Thursday, February 21, 2013

Garden Planning

My initial must buy list- that has a few things crossed off and some things added,
 after the final tally.

Last years' ridiculously detailed garden plans- I think there's
10 pages detailing different crops- pregnancy makes me crazy.

My big garden plan- the only one I really need- to scale though,
with measurements clearly marked.

Well- it's that time of year- garden plan time- I'll tell you how I do this phase of the garden- though it's by no means the most efficient way I'm sure. I'm a big dreamer, so I tend to go big- and then scale it all down once I get out to the garden, but the big dream part is helpful too- it gives me somewhere to reach to- and helps me to realize my long term plans. So I always start by just looking through the catalogues, and writing down everything I would buy if money was no option (which of course it is- especially when you have two kids under five and one income), I tend to limit this stuff somewhat by thinking of what I actually have time to do in one year/how many fruit trees I want to be watering through the summer, or holes I want to be digging in the spring, but otherwise I just write it down.

Then I go through and see what seeds are left over from last year- and what I can stand to let go- keeping what I really feel we need. I buy seed and plants from a few sources so I also go through each catalogue and see if I'm buying from the most cost-effective source. I like to buy local- and also buy heirloom, but sometimes that's not so important to me, and I'm usually willing to pay a little more if the seeds are actually produced by the people selling them- also if it's something that I can save seeds from easily- like tomatoes- I feel like it's okay to splurge- other things- like broccoli, leeks, onions, I don't want to spend too much on- because you have to buy them over and over. Once I've gone through and pared it all down, (this year my original list was 401 dollars at first go- 200 of that being perennials, and fruit trees, but I got it down to around 350, after I checked through my seeds, and did my mini reality check-( no arnica or sea holly for me- at least not this year, well maybe not...)

The next step is to plan out the garden on paper- making sure that I keep my rotations in mind, I did a super detailed garden plan last year- I'm not sure it was needed- I don't think I followed it at all once the reality of planting set in, but I have it now forever- so I know how far apart I like to plant peppers- for what it's worth- I also write down what worked and what didn't in fall (peppers growing next to corn was not good- not enough sun, summer squash need ridiculously wide rows on either side if we want to till them, the borage, tomato, tomato, borage routine worked well- though I should plant the borage earlier). I keep a simple plan every year so that I know where I planted stuff and I try to rotate as much as possible to help avoid disease and bugs.  This plan is pretty much what happens in reality- and I update it once we're done planting too- but it does have a fair bit of room to move around too- plus a few overflow rows, where I can stash extra plants I pick up on a whim, or can't bear to not let grow.

I sometimes feel like our garden is not the picture of sustainable, Eco-friendliness I'd like it to be because we have so much bare soil- our paths are five feet wide- the rows are three, so that we can till it, and drive the 'gator down the row to harvest. We offset this 'un-greenness' by tilling the weeds into the pathways, so we're essentially green manuring, and also by rotating the paths and rows each year- so each garden row gets a fallow year between growing- it's not ideal, because driving and walking on the soil compacts it- so we have to till in order to aerate it- and that's hard on the soil.

This year I think I may plant five foot rows and five foot paths- to make it easier to rotate them and also because the plants need more space. I like to grow certain plants in blocks- things like carrots and beets, and greens grow in short rows across the wide garden row- so I have 10 short rows growing north/south, in my long east/west row- once they grow in a bit I don't have to weed at all, and they maintain more moisture so that's a real bonus- by July most things have grown in enough that the only weeding needed is in the paths, and only things like peppers, onions and eggplant need grass mulch on them.

We're a bit detailed with garden planning, I think, compared to most people- but we both worked/still work in agriculture research, and that stuff rubs off on you- don't even get K started about straight rows, and marking them, and tilling them, also there's nothing better than anticipating the garden in the middle of winter. The next step is my favorite: planting the seeds. Growing heirlooms usually means starting your plants from seed- which is not as hard as it sounds, but takes a little effort and a good space, I'll be starting some things inside this week- as well as getting my winter sowing on the go too. How do you plan your garden? what tips have you come up with over the years?

No comments:

Post a Comment