When you have limited time to devote to your garden, it’s really easy for your weekends to turn into a never-ending marathon of gardening tasks. It’s no fun when gardening becomes an overwhelming chore rather than an enjoyable hobby. So, let’s learn how to create a custom garden calendar so you can feel more organized and in-control of your gardening tasks.
By putting a little bit of work into your schedule now, you’ll be able to get your weekends back as well as create more time and space to actually ENJOY your garden rather than constantly working in it.
The best part? It’s totally customizable to fit your specific needs.
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Here are the steps to take to create your customized garden calendar:
- Create a list of gardening goals.
- Determine the dates your gardening season starts and ends (frost dates).
- Create a growing list of plants and vegetables.
- Break down your year into different seasons.
- Create to-do lists for each season of gardening.
Quick Tip: If you’re serious about creating the ultimate gardening calendar, my Gardening Calendar Workbook will help you plan and crush your #GardeningGoals in style.
Create a List of Gardening Goals
When creating goals, you should dream big… and small. Think about all of the things that you want to accomplish throughout this gardening season. Brainstorm a big old list of ideas!
You may have big goals, like:
- build a new backyard patio
- start a vegetable garden
- plant a large native wildflower meadow
Also consider smaller goals you want to accomplish, like:
- get 2 good harvests of tomatoes
- provide food and shelter for pollinators
- grow enough cut flowers to harvest the world’s best bouquet for Mother’s Day
The sky is the limit and no task is too big or small! For your larger goals, use a full sheet to plan each one. Break the large goal into smaller goals. For your smaller goals, just list them on one page so you don’t forget.
Determine the Start and End Dates of Your Gardening Season
In order to create a plan and know when to perform certain garden tasks, you’ll need to know your frost dates. A frost date is the average date of the first or last light freeze that occurs in spring or fall.
On the Farmer’s Almanac website you use their frost date calculator to find yours. Just put in your zip code and determine your (1) last spring frost date and (2) first fall frost date. It’s also helpful to jot down (3) the length of your growing season, especially if you want to get multiple harvests.
Estimated frost dates are just a guide to get you started — there are so many factors that go into frost. Farmer’s Almanac says their calculator is accurate about 70% of the time, so keep that in mind when you’re planning.
Adding a week or two to the frost date estimates and/or having materials on-hand to cover/protect your plants in the event of a late spring or early fall frost is a good practice to follow.
Addressing Warmer (No-Frost) Climates
In this article, we’ll be using a frost-date calculator, which (obviously) only works if you’re gardening in an area where it actually does frost. But what if you’re in a frost-free climate? The good news is that you can still use this calendar to help plan your garden, with some modification.
When you live in a warm climate with a long growing season, it’s just as (if not more) important to create a plan. Mostly because it’s possible to have multiple harvests in one season! But also, when temps get very warm it can be very stressful for you & your plants.
One way to resolve this is to treat the hottest time of year as your “off” season. Then, you (and your plants) can take a break during the most extreme heat. Let’s call this your “heat wave.”
Instead of using frost dates as your guide like us cold weather folk, you’ll need to center your gardening tasks around your heat wave. So, choose a start and end period for your heat wave. This can really be any period of time that works for you. The end of your heat wave marks the end of one growing season and the beginning of a new growing season. Next, create lists of tasks to do:
- Near the end of your heat wave (pre season)
- Your early, mid and late growing season
- At the beginning of your heat wave (post season)
Create a Growing List
When creating a gardening calendar, its very helpful to decide what plants & vegetables you plan to grow during the season ahead of time.
Brainstorm a list of all of your plants. Use your seed packets and/or experience to put in the sow dates and germination periods for your plants and vegetables.
A handy resource for this is the Farmer’s Almanac Vegetable Planting Calendar. Just put in your zip code and it will tell you when you’ll need to sow each vegetable. In fact, it will give you dates to start sowing indoors, when to plant seedlings or transplants and dates to start your outdoor sowing. It’s such a helpful resource!
Once you know these numbers, you’ll be able to plug them into your custom gardening calendar. You can even work backwards to determine when you can sow and plant a second (or third) crop of your favorites! Knowing these dates ahead of time will help you get even more harvest cycles into your growing season.
If you’re new to veg gardening, this guide will help you pick some cool season veggies.
Divide Your Gardening Calendar into “Seasons”
I find it very helpful to divide gardening tasks into different “seasons” (pun intended). The seasons I use for my tasks are: pre, early, mid, late and post season.
I’ve created a free download with example tasks for each of these seasons. Just enter your email below to get the guide.
List all of the tasks you’ll need to do to get your plants growing and your goals accomplished throughout each season. Some ideas for your calendar:
- Tasks that will help you accomplish your goals
- Equipment/tools that need to be maintained
- Anything you need to buy
- Dates for sowing and harvesting
- Tasks for larger projects you have planned
In the next section, I’ll give you some season-specific examples from my own calendar.
Pre-season is the time for tasks that will prepare you for the growing season before it starts.
Once you know your goals and frost dates, you’ll be able to generate a list of things to do to get ready for the gardening season. Here are some tasks that are on my list. I order them from the beginning of the year all the way up to things to do right before the season starts. You can even add specific dates to these tasks to get even more organized.
|Continue planning your garden.|
|Check inventory of fertilizers and other gardening necessities and restock if needed.|
|Sharpen mower blades and perform annual maintenance.|
|If you let your perennials stand over winter, now is the time to clean them up.|
|Begin sowing tender annual vegetables indoors (tomatoes, zucchini, chilis, sweet peppers, eggplants, melons, winter squash, etc.).|
|Begin sowing annual flowers indoors (sunflower, zinnia, nicotiana, begonia, amaranth, etc.). Also try self-sowing annuals.|
|If it’s mild enough to be outdoors, begin pruning deciduous shrubs and trees.|
|Get your tools out of storage and get them ready! It’s almost time!|
|🌱 Apply early spring fertilizer to plants, trees and lawn when you begin to see new growth. Weed garden beds.|
Early Gardening Season
These are tasks that are dependent upon the start date of your growing season (i.e. your last spring frost date).
These are tasks that you would do X amount of days into the gardening season. They are all tasks that need to be done when there’s little-no chance that a frost will damage or kill tender plants.
Here is my early-season task list, organized into weeks using multiples of 7 days.
|Spring Frost Date + 0||Begin “hardening off” seeds sown indoors by putting them outside for a few hours each day (if weather permits).|
|Spring Frost Date + 0||Take out hoses, inspect hoses and sprayers. Turn water on to spigots.|
|Spring Frost Date + 14 Days||Plant trees, shrubs and perennials. But FIRST, be sure there’s no late frost coming! Water often for the first few weeks. Continue planting until late spring- consider creating a no-dig flower bed.|
|Spring Frost Date + 14 Days||Begin planting warm season vegetables and annual flowwes. Divide perennials.|
|Spring Frost Date + 14 Days||Plant seeds sown indoors in the garden after hardening. Keep covered with cloche for first week.|
|Spring Frost Date + 35 Days||📸 Photograph spring garden for records. Pick a day where everything looks great!|
|Spring Frost Date + 35 Days||Prune spring-flowering shrubs after the flowers have faded. Stay on top of weeding.|
|Spring Frost Date + 42 Days||Finish planting flowering annuals. Finish pruning spring-flowering shrubs. Divide spring blooming bulbs as foliage turns yellow.|
|Spring Frost Date + 42 Days||🌱 Apply fertilizer to plants, trees and lawn (6-8 weeks after first application).|
Mid Gardening Season
I save this section of my calendar for tasks that are not attached to a spring or fall frost date. Things like on-going tasks, maintenance & miscellaneous to-dos that will keep your garden healthy and happy.
Here are the tasks on my mid-season list:
|April||Purchase any vegetable seedlings you didn’t order yet|
|April||Make note of Spring Black Friday sale dates. You can find bags of mulch (to prevent weeds) for 5/$10 at the big box stores.|
|May||Order plants from catalogs to be shipped/planted in the fall.|
|Memorial Day||Check garden center Memorial Day sales for discounts on plants, mulch, etc.|
|4th of July||Hit the garden center – there’s always 4th of July sales!|
|Summer||📸 Photograph mid summer garden for records. Pick a day where everything looks great!|
|Summer||Remember to deadhead flowering plants and shrubs to continue blooms. Stay on top of weeding. Raise up your mower blades so the grass doesn’t burn.|
|August 1||Order your fall bulbs by the end of July to get the best selection|
|October 1||Be on the lookout for garden center End of Season sales for discounts on plants|
|December||Order seeds for next spring by January to get the best selection|
Late Gardening Season
Any tasks that are dependent upon the end of your growing season.
These are tasks that you need to do X amount of days before the end of the gardening season. Many of my seed germination tasks are marked here — because I know I will need to sow seeds X days before the frost comes in order to get in one last harvest.
Here’s a list of pre-frost tasks– yours can change based on what you like to plant and grow.
|Fall Frost Date -100 Days||Last chance to plant slow-maturing cold-hardy crops (100 days to mature). Check seed packets for detailed info.|
|Fall Frost Date -70 Days||Last chance to plant middle-maturing cold-hardy crops (55-70 days to mature). Check seed packets for detailed info.|
|Fall Frost Date -40 Days||Last chance to plant quick-maturing cold-hardy crops (40 days to mature). Check seed packets for detailed info.|
|Fall Frost Date -40 Days||Fall is a great time to plant trees, shrubs and perennials. Water often for the first few weeks so they survive the winter!|
|Fall Frost Date -30 Days||🌱 Apply fall fertilizer to plants, trees and lawn when it gets cooler. Stay on top of weeding.|
|Fall Frost Date -21 Days||📸 Photograph fall garden for records. Pick a day where everything looks great!|
|Fall Frost Date -7 Days||Frost is coming – stop planting new trees, shrubs and perennials! Don’t worry you can still plant your spring-blooming bulbs, though!|
Quick Tip: If you are new to vegetable gardening and really don’t know what to plant, try some of these slow, medium and quick maturing cold-hardy vegetables. It will make things less overwhelming.
If you live in a warm climate that your “before first frost” tasks will be your “before heat wave” tasks. These tasks mark the end of the growing season.
Post-Season Garden Calendar
Any tasks you need to do to close out the season and ensure your pre-season is nice and easy. By the time the growing season is over, I know I’m ready to take a break. But that’s why I create this calendar ahead time. It helps me to stay on track and make sure I put everything away so it’s ready to go next year. It also helps me to create my plan for the following season.
Here are some of the post-season (i.e. after first fall frost) tasks I have on my list:
|Finish bulb planting. You can still plant bulbs until the ground is too frozen to dig.|
|Cut back perennials if desired, only after frost kills the tops.|
|Remove frost-killed annuals.|
|Rake and shred leaves, use healthy leaves as mulch or make leaf-mold.|
|Clean up vegetable garden, compost healthy plants and discard suspect ones.|
|Water shrubs and flower borders deeply to prepare plants for winter.|
|Put away hoses and gardening equipment. Turn off water to spigots.|
|Clean, tune up and store your mower for winter.|
|Clean, sharpen and store your gardening tools for winter.|
|Cut back dried perennials (if desired). You can leave over winter to provide food/habitat for wildlife. Also leave attractive seed pods for winter interest!|
|Evaluate your gardening season – what went well / what didn’t? Make notes!|
|Look up your vegetable planting calendar on Farmer’s Almanac; print out.|
|Plan your garden using my garden planning worksheets!|
Add Recurring Gardening To-Dos to your Calendar
Quick Tip: Make sure that your plantings are getting their weekly inch of water. You can purchase a simple, inexpensive rain gauge or a more elaborate electronic weather station to help you with this.
Purchase Plants & Seeds
Here are a few of my recommendations to order trees, plants & bulbs online:
I hope you now have a lot more clarity about how to create a customized gardening calendar. With a little planning, you can get your weekends back and have more time to actually enjoy your garden instead of constantly working in it. Creating a plan ensures that you don’t get overwhelmed and stay organized and in-control of your schedule.
Remember that in order to tailor a plan to your specific needs you have to first set goals, create a grow list and determine your last spring and first fall frost dates. Then you can schedule your tasks for each gardening “season”, like pre-season, early, mid, late and post-season. Don’t forget to include sow dates for your favorite plants. You can also include sale dates so you can get the best deal on mulch, flowers and other gardening tools and equipment. Reminders to purchase seeds and bulbs are also great items to add to your plan.
If you live in a warmer climate, you’ll still be able to create a customized plan for your gardening tasks. Instead of planning your garden around frost dates, you can plan your garden around the hottest period (which we dubbed the “heat wave”). This is your downtime to perform tasks to get ready for your “next” growing season and wrap up any chores that you need to do at the end of the growing season. If you live in a warm climate and have any tips to share, I’d love to hear from you.
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