medicinal herb seeds from them. I've got them in sprouting trays right now and will keep you updated on my success with them.
     
  4. Siskiyou Seeds - This is a local seed company in the PNW. I came across it at our local co-op and picked up a few packets of seed to test. I highly recommend purchasing seeds from local companies whenever you can. If they are growing their mother plants locally, your seeds will already be well adapted to your area.
     
  5. Baker Creek - This company boasts a large selection of unique heirloom seeds. I haven't purchased from them since they updated their name, but their available varieties look as lovely as ever.

MY FAVORITE TOOLS AND SUPPLIES

Compost

I prefer homemade compost fresh from the vermiculture bin, but when I don't have enough of it available and need to supplement, I like to use this brand. Whatever you have available locally that is organic or OMRI listed will do. Sometimes the local compost available in your area is the best option. Talk to other gardeners in your area to see what they recommend and watch out for companies that include plastics and glass in their mixes.

Organic Amendments

If you care for your soil properly, you'll have healthier, more nutrient-dense plants that are far more resistant to pests and diseases than conventional plants or plants grown in depleted soil. I like to use lots of organic worm castings in my soil, along with organic or OMRI-listed amendments. I've heard great things about including rock dust as well, and will be experimenting with that this year.

OTHER PRACTICAL TIPS

Trade with locals

If you're attending classes or meetups with other gardeners or taking time to get to know your gardening neighbors, chances are you're making friends who you'll be able to trade seeds, cuttings, and plant starts with!

Check out the local digs

Trader Joe's stores often stock organic starts of the harder-to-germinate herbs. Local natural foods stores often do the same.

Some herbs can be planted via organic starts from the produce department of your natural foods store or farmer's market. I've had good success with growing Ginger and Turmeric that I purchased from a local store and have heard many stories of folks successfully growing garlic,  potatoes, green onions, and even some other herbs sourced this way.

Local farmer's markets can be a great place to find organic seedlings. Look for certified local farmer's markets - they're the ones that are full of local farmers selling their locally-grown plants and produce. Our local farmer's markets include a couple of local organic farms that are selling in-season organic seedlings.

WHAT ARE YOU PLANNING TO GROW THIS YEAR?

Let us know down in the comments below!

Much love,
Erin

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