Plan of Attack: Planning for the Planting Frenzy

'Tis the season for planting gardens! I've been anxiously awaiting this moment ever since the first seed catalogs arrived in the mail in December, and this year especially, the wait has been excruciating at times.  Let's be honest, between the long stretches of sub-zero weather and the late season snowstorms, there were moments when I started to question my loyalty to my home state.  Fortunately, the Minnesota love is back in full force as we enter into the best season of the year: garden season.
For me, getting the garden in each spring is kind of a big production, and not just because it's a much anticipated event that I look forward to all winter long.  It's also a considerable amount of work, which is probably somewhat exaggerated by the fact that I have a tendency to be a little OCD at times (yes, I absolutely will dig up that plant and re-do it if it doesn't line up with the others).

Armed with my garden plans, which have been carefully measured and calculated so I know exactly how many jalapenos I can fit in each row and just how much space to leave between the rows to make it all fit, I'm feeling pretty excited about how the gardens will look this year.
This year I made a couple of significant changes to my garden plans compared to previous years.  First, I'm growing a smaller number of different varieties and focusing on larger plantings of what we use most, so instead of a lot of short rows and small plantings, I'm planting a full row of broccoli and a mini forest of peppers.  Don't get me wrong, I still found a lot of ways to fit some variety into my more controlled plans, but I definitely did a much better job of keeping my urges to try everything in the catalog in check this year.  

The second major change is that this year I have made a more deliberate effort to pay attention to good companion planting practices.  I've had a pretty good grasp on the basics for a couple of years now (things like plant tomatoes and basil together for better flavor), and would try to follow those principles whenever possible, but the reality is that things sometimes just had to go where there was room.  This year's plans have been carefully cross checked, reworked, and then checked again with Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening and I'm pretty excited about the results.
But of course every good plan comes down to the timing.  Timing, as they say, is everything, and gardeners seem to do a whole lot of waiting (and whining) for the timing to be just right.  Case in point: the weather.  Last week my broccoli seedlings were just about hardened off and the weekend initially looked like perfect planting weather, but a too close for comfort low of 37 on Sunday morning and 38 on Monday morning convinced me to hold off just a few more days before putting anything in the ground.  Then I had to hold off for yet another couple of days because Tuesday's record high of 99 degrees would have been brutal for the poor transplants.  Thankfully, last night was a perfect 75, and without so much as a degree below 50 in sight (at least for at least the next 10 days, as of right now), the planting can finally begin!
If there was one advantage to the recent weather delays, it's that they gave me some time to focus on preparing the raised beds. Both raised beds have been worked up, amended with compost and other good stuff, and prepared for planting. With that important item checked off the list, the planting started smoothly last night and should be quite easy to finish up tonight (at least in our home gardens).

I'm starting with the west garden, which has more of the "cooler" season vegetables in it, and working my way over to the east garden, where I'll get the first tomatoes and peppers into the ground.  My goal is to finish these two raised beds by tonight before we head into a little stretch of rain.  I'm a little nervous about our first chance at severe weather this weekend, but while being weather cautious is a good thing, there does come a point where you just have to trust that the seedlings can handle it.
Next week, I'll tackle the community garden plots (yes, that's plural, but I'll leave that for another post next week!).  If I can get everything mostly planted by the end of the holiday weekend, I'll consider that a huge success.