Yes it’s already time to start thinking about it. In warmer climates, cool season crops like lettuce and spinach can go in soon. Vegetable garden can be a little bewildering, with all the differences between planting and harvesting times. To get the most out of your garden space, it pays to do a little planning instead of simply plopping seeds or seedlings into the ground. This helps you use space effectively and harvest more vegetables from your garden.
Here are a few different approaches to think about when planning this year’s garden.
One approach, known as intercropping or interplanting, involves planting crops with different maturation rates and/or structure near each other. Plant slow-growing or early-maturing crops with fast-growing or late-maturing crops, so they don’t get in each other’s way. (Example: radishes are fast growers but peppers take all summer.) Another example of intercropping is to plant deep-rooted and shallow-rooted plants together, such as carrots with herbs or lettuces. And consider that tall plants such as corn and squash can help provide shade for shade-loving plants such as lettuce.
Another approach is called succession gardening. Quite simply, this involves planting one, harvesting & removing one crop and planting another in its place. Vary the family of vegetables that you follow with for the best results. For example, don’t follow a harvest of peas with something else from the pea family; try cucumbers instead. Lots of gardeners practice succession gardening, perhaps without knowing it, simply by planting and harvesting spring, summer, and fall gardens. This involves planting & harvesting cool-season crops (spinach, broccoli, peas, lettuces) in the spring, followed by warm season crops such as tomatoes, peppers & cucumbers in the summer, followed in the fall by another cool-season planting.
A third approach to garden planning is know as relaying. This involves staggering the planting of a single crop to ensure continuous harvest. For example, you might plant corn at two week intervals so you have a continuous supply instead of one big corn harvest.
Depending on what and when you want to garden, you may use one of these approaches or a combination of them.
Check with your state extension office; they may have a planting chart that shows typical planting and harvesting times of different vegetables in your region. This will help you understand ideal planting and harvest times for different crops. NCSU’s chart is kind of complicated, but you get the gist.