Alicia DeVore

Have you ever imagined transforming your gardening skills from uncertainty about what to plant to cultivating a thriving garden throughout the year, all while sidestepping the pitfalls of failure? Today, I’m excited to share with you my journey of growth and the valuable lessons that guided me along the way.

My story begins with a move to a new region in the US, distinctively different from the familiar gardening landscape of Southern California. In Southern CA, I had developed a certain rhythm to my gardening, but I quickly discovered that this rhythm was out of sync in my new Northern California home. Here, I was introduced to actual seasons, unexpected frosts, and more significant weather changes than I had ever encountered in the South.

It was a challenging transition that took me over a year to navigate. I had to learn the intricacies of the new seasons, understand temperature fluctuations, and memorize frost dates. These elements combined to form a map that revealed precisely when and what to plant to avoid failure. This journey taught me that success in gardening is deeply rooted in understanding and adapting to one’s environment. By following the data and learning from it, I unlocked the secret to harvesting food all year round—a true treasure of self-sufficiency and connection to nature.

Join me as I dive into the lessons learned from adapting to a new gardening zone, and how these insights can help you achieve a bountiful garden, regardless of where you’re planting your roots in the following blog post, “Save Time and Energy with Smart Garden Planning Tips.”

My Gardening Journey: From One Season to All Seasons

Let me take you back to the start of my gardening adventure in a brand new zone here in the US. It was a rollercoaster of emotions – super excited but also a bit nervous. There’s something miraculous about bringing life out of the soil, right? But then, the hot weather and changing seasons threw me some curveballs. At first, I stuck to summer gardening. It wasn’t that I didn’t want my garden to be bustling all year round; I was just a bit unsure and didn’t quite have the confidence yet.

Spring was like a puzzle with its surprise frosts and sudden warm days. Figuring out the perfect time to plant for spring and fall felt like a guessing game. The seasons seemed to change in the blink of an eye, and if I missed that brief window, I’d have to wait a whole year to try again. Plus, picking the right plants for each season? That felt like a whole other challenge. I was worried I’d end up wasting both time and energy on plants that wouldn’t grow.

Summer became my safe haven because it was straightforward. Yet, every time I looked at my garden resting quietly after summer, I felt like it was capable of so much more. I had all this space just waiting to burst into life throughout the year, but I needed a bit more know-how and a nudge of confidence to make it happen.

That’s when something clicked inside me. I decided I didn’t want fear or uncertainty calling the shots in my garden anymore. I was ready to dive in and learn everything I could about my local gardening zone, get the hang of those tricky frost dates, and see the ever-changing of weather conditions as an exciting challenge rather than a roadblock.

If you’re standing where I once did, hesitant about stepping into year-round gardening, consider this your friendly nudge. Embarking on this gardening path is full of trial and error, sure, but also lots of victories and valuable lessons. Let’s turn that hesitation into curiosity. Get to know the unique personality of your local climate and let it guide you through the seasons. With a bit of patience, some perseverance, and an open heart ready to soak up new info, your dream garden can thrive all year long, no matter what the calendar says.

And to make this process even easier, I have a 3-part boot camp that will give you the roadmap of knowing what to plant in each part of your year. Sign up for it HERE. 

Reflecting on those early days, I realize every gardener’s story begins with just one step—or in my case, one season. Moving from a summer-only gardener to someone who embraces the garden in every season has been such a rewarding journey. It’s worth growing all year. 

Defining Success: Gardens When To Plant

For me, the dream of year-round gardening isn’t just about keeping my garden busy; it’s about embracing a lifestyle that aligns closely with my values of sustainability, health, and self-reliance. The goal to utilize every inch of my garden space throughout the year stems from a deeper desire to nourish my family with homegrown fruits and vegetables, ensuring a constant supply of fresh, healthy food right at our doorstep.

The importance of this goal goes beyond the simple pleasure of gardening. In a world where the cost of living continues to rise, particularly food prices, the ability to grow my own food all year round presents a practical solution to economize while promoting a healthier diet. By harnessing the full potential of my garden space, I’m turning the soil into a valuable asset, one that yields dividends in the form of nutritious, organic produce for my family.

Imagine not having to depend on the grocery store for every vegetable need, avoiding those trips that often end with purchasing overpriced, underwhelming produce. Instead, I aim to learn the rhythms of the seasons and plant vegetables myself, planting what thrives at each time of the year. This not only ensures that we’re eating fresh and seasonally but also secures the comforting knowledge that we will always have food growing in our garden.

Consider the humble lettuce, for example. With the rising costs of organic produce, the idea of paying $6.99 for a carton of potentially slimy salad greens is far from appealing. Contrast this with the simple act of planting a $3.50 pack of lettuce seeds, containing 100 seeds, into the ground.

With a bit of water and protection from the cold, those seeds promise a bounty of fresh lettuce. After just 50 days, I can begin harvesting a third of the lettuce, continuing to enjoy fresh greens for three months before starting the cycle anew with vegetable seeds. This not only saves time and money but also enriches our meals with organic, nutrient-rich food.

Success, for me, is defined by this independence and assurance. It’s knowing that, with careful planning and a bit of effort, I can step out onto my porch or backyard, harvest crisp lettuce for our daily salads, and return to the kitchen with a basket full of green vitality. It’s the peace of mind that comes from being able to provide for my family organically and naturally.

This vision of a year-round garden represents more than just an ambition to grow food; it symbolizes a commitment to a sustainable lifestyle, one where nothing is wasted, and everything is cherished. It’s a testament to the power of knowledge, timing, and patience in achieving self-sufficiency. For me, that is the true measure of success.

Mapping My Journey: An Insight into Using Your Garden All Year

I’m going to share a bit of my garden journey with you, sprinkling in some down-to-earth tips that helped me move from gardening just in one season to reaping the benefits of my garden all year round. Trust me, if I can do it, so can you. Let’s dive into how you can grow your garden game, step by practical step.

Start Small and Dream Big

My Game Plan: I kicked things off by focusing on a tiny slice of my garden. It was all about getting to know that patch like the back of my hand – how thirsty it got, where the sun liked to hang out, you name it.

Once I felt like a mini-expert in that area, I branched out to another spot the next season. This baby-step approach built up my garden mojo, laying down a solid base for all the cool stuff I wanted to do later.

3-Step Action Plan: 

  1. Identify Your Starter Zone: Choose a small, manageable section of your garden that gets a good mix of sunlight and shade throughout the day. This will be your experimental ground zero. Check out this blog post to help you know your temperatures.

  2. Research and Plan: Based on your chosen area, research which plants are best suited for its conditions. Sketch out a simple plan of where each plant will go, considering their sun, water, and space needs.

  3. Prepare and Plant: Prepare your soil by removing weeds and adding compost to enrich it. Plant your selected seeds or seedlings according to your plan, marking each type with a label. Water them gently, and watch your garden begin to grow.

Cover Crops: The Garden’s Best-Kept Secret

What Worked for Me: As my garden started to grow, so did the challenge of keeping everything in tip-top shape, especially when the seasons were changing. Enter cover crops – my garden’s superheroes. Planting these in areas that were just too much to handle in the cooler months (but perfect for summer’s big show) was a game-changer.

They kept my soil happy and ready for action, letting me zero in on and start planting vegetables in the rest of my garden without stressing over every inch. Plus, it was nice knowing parts of my garden were doing their thing, all set to shine when their time came.

Use Cover Crops Strategically

  1. Select Your Cover Crop: Choose a cover crop that suits your climate and soil type. Legumes like clover and vetch are great for fixing nitrogen, while grains like rye and barley are excellent for preventing erosion.

  2. Sow at the Right Time: Timing is crucial. Sow your cover crop before the off-peak season begins. This allows the cover crop to establish itself sufficiently to protect and nourish your soil. I use organic matter like compost from my compost pile or store-bought from my local garden center to cover the the seeds.

  3. Manage and Mulch: Once your cover crop has grown, you can cut it down before it seeds. Leave the cuttings on the surface as mulch or dig them into the soil to decompose. This will add nutrients back into the ground and improve soil structure.

Letting Nature Do Its Thing

My Favorite Part: I’ve got a soft spot for letting my cool-season buddies like bok choy, cilantro, and lettuce go full circle and bloom. Why? Because it turns my garden into a bee and butterfly hotspot, which is awesome for everyone involved. Plus, collecting seeds from these plants means I’m all set for the next time around. It’s a win-win: I’m helping the planet and getting a kick out of watching nature do its thing.

3-Step Process: 

  1. Choose Plants for Pollinators: Select a variety of plants that bloom at different times of the year to ensure a continuous supply of food for pollinators. Include plants like bok choy, cilantro, and lettuce that you can allow to flower and go to seed.

  2. Provide a Water Source: Set up a small birdbath or a shallow dish with stones for bees and butterflies to land on and drink. Ensuring pollinators have water is just as important as providing food.

  3. Collect Seeds and Share: Once your plants have flowered and produced seeds, carefully collect them for next year’s garden. Consider sharing some seeds with friends or local gardening groups. This not only spreads the joy of gardening but also promotes biodiversity.

Quick Tips to Take With You:

  • Take It One Step at a Time: Master a small part of your garden area first. Your confidence and skills will blossom, making it easier to take on more as you go. Learn to start seeds indoors and know which seeds are best planted direct sow like snap peas, snap beans, and french beans.

  • Cover Crops Are Your Friends: Use them to give parts of your garden a break and get the soil in prime condition for when it’s go-time. It’s like giving your garden a spa day.

  • Embrace the Circle of Life: Letting some plants flower and seed isn’t just good for the bees; it’s great for your garden’s future.

By starting with manageable goals, getting creative with cover crops, and rolling with nature’s rhythms, you’re setting the stage for a garden that keeps on giving, no matter the season. It’s an adventure that’s not only super rewarding but also connects you more deeply with the world right outside your door. 

Negotiating Roadblocks: Little Time & Knowledge Factor to Plant Vegetables

Navigating the shift from seasonal to year-round gardening introduced me to challenges that, if unaddressed, could have easily led me down a path of frustration and missed opportunities. 

The potential pitfalls of significant time and energy investment and the steep learning curve in understanding the diverse needs of a garden throughout the year were real. However, by recognizing these challenges early on and adopting strategic approaches, I was able to avoid these negative alternatives and find success and fulfillment in my gardening journey.

Overcoming the Time and Energy Investment Challenge

The prospect of year-round gardening being a continuous drain on my time and energy was daunting. There was a real risk of becoming overwhelmed, especially considering other life responsibilities from late summer through the winter months.

Strategies for Success:

  1. Starting Small: I began with a manageable area of my garden, focusing on a few crops that were known to be hardy and low-maintenance. This small victory gave me the confidence to slowly expand.

  2. Choosing Low-Maintenance Options: I researched and selected crops that required minimal care but provided maximum yield. Perennials and self-seeding annuals became my go-to choices. This helped reduce the planting time in the planting area.

  3. Incorporating Permaculture Principles: By designing my garden to mimic natural ecosystems, I minimized labor-intensive tasks. Companion planting, mulching, and creating diversity in my year’s garden reduced the need for watering, weeding, and pest control.

Navigating the Knowledge and Experience Gap with a Vegetable Garden

Understanding the intricacies of gardening across different seasons was another potential roadblock. Each season brought its own set of challenges, from selecting the right crops to knowing when to plant and how to protect them from weather extremes.

Strategies for Success:

  1. Continuous Learning: I dedicated time each week to educate myself through gardening books, online forums, and local workshops. This built a strong foundation of knowledge that I could apply directly to my garden.

  2. Community Engagement: Joining a local gardening group provided me with insights and tips specific to my region’s climate and soil conditions. The shared experiences with seasoned gardeners were invaluable. That is why I have created The Green Thumb Club, a place to share gardening questions, and experiences, and get encouragement. It is also a place with a treasure chest of training. You even get LIVE Q and A’s each month.  Check it out HERE.

  3. Experimentation: Understanding that not every technique would work perfectly allowed me to experiment freely. Each success and failure was a learning opportunity, helping me fine-tune my approach.

The journey from seasonal gardening to all-year gardening, all while escaping missing out on using that space, has been deeply fulfilling. I hope my experiences illuminating this path will be a beacon for those embarking on a similar journey.

Suppose you’re navigating the transition from one seasonal gardening to all-year gardening and looking to avoid the pitfalls of overwhelming time commitments and the steep learning curve. In that case, I’ve designed a 3-part bootcamp specifically for you. 

This training is tailored to show you precisely what to plant and when, for year-round gardening success. Get your free 3-part training to discover practical strategies that address the challenges of time, energy, and knowledge head-on, ensuring your garden thrives in every season. This is your guide to transforming your garden into a year-long haven of productivity and beauty. Let’s grow together on this journey to a flourishing garden, no matter the season.

FAQ’s

What are cool-season crops in a vegetable garden?

Think of cool-season crops as the cozy sweater of the plant world for spring planting. They thrive in cooler weather, usually when temperatures range between 35°F and 75°F (about 2°C to 24°C). This is typically in early spring planting dates and fall planting dates. Check out this website forresources.

These plants prefer a chill in the air over the heat of the sun and can often handle a light frost for spring planting. Some examples include lettuce, spinach, peas, and broccoli. Starting your spring planting with these crops can give you a head start in spring or extend your growing season into the fall.

What are warm-season crops in a vegetable garden?

Warm-season crops are the sunbathers of the garden, loving nothing more than basking in warmth and warm soil temperature. They grow best when daytime temperatures are between 65°F and 85°F (around 18°C to 29°C) – think prime summer weather.

These crops need warm, moist soil, and plenty of sunlight to flourish, making them perfect for planting after the last frost has passed. These warm-seasoned veggies are tender crops so using the planting season for warm-season vegetables brings success. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and melons are all stars of the warm-season crop lineup. Remember, these plants, like tomato plants are sensitive to cold, so it’s important to wait until the risk of frost is well behind before planting them outdoors. Sow seeds and transplant seedlings when temperatures are warm enough.

What is a frost date?

The frost information is an essential piece of info for gardeners for a vegetable garden, indicating when the last frost date is expected in spring or the first frost in fall. It’s like nature’s calendar alert, telling us when it’s safe to plant those tender, warm-season crops outside (after the spring frost date) and when it’s time to start saying goodbye to our gardens or protect plants as cooler weather approaches (before the fall frost date).

Knowing your local frost dates helps with planning your planting schedule, ensuring that cool-season crops get a head start in spring or a late harvest in fall, for winter crops and that warm-season crops enjoy the peak of summer without getting caught in a cold snap.

For Additional Information on Gardening:

Two Steps Needed to Create a Plot Plan for Year-Long Growing

Use These Top Essential Gardening Tips to Ensure Success

Unlock Your Garden Potential with One Simple Achievable Step

The 10 Things You Need to Grow a Productive Garden

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About the Author

Alicia has been teaching her whole life from elementary teacher to workshops for beginning gardeners.  Go HERE to read Alicia's story into gardening from plant killer to pro grower and garden coach.  If you want to send Alicia a quick message, then use her contact page HERE.

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