“A good plan, violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week” –General George S. Patton.
Or, as paraphrased – A good plan, well-executed now equals success. That goes for many things in life, including gardening. Successful garden planning helps ensure lovely, healthy gardens and includes research, record-keeping, execution, and debriefing.
Fall is the perfect time to plan your garden for next year. Do your research by finding plants that work for your area. Look around at what kinds of plants are successful in your neighbor’s gardens. Identify the plants have you had success with in your gardens. If there are plants you would rather have that haven’t been successful, find out if your soil needs adjustment. You may be in a high clay content area or in a sandy area or in a loamy soil area. Call the OSU extension office for a guide on how to take a soil sample and have it tested. With the results you can amend your soil to the optimum balance for your desired plants.
Secondly, map your gardening areas. Note shady areas, slope of the land, water sources, and even wind paths. This helps to design your garden spaces. Again, OSU Extension Office can guide you in how to optimally design your gardens. If you already have vegetable or floral perennial plants that do well where they are located, plan around these plants. Mapping does not need to be pretty. If you like sketching on the back of a napkin, so be it. If you like high tech, there are lots wonderful mapping apps out there. One of my favorite is Old Farmer’s Almanac Garden Planner. You can purchase it or use the 7 day trial. By purchasing the Garden Planner, you can download it to multiple devices, plus it has reminders for planting suggestions, color coded system to rotate your crops to avoid depleting soil nutrients, and it copies you garden layout from year to year so you do not have to remember where you planted those daffodil bulbs last year. Whether you use an app or a journal, making a plan saves you lots of time and money.
Journal your garden. Keep track of weather conditions, pests that attack and when, fertilizing and weed control applications, garden traffic flow. Take notes of what grows and what does not. Jot down when you divide bulbs in the fall and where you plant them or who you give them to. Keep a calendar of what you have planted and when in your journal. Both Old Farmer’s Almanac and OSU Extension office have wonderful planting calendars available to print out on line. For our area, I recommend the OSU Extension Office fact sheet over the Old Farmer’s Almanac simply because we are in a niche area with special needs and circumstances between gardening zones.
September through November execute your plan. Amend your soil based on test results. Plant bulbs for blooms next spring and summer. Trim most trees and shrubs. Map where and what kind of perennials and annuals you plan to plant for spring/summer texture, color, and height. Start perusing garden catalogs for ideas. Most garden companies will send you free catalogs. Collect seeds from your current plants like zinnias, dahlias, Shasta daisies, marigolds/calendulas, brown-eyed Susans/rudibekia, sun flowers, and various fruits and vegetables like peppers, various squashes, melons and pumpkins. Rinse well and allow them to dry out. Save them in labeled paper envelopes for planting next year. Also, share with friends. A great holiday gift is a homemade garden in a card. More about that in December. Take advantage of end of year seed sales. Most seeds keep for several years before losing their viability. Start a budget based on costs in the seed catalogs and online pricing for gardening tools. Start purchasing gardening tools for the spring to defray all at once expenses in the spring. If you decide to have major construction done for a garden such as masonry raised beds or major tree removal, plan for these costs ahead by getting estimates. Sometimes you can save money by having work done out of season.
Right now is a great time to start journaling your gardens. Remember what grew, where in your garden, and what struggles you encountered over the spring and summer. Journaling does not need to be an everyday chore. Debriefing includes noting your successes and how that happened so you can duplicate it in your garden for years to come. The best thing about plans is they can be adapted based on those successes. For more gardening tips, check out OSU Extension fact sheets online at https://extension.okstate.edu/fact-sheets/ or stop by the OSU Extension office at 316 E. Oxford, Enid, near the Garfield County Fairgrounds.