While summers seem long, you have to plan, plan, plan to maximize your fruit and vegetable yields. February is the month to get a plan together and start shopping for seeds.

The Mid-Atlantic zones have a pretty limited growing season. This year's mild winter will quickly morph into spring, so now is the time to get ready for your garden.

What's your ideal garden plan?

Do you daydream about heirloom tomatoes eaten fresh off the vine? Would your kids enjoy hiding in a bean-vine playhouse? The sky's the limit if you work with what you have and do your research. Even a small yard can combine vertical gardening or square foot gardening to produce generous summer yields of produce.

Sketch out the areas of your yard (or balcony), a list of what you want to grow, and realistically assign locations to each type of plant. Did you know that a single zucchini plant can produce enough for a small family all summer long? Read up on average yields before you plant an army of yellow squash.

flower pots, plants

Courtesy of Burpee

Inventory is important!

Do you have enough pots or planters for your container herbs and peppers? Cherry tomatoes can tumble out of a gallon container if they have the right support and are watered frequently enough.

If you have an artistic flair, save money by buying simple terra cotta flower pots and painting them yourself. You can also plant root vegetables in plastic tubs and food-safe 5-gallon buckets. Don't forget to make drainage holes first!

flowerpots, clay pot

Courtesy of Burpee

Shop till you drop.

Once you have a game plan, get online and start shopping around for high-quality seeds and plants. One of my favorite vendors for unique options is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Each plant listed comes with a background story and reviews from other customers. Be sure to trade seeds with other gardeners around you to cut costs.


Courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

Make a schedule.

Stagger your plantings for continual harvests throughout the spring and summer. Carrot pots can be spaced out to once a month so you always have some on hand, or more frequently if you love having them for daily snacks.

One cool way to get kids involved in the garden is to make seed tapes. If you planted one carrot, radish, or beet seed tape every couple of weeks, you'd have them all summer long. What a great cold-month project!

The last estimated frost date for our growing zones is around the first week of April. That means you should count backwards depending on how long it takes for the seeds to germinate and produce healthy seedlings. Don't be fooled into putting things in the ground in March unless it's something hardy like kale, onions, or garlic.

All of this means that you have just a few weeks before it's time to start planting your seedlings. Are you going to use a warm windowsill or do you have a grow-light setup? These are all things to think about during this planning month of February.

What do you have for your garden this year? Is your February garden chore list piling up? Tell us about it in the comments!