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Episode 115: Megan Cain |10 Step Guide to Smart Spring Planning | Madison, Wisconsin
29th January 2016 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 00:28:45

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The amazing Megan Cain from Creative Vegetable Gardener website  is back to share with us simple steps for planning for the best garden in 2016! It’s especially relevant this time of year, because it’s New Years and we’re all thinking about New Years’s Resolutions. I was gonna mention the guy who runs my podcasting class has this thing The Freedom Journal which is 100 days to accomplish any goal.

And I’m very excited she is with us today for my one year anniversary!!! YES that’s right one year ago today I launched the Organic Gardener Podcast!!

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Flavorful Life Garden Club

Garden Planning


I love to talk about do gardening planning at this time of year. I just recently just wrote a blog post that says, if you don’t do any garden planning during the winter you’re missing out on one of the great pleasures of gardening! So gardening doesn’t just have to happen in Spring, Summer and Fall, you can also take some time in the winter to think about your garden, and one of the ways to do that is with some planning! It doesn’t have to be complicated, you don’t have to spend hours and hours planning, you can spend as little  or as much as what suits your personality.

You have to go to Megan’s website!!! There’s so much information there! You’re totally right, planning is one of the pleasures of gardening. I saw in one of your tips, is to sketch, I’m getting ahead of myself. Going through your journals from the past year, I saw one of your tips is to sketch your garden bed, reading gardening books, and looking at your pictures from last year is fun!!

Especially if you were talking about New Year’s Resolutions! If it’s anybody’s goal to have a successful garden, get more food out of your garden in 2016 I would say that planning, doing some planning is one of the ways your gonna accomplish your goal.

The most successful gardeners and certainly all farmers, all the most successful gardeners CSA farmers all plan their gardens a little bit. You don’t want to run out to the nursery and that’s the first time you think about your garden!

One of my favorite tips and the most fun things of winter planning is to get seed catalogs in the mail. I know a lot of people just go to the local hardware store or nursery and buy seeds.

It really helps you think about what you want to grow in your garden and make your selections. I know when I go to the nursery to look at seeds, I get really overwhelmed, especially one of the ones in my city, has tons and tons of seeds and I’m not sure what I want.

Order Catalogs 

ordering seed catalogs

lots of bright colors and tons of pictures of vegetables and it’s so fun to make a cup of tea and curl up in chair  and think about what you want to go.

People say what seed catalog should I grow?

I like order from Johnnies Selected Seeds, High Mowing Seeds. I also like Seed Savers Exchange, they have a lot of heirloom seeds.

I also have to mention Robin from the Good Seed

For most seed catalogs you can go to their website and just request a catalog shop online.

I was teaching a class last week and one of my students raised their hand and said you can also just shop online.

I thought that’s also true. For some reason I like to request

Do that right away! You should get that

I should mention a couple of others, that have been on my show. Siskiyou seeds and also Sarah Harding from Buggy Road Farm recommended Fedco. have you ever read their catalog she said it was really fun?


I do recommend, I’ve been getting more and more, because I think some places sell my name. I get overwhelmed when I have more then 3-5 catalogs, so I recommend start with just a few.

Always try a new one

If you do get seed Catalogs

Mental Tour

before you open them, I do think it’s a good idea to review las tear’s garden. refreshen up your brain about last years.

What I grew too much of

take a mental tour of what did you do last year

thinking a little more strategically about what you grow in your garden. So also thinking about your eating habits, and your lifestyle. What do you buy from your grocery store on a regular basis? What of that could you grow in your garden? What are some of the meals that you cook? I think a lot of us cook the same meals over and over again, and so can you deconstruct some of those meals that you could potentially grow in your garden and maybe even preserve so you have those ingredients all year round?

Are there some special varieties you want to grow?

And maybe writing some of those down before you start shopping for seeds.

I’m gonna try some things I’ve never grown before. Maybe some herbs, and some kale, because I’ve never grown before.

You’ve never grown kale?


frozen bags of kale. I have all these bags of kale and we just take them out and add them to our favorite kale recipes.

What else are you gonna grow for the first time this year?

IDK, someone was talking about some cool radishes lately, maybe some different squashes? Lentils! My husband’s yelling lentils in the background!

I think that’s what I’m thinking more, is some other varieties that I have never grown before.

That’s a great segment to:

Add Excitement!

Plan and grow some unique and fun vegetables

Are there any varieties of things that I grow that seem new or interesting or especially color. It seems to me that adds another layer of excitement and joy!

This past season I tried deep purple carrots for the first time.

they were amazing, they were all slightly different when you cut into them, sometimes they were yellowish, orange, sometimes they were white. Every time I would cut into them for cooking, I would think this is such a beautiful carrot.

all vegetables are beautiful in their own way

some are more aesthetically striking that it adds this whole other layer of joy its sort of an aesthetic joy!

one great thing, you can see other varieties.

looking at seed catalogs

you can see some

Dancer Eggplant

this electric purple eggplant

almost like a fluorescent

dragon tongue beans would be another one, it’s kind of a purple and white striped bean for cooking!

string bean

purple ruffles basil

is a really pretty basil, it has a frilly leaf,

looks a lot different then your standard basil, it’s a purple basil

very decorative

you could grow it in a pot

I like having different textures in your garden,

I think that is one of the keys to having a really beautiful aesthetic garden, mixing different texture!

and having different leaf shapes!

And your garden is so beautiful I was just looking at some pictures  on your website!


It’s covered in snow right now! We can barely see our garden, we just got some snow last night!

This kind of piggy backs on adding excitement one of the ways I make my garden more beautiful

Mix in Flowers

I mix a lot of flowers

mostly annual flowers

I have a perennial flower garden

right at the front of my yard

Within my vegetable  I grow a lot of annuals, long blooming that I mix in with my vegetable garden.

you can start your own seeds, Sometimes I find that flower seeds are a little harder to start

a zinnia or a nasturtium are easy to start from seed. I would say definitely plan to grow some flowers in with your vegetables this year. You could shop in your catalog and start some flowers or just go to your local nursery

buy some 4 packs of flowers

you can look at pictures you can see I always have lots of pops of colors

Do you put them in with containers or do you put them in the beds or both?

they take too much maintenance I feel like if I go away for the weekend I have to worry about my containers

ends of my beds, I put in some flowers. You can put them anywhere in the beds with vegetables but I like to put them on the ends


Do you want to say anything about raised beds? I love beds and I was reading your thing about raised beds and to me for gardening it makes such a difference. 

Raised Beds/Permanent Beds and Paths

what I really stress to people

what I think it’s important to have an actual garden layout, permanent beds and paths,

basically that means

people garden and till the area every year and it changes from year to year.

I find it’s easier to maintain something that has a more permanent design

traditional raised bed  where you create a box and fill it with soil.


I also have some places where we mounded raised beds, we made some definition

in our garden, we ordered soil to create mounds and we used the soil to create mounds.

there’s some definition between the path In the side of my  garden used logs and rocks

theres’s different styles

you can get stones, you can get landscape rocks, there’s people who get recycled plastic

metal raised beds

easier to maintain in the long term, it creates a neater looking garden, and I think a more aesthetically pleasing because it looks more organized.

You shouldn’t be walking on your garden where

that’s one of the problems with tilled beds is that your walking on places that eventually will grow food.

big fan of that permanent garden design

defined beds in our garden

/you don’t have to do the traditional cedar raised bed but I think

We have lots of different shapes. Every year it seems like we add a new place.

community garden for 10 years,

gathered rocks

lumber basically have squares or rectangles

if you use things like stone, or even sometimes logs  you can get some more curves and interesting spaces.

I just gotta say, sometimes it makes it a little more challenging to water, around rocks and curves. 

Favorite Garden Planning Tips

I created a  Free Ten Step Guide for Planning that includes 10 different items with 10 different actions you can download that for free at my website.

My graphic designer, designed it and it’s a nice little

Megan’s got one of my all time favorite gardening blogs. It’s really elegant, and she has this voice it will inspire you and she has beautiful pictures. Just a talented photographer!

You have to tell people about the club!! The Flavorful Life Garden Club! I think one of the best things you can do is join a Facebook group its the best thing you can do when you want to learn something new!


The Flavorful Life Garden Club!

Just launched January 1st. We have people from all over the US and also from outside the US

The idea behind it is it’s a new kind of gardening club. We say it’s for people who want to grow and eat the best food of its life in 2016!

we go through the garden season , season by season, every season we have a master class, everyone’s taking together in the winter it’s the basically same thing, smart planning for spring

in depth

step by step

community seed starting challenge, to help people who have’t started the seeds yet to get theirs up and running and people who do start seeds be successful.

Q&A call once a month where you can call and ask about your garden

You get different resources, for example in the winter you get my seed starting ebook for free and there’s lots of

worksheets that go with the class

private Facebook group, lots of pictures and get to know each other

support each other

each season

winter recipes and cooking tips

favorite recipes from the winter.

We decided as a group, where everybody cook the same recipe every two weeks! It encourages us to cook new recipes.

It’s been a blast so far

just the first month!

Immersing ourselves in the gardening lifestyle, it’s more then just gardening, it’s cooking and eating, and being outside, kind of living everything that the garden can bring to your life and more then just the garden!

I was just gonna say it’s really nice to be with other people that think that way, the think I love about Facebook groups.

If anybody wants to read about it  you can find it at Creative Vegetable Gardener/ Club

People can find

If you have a specific questions you can always come to my Facebook page and I try to answer everybody’s questions.

The other thing I had a note, is the people might want to go to your pinterest board too because I saw those wonderful photos and saw those pictures of the dragon tongue beans, and the eggplants!

Yes, I used to work with kids a lot! 

There’s the link to

smart planning guide there’s a couple of links to specific boards on my pinterest page as well!

And then we can just

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