Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Planning your garden....part 2

Its almost too much to bear....waiting on spring to finally arrive....waiting for the last of the dirty snow to leave this earth....and wanting to put shovel to dirt...

I thought I would share something I implimented last year...after attending an Intro to Gardening seminar with key note speaker Cam Mather!  (I promise I will probably have a couple of posts that don't mention the Mathers...some day...haha)  He showed the group how to plan your garden using a map of sorts...

This is something I have never done, but after doing it for a season, it proved to be a real learning experience.

I drew a very rough idea of our main garden patch.  Then added in the things that are fixed, such as rocks, logs and fencing (and our asparagus which doesn't move from year to year).  See image below for a bird's eye view of last years main garden patch.

Cam suggests you keep the map taped to a piece of cardboard with 2 pencils attached to the board
with string (that way when you're in the garden, the chances of losing it are far less). 

I make sure to mark my path way through the garden to our compost bins (this path changes every year).  I mark where the large container planters go.  At the bottom, I list which plants I want to grow, as a reference.  When I find a good spot for them, I cross them off the list.  That way I am sure to have room for everything I want.  Nothing gets left out!

My husband always laughs at me, because I space everything out WAY TOO MUCH.  In my defense, I try to envision what the plants looked like last tall, how wide they became at the peak of their growth.  I try to alleviate crowding as much as I can, naturally.  What is it they say?  Quality not quantity. 

South of the asparagus you can see a path way that trails off this map.  I do have a second map that goes with this plan....its what Ches and I affectionately call the "pepper fence".  We plants single stalk things there like eggplant, peppers and everything else that doesn't get viney.  Sort of a knee high divider between our property and the neighbours without the need for proper (view-disrupting) fencing.  The pepper fence includes more than just peppers...its home to the plants we have never grown before as well.  I may not know how they will perform in our soil...but after one successful season, I integrate them into the main patch depening on their sun and growth requirements. 

The Pepper Fence (now with more than just peppers!)

I take into account that the sun rises from the asparagus side and glides over the garden throughout the morning....and there is a metal shed on the right hand side.  The cherry tomatoes have a tendancy to take over everything when we plant them in the we put them in large containers and place them next to the metal shed.  The heat absorbed by the metal acts like an insulator.  The tomatoes just love it.  Everything on the left hand side of the map is planted directly into the ground and doesn't grow much taller than 1.5 ft, mostly our root veggies.  Everything on the right hand side of the map is grown using tomato cages (like our peas) or on trellises (or is it trelli?  hmmmm) and tend to be viney. 

I tried including as much info about the planting as I could fit into the map.  I tracked which row was planted when, so that I knew approximately when I could harvest them (according to the seed package predictions).  Its also agreat reference for when to plant things the following season.  When everything is a small wee also helps to remind you what you planted and where!  Remember I stagger my planted rows, meaning I plant one row, then 2 weeks later I plant another row of the same veggie.  That's a sure-fire way to avoid being swamped with 25 lbs of carrots all at once.  When you have limited time to prepare or store these yummy treats, you'll want to maximize every second you have.  The only draw back I've found to the staggering method is this:  when your gut instinct tells you to fill your garden up on May 24th'll have to exercise some restraint.  Patience is definitely a virtue in this case. 

The mapping method also gives you a chance to look at last years garden in the winter time and see what changes you might want to make depending on the success or failure of each plant type from the previous season.

Our cukes didn't do so well last I will definitely be finding a new place to grow them this year.  That's ok though.  Like everything in life, gardening is a learning experience and this mapping method gives you a perfect opportunity to reflect on lessons learned.

Make a map of your own this year!  See if this method works for you...

This year's mapping experiment?  Varieties!

We'll be trying to list which varieties we're planting...hoping that if we keep track, we just may select wiser the following season.  Check back in 2012 to see if what we discovered! 

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