The steadily growing stack of new seed catalogs are a reminder that now is good time to review your last year’s garden and plan for the coming season. This is also a good time to think about and order the tools you will need, as well as the seeds you want for the coming season. Planning your garden is so much easier with the profusion of online garden planners available to help plan your plantings. These online planners keep track of crop rotations and even send you twice‑monthly reminders of what needs to be planted for your garden plan. You can try many apps and garden planners like the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange Garden Planner free for a week to see how it works for you.
Mother Earth News magazine online has many great tools that help you get ready to plan. Their When to Plant app provides planting times, long-range weather maps, and crop advice right at your fingertips. Their Vegetable Gardening Guide provides in-depth articles on several common garden crops and on basic gardening techniques, including watering, disease prevention, how to extend your growing season, and much more.
There are also many regional books, CDs, and DVDs, like those from Ashland Bio-intensive mini farmer Cindy Conner, Virginia author Pam Dawling, and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange’s Ira Wallace, available from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Sustainable Market Farming, Homeplaceearth.com, and independent booksellers everywhere.
In addition to books and spreadsheets, a gardener needs the right tools to be successful. One tool that I love is a long handled scuffle (stirrup) hoe. I think that every gardener should have at least one to get the tedious job of controlling weeds in long rows and big areas done early when the weeds are young. Scuffle hoes come in a variety of sizes and are great for thinning, as well as early and pre-emergent weeding. The action with a scuffle hoe is a near effortless forward and back action done from a comfortable standing position. It feels like gliding along the row.
When weeds are larger and a bit out of control or you need to make furrows for planting larger seeds, a heavier tool is called for like a traditional American garden hoe, a sturdy grub hoe, or a heavy field hoe like something straight out of Gone with the Wind. These stout hoes also work well for weeding and hilling potatoes at the same time. If you want to get some new high quality tools for 2018, Purple Mountain Organics will have a great assortment of tools at the VABF Biological Farming conference Jan 23-24, 2018 at the Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia.
For weeding intensively planted raised beds or close up to plants in regular rows, any one of the many sharp tools on a short handle available at garden centers and nurseries can be used from a sitting position and allows for easy control when working around young seedlings. The CobraHead ”steel fingernail” tool is the best all around small gardening tool I have come across. For weeds the CorbraHead blade can’t cut, it simply lifts. The self-sharpening blade on this sturdy American-made tool can be used in all directions.
Wishing you joy in planning for an abundant harvest in your 2018 garden!