Winter is Here – Planning For Next Year’s Garden

It may seem silly that I am already thinking about next spring’s plantings this far in advance. With the snow piling up in pillowy drifts this week the summer seems like a far off dream. However, the seasons change rapidly and time never waits so if I can get some schematics planned my garden may be better off next year. I have been reading some fabulous books and watching videos lately about permaculture and perennial food crops- one book I would highly recommend is Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway and the youtube video series by OneYardRevolution are great.

Lacinato kale. Photo Courtesy of Parkseed
Lacinato kale. Photo Courtesy of Parkseed
So back on the issue of what to grow: there’s not a ton of space in my garden so I like smaller more compact plants. Perennials are nice because they come back year after year but I would only plant a perennial in my small garden if it would produce as well as an annual crop. A few perennials I am interested in are gooseberries, ground cherries, mint, rosemary and red veined sorrel. Most perennials do well in shadier locations too so prime growing space can be given to sunshine hungry annuals. Next growing season I am debating on growing full sized tomatoes and thinking of sticking to dwarf varieties like romas and cherries, however the tomato plant Early Girl which is full sized did very well in my garden. I am going to grow more kale this year as well as more swiss chard. Two varieties of these greens that did well this year in my garden were lacinato kale or dinosaur kale (an Italian Heirloom) and rainbow swiss chard.

I want to grow Fordhook Giant swiss chard next season as I’ve read that it is exceptionally cold hardy. I want to grow some Asian greens like Tatsoi as well as lettuce- but I think I will grow lettuce in a few containers to save garden space. Ground cherries naturalized in my garden but I think I might’ve killed the vine with my over enthusiastic weeding (I didn’t know you could eat them). These little plants produce an abundance of little round fruits on spreading vines, the husk on the outside looks like a tiny paper lantern, I’ve heard these fruits taste like a cherry tomato but sweeter. Gooseberries are another native perennial berry bush that grows well in shade- their berries are sweet/tart with lots of juice and I could grow these as ground cover underneath my raspberry canes. I am thinking of doing carrots and beets in the garden too- I like the red rocket carrots as they are high in lycopene and bull’s blood beets are said to be particularly vigorous.

Photo Courtesy: The Permaculture Project
Photo Courtesy: The Permaculture Project
Another idea I’ve been playing around with is creating an herb spiral on a piece of empty ground where an old car sat for about a year. This ground is unsuitable to grow in this season but if I mound up soil and compost to make an herb spiral I think that the resulting foliage will be safe to eat. I had a problem in my garden last year with pests and I want to build a nice habitat to encourage predatory insects to dine on these annoying bugs. So in my herb spiral I will plant bee balm, lavender, chamomile, basil, rosemary, parsley, mint, anise hyssop, and lemon verbena.

About DeLaney Becker-Baratta
Hi everyone! I live in Grand Rapids MI. My free time is spent dreaming of my (future) self sufficient place out in the country. I am currently obsessed with permacultre and I am looking forward to spring so I can start my small garden.

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