Next Year's Garden | Planning, Tips & Advice

2019 will be here before we know it, literally in two months! The end of fall seems like an odd time of year to be thinking about your garden. 

After all, it’s unlikely that you will get much use from your garden over the coming months. Gone are the days of warm summer evenings spent basking in the sunshine, inhaling the sweet fragrance of your plants and shrubs; over winter, your garden becomes cold and rather stark, and most people will avoid their outdoor space until spring. 

However, while it may sound strange, now is the perfect time to think about your garden… in a way. Rather than dedicating time and resources to your garden as it is right now, you can switch your focus to what your garden will be like next year. In an effort to aid you in this task, below, we’ve put together a few ideas that are well worthy of your consideration over the coming months… 

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#1 - Reflect on the year just passed

The first thing to do when planning for the future is to look to the past, as this allows you to learn lessons and - hopefully - make any necessary changes as a result. Here are a few points to consider:

Did your plants, shrubs, and trees flourish as you hoped? Did they produce fruit as you expected? 

Was there anything you noticed about your garden that was inconvenient? For example, did wish you had more outdoor seating, or did your path become too slippery to walk on when it had rained? 

Is there anything you wanted to do in your garden that you couldn’t do? 

Were there any tasks that you wanted to accomplish but never found the time for? 

Was your garden well-watered last year? Did you find the watering process convenient, or was it time-consuming and difficult?

How well were you able to control weeds throughout the most active seasons of the year? Was there a particular area of your garden that seemed to struggle with excessive weed growth?

When you have a list of conclusions regarding the last year’s usage of your garden, you can then… 

#2 - Find solutions for any problems you encountered

First, go through all of the points you noted down above and try to establish a solution. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

If your flowers, shrubs, and trees did not flourish as you initially hoped, research different food and fertilizer options that you can use next year. It’s also worth looking for specific foods designed for individual types of plants rather than a multipurpose product, as specialized fertilizers tend to produce the best results. 

If you found watering difficult, you could explore options such as sprinkler systems to make this easier. 

If you noted that you wished you’d had more outdoor seating, it’s well worth looking to buy this straightaway - many stores will reduce their outdoor furniture at this time of year, so you stand a good chance of picking up a bargain. 

If you struggled to find the time to work on your garden as much as you would have hoped, you could think about schedule management, or how you might organize your time better next year. Many gardeners find a putting together a maintenance routine helps them to stay on track, or you could look to simplify some tasks in order to reduce the time demand - for example, switching from a standard lawn to AstroTurf.

When you have solutions for all of your established issues in mind, you can now research how you will implement them. For conceptual solutions - such as creating a regular maintenance routine - you can start right away, creating a framework that you can use as a baseline when spring rolls around. Other solutions may need to be budgeted for, so you can start to research options such as the cost of a sprinkler system or AstroTurf, then plan your monthly budget and start saving accordingly. 

One of the greatest advantages of making these plans at this point is that it gives you the chance to save for larger projects gradually, rather than needing to find the funds as soon as spring rolls around. Working this way will provide you with the opportunity to implement a greater number of solutions.

#3 - Remove leaves from your lawn throughout winter

Raking and clearing leaves is one of those chores that everyone dislikes, not least because your hard work is usually swiftly undone with the next gust of wind.

However, raking leaves is incredibly important to your lawn’s health over winter. Some people believe that, as leaves are natural matter, they can be left to mulch down - a kind of fertilizer for the grass - but, unfortunately, this simply isn’t the case. Excess leaves greatly enhance the chances of your experiencing snow mold; a problem that will ruin your lawn and greatly impact your ability to enjoy your garden come spring. To prevent this, rake leaves throughout fall as normal, but also through winter. As a general rule, if you can see more leaves than grass, it’s time to remove them. 

#4 - Create a manifest of your supplies and where they are stored

The process of creating a garden manifest can take a while, but you’ll thank yourself for your efforts come spring. Here’s what you need to include: 

A description of what the item is - for example, seeds, a tool, weed killer, fertilizer, and so on. Essentially, if you use it in the garden, it belongs in the manifest. 

Where you are storing the item over winter. 

For items such as weed killer and fertilizer, make a note of how much of the product is left. If you’re running short, make a note to remind yourself to purchase more before spring. 

This manifest will be invaluable come spring, helping to ensure you’re able to actually garden when the weather improves, rather than constantly have to search for the items you need. 

#5 - Look for fall and winter planting options

For the most part, winter is a season where you can plan and prepare for spring, but do little to put those plans into action. There are, however, a few exceptions: 

Snowdrops can be planted as bulbs through to December.

Tulips can be planted throughout November and, in milder climates, through to the end of December. 

Daffodils can be sown right up until the point of the first frost. 

Alternatively, if you live in a colder climate or have already experienced the first deep frost of the year, you do have the option to sow seeds indoors rather than directly into the ground; sweet peas, hardy cyclamens, and Laurentia should all do well in these conditions, and can be planted out when the weather begins to thaw in spring. 

#6 - Protect existing plants from the worst of the winter weather 

As well as thinking about next year’s new additions to the garden, it’s also helpful to think about protecting your existing plants and what you can do to ensure they make it through to spring. 

Many plants will naturally become dormant over winter and will survive the colder months of the year with few issues. However, some need a little more help: any plant, shrub, or flower that is not described as “hardy” could probably benefit from garden fleece over winter. 

You don’t have to apply fleece to every plant, flower, and shrub in your garden, but it’s certainly worth taking the time to protect expensive or rare plants, or those that have a significant sentimental value. 

#7 - Lay landscaping fabric over weed-prone areas 

Landscaping fabric - also known as “weed fabric” - helps to provide a tough membrane that greatly inhibits weed growth. You can lay landscaping fabric throughout the year, but it’s easier and more efficient to lay it during the cooler months, as there’s less risk of trapping live weeds (or seeds) beneath the fabric. 

Start by going back to the list mentioned in the first point; this should allow you to identify the areas of your garden that were most troubled by problematic weed growth. You can then clear the area in question, removing all weeds and other debris, and add weed killer - this step isn’t strictly necessary, but it can be helpful.

With the ground prepared, you can then purchase your fabric, cut it to size - leaving a space for established plants if necessary - and then lay it directly onto the earth. You will also need to ensure the fabric does not blow away in the wind, either weighing it down with decorative gravel or using small ground pegs to finish the task. 

In conclusion 

By planning next year’s garden now, you can enjoy a jump start. By the time spring rolls around, you can be sure you’ll be to start on the right foot, with all the necessary planning already complete. You’ll then be able to focus on perfecting those plans, which should in turn ensure you are able to create a wonderful outdoor space in the most efficient way - resulting in a garden you can delight in all spring and summer long.

Check out my latest, homesteading post that will also give you more insight on starting your own vegetable or fruit garden if you're a newbie to it all.

Hope this new year is as enriching and fulfilling as any other if not more!

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