Building a DIY garden planting calendar helped me quit wasting time and grow more food!
If you have tried to implement year-round gardening or succession planting, then maybe you too have experienced the flurry of seed packets and chaos that can happen at sowing time. Often getting to planting late, or sometimes too early, keeping up with seed sowing is an area of stress in the garden that I want to streamline.
So, last year, rather than randomly plodding outdoors with a boxful of seed packets and a headful of ideas, I implemented into my garden journal a seed sowing and transplanting calendar, a schedule. Using this tool, along with the garden layout plan I put together at the beginning of every garden season, saved me in more ways than one.
With a schedule and a map in hand, I saved many headaches and hours of time. No more having to juggle through seed packets and labels trying to jog my memory or drum up inspiration. Crops were also more likely to be sown and transplanted on time because it is ‘on the calendar’.
I have learned that things work out way better when I have a plan.
Now sowing days are as easy as looking to the calendar to see what needs to be sown that week. I can pull just those seeds from storage, prep the row markers ahead of time, and then head outside with a map and confidence that I actually know what I have to do that day.
This is the best way that I have found to keep us in salad greens year-round and avoid missing the fall / winter sowing windows.
If you do any amount of gardening, from a large market garden to a tiny window patio, implementing a seed sowing calendar into your annual garden planning will surely improve your results, and therefore, your garden enjoyment. And that is what I am going for.
It takes time to put together your first calendar but the nice thing is in future years you only need modify your calendar for the adjustments you want to make for that year. Maybe you decided, like me, you need to be a little more patient, allowing Spring to warm things up a bit more before you sow your carrot seed. You have last year’s calendar as a record so you know when you sowed your carrot seed, adjust it this year to sow a couple weeks later.
Whether you decide to go print or digital for your calendar, the idea is the same. Here is how I do it.
Make your own DIY Garden Planting Calendar
What do you want to grow this year?
Gather your seeds. If you don’t already have a list of what you are sowing this year, make one. I end up with a list at the beginning of every garden year when I put together my seed order so that is what I work from.
Decide on your calendar.
Use a free calendar from the local feed store, a large one-year wall calendar, or go digital with whatever calendar you like to use online. The first time I tried this I actually drew up a large paper spreadsheet… not doing that again. I eventually settled on a spreadsheet in Excel that I can copy, adjust, and modify from year-to-year. This year I am going to experiment with using an online calendar. Find what works best for you.
Gather your gardening resources.
I use a combination of grow guides, information on seed packets, my favorite gardening books, and personal experience of my microclimate as I decide my planting schedule for the growing season. All you really need is the seed packets though if you want to keep it simple.
If you are looking for some good growing guides for the Pacific Northwest, I like these:
Start by marking the average frost dates.
Mark the average frost dates for your area on your calendar. The whole garden season revolves around these dates. If you are not sure about the frost dates for your area, you can look them up in the almanac. I mark the average last frost in the spring as week 0. Then I mark the weeks either side of the last frost, up to eight weeks before the last frost and then 12 weeks or so after.
Now begin filling in your calendar.
Go down your list or through your seed packets, review the planting information, and mark down the dates on your calendar that you plan to sow each crop.
Because we practice season extension and raise our own starts, I also include whether I plan to direct sow (DS) straight into prepared beds, sow in flats (F) or pots under lights or in the greenhouse, or sow under a cloche (C).
Let’s take bush delicata winter squash… The seed packet says to sow in containers 3-4 weeks before your last frost date and to transplant out prior to the second set of true leaves (about 5-6 weeks after sowing). So on the calendar, starting at week 0 which for me is April 15, I count back 3-4 weeks before the last frost and add ‘winter squash, delicata’. I also mark it with an (F) to indicate I should sow those in pots. At the same time, I will mark on the calendar when these babies will be ready to transplant (T).
This is the earliest date that I should start this crop, but I can also decide to sow it a little later as long as there are enough growing days for the crop to reach maturity. This is why I will also mark the expected maturity date (M) for some of our main crops. As year-round gardeners, this then sets us up for the next round of gardening because we know when a bed will be vacated of a certain crop and ready for what’s next.
As another example, we like to have a continuous supply of salad greens – lettuce, arugula, spinach, cilantro, kales, etc. I love that the PNW allows us to grow some kind of green year-round. To stay in fresh salad, we sow various salad greens the first week of every month except November and December. These are easy to mark on the calendar, salad greens (DS).
That is it in a nutshell. Fill out your personalized garden planting calendar with all the crops you plan to grow this year.
When it comes time to plant…
Simply refer to your planting calendar and pull the seeds you will need for the day from the cool, dry place where you store them. Prep row/container markers for each crop with the name of the variety and the day’s date. If you are direct sowing or transplanting out, be sure to grab your garden layout plan so you know where you planned for each crop to reside for the season.
Make a DIY Garden Planting Calendar
Keep in mind that there is more to deciding when to plant than just the date on a calendar. More important than anything for the success of your seeds is ensuring that conditions are right for sowing. It doesn’t matter if the planting calendar says its time to plant peas if your ground is still too soggy to work, or the soil is still too cold to germinate your seeds. If you are trying to get a jump on things and get things going as early as possible, make sure you are also using a soil thermometer.
Use your garden calendar along with your ‘garden sense’. As rainy as this winter has been (thankfully), my guess is spring is going to be the same. We have soil that drains well and can be worked almost year-round. Still, I anticipate starting a lot of seeds inside or under cover for fear they will drown if I put them out in the elements. At least until things dry out a bit.
Putting together your first DIY garden planting calendar will take a little work, but I have found it to be worth the effort. Each year I will make adjustments based on successes and failures and the calendar will become completely tailored to our garden rhythms. This has become one of the most valuable, time-saving tools for me in the long run and it is only going to get better with age.
Do you use a garden planting calendar or plan on making one?
Maybe you have another strategy to keep the year-round garden going? Do tell!
Curious about our annual seed order?
We like to keep track over on Pinterest!
Want more year-round gardening tips?