Mary's Veggie Garden

March 26, 2012

Garden Planning II: the Garden Map

Filed under: Gardening,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 10:01 am

I must have a plan before I start planting. If I had to stand in the garden and figure out where to put everything, nothing would ever be planted.  I want to have a design I feel confident about and to make sure I’ve considered all the pros and cons before I plant. It is easier to make these decisions at my desk with all sorts of information available.

A good plan cannot be hurried. I don’t start my garden layout unless I know there is time to complete it. For my two big gardens, that means 3 consecutive days with 3 to 4 hours each day to devote to garden planning.

Once I find the time, I gather all the inputs to my garden layout. These include:

  • My garden spreadsheet containing the list of what and how much to grow and when to plant it. I discussed the spreadsheet a few weeks ago.

    Templates for annual vegetables.

  • My garden templates. These are scale (1/2″=1′) drawings of the gardens showing the layout of the beds, and the perennial plants.
  • Templates of some of the annual vegetables. For example, a couple of 2″x2″ squares with a big X represent pole bean trellises. A 1.5″x10″ strip represents 20′ of carrots in an 18″ wide perimeter bed (200-240 carrots @ 4 carrots/foot in 3 parallel rows.) I also have templates for favorite combinations such as an early planting of peas and spinach followed by cucumbers in mid-June.
  • My 3-ring binder containing all previous garden plans.
  • My rotation plans. Both gardens are following 3 year crop rotations.
  • A companion planting chart which contains a list of ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ for each vegetable. My gardens are thickly planted. When I put two different vegetables side by side in a bed,  I want to be sure they grow well together. Although I will try to put vegetables that ‘like’ each other side by side, I make sure I do not place two together that ‘dislike’ each other.  I did that once, when I planted onions beside the peas and got the worst pea crop ever.
  • Several sheets of blank paper, a ruler, a pencil, and a good eraser. Although I use plain paper, 1/4″ grid graph paper might be a better choice.

Now that my desk is covered with paper, it’s time to plan.

  1. First I copy the garden template to blank paper for this years map. Although I could simply scan and print the template, drawing the copy gets me psyched to plan. Incidentally, my garden maps contain the beds, but often leave out the paths. This way, I can fit a 20′ wide garden on an 8.5″ wide sheet of paper.  This occasionally results in unmapped space in perimeter beds – but that is OK. I can use that extra space for unexpected plants.

    2012 plan for a 20'x 40'plot in the community garden at Vassar Farm.

  2. Next I update my rotation plan which gives me a general idea of what goes where. My home garden is divided into 3 sections, and the vegetables are grouped by families. Each group uses about 1/3 of the garden. In 2012 I’m using the general layout last used in 2009, with  beans & squashes in section A,  small stuff in section B, and tomatoes & peppers in section C.  Each section contains 3 beds roughly 20’x4′. (In truth, there are beans in several sections, because I’m using them as a cover crop in shady areas.)
  3. Next I layout each section of the garden. I check the map from 3 years ago, and try to swap things around – so I place the tomatoes where the peppers were 3 years ago and visa versa. I place the vegetables using the most space first, then fit in smaller things. In this step I use the mini-templates of the annuals. I can move each group of plants around in the section, checking against previous maps and the companion planting chart. I check what plants the vining crops will overrun and whether it is acceptable.  I try to place cool season/early harvest vegetables near squashes so they will be gone by the time the squashes run.
  4. After all sections are laid out with templates, I copy the information from the template to the map beneath.  While copying I figure out which variety goes where and the exact spacing. For example, I try to put the cherry tomatoes in easy reach for daily harvest. The beefsteaks take a bit less room and are not harvested very often so they go in the middle of the bed.

    2012 plan for my L-shaped garden at home in Poughkeepsie, NY.

I keep the finished plans and a pencil in 1 gallon seal-able plastic bags. The plans go to the garden with me, and plants are spaced with a yard-stick according to the space on the map. After planting, I mark the planting date on the map and any changes such as new plant varieties. An accurate map means there is no need for labels in the garden.

The causal observer may notice that I plant much more closely in my plot at Vassar Farm than in my home garden. The reason is the Vassar Farm garden gets full sun all day from sunrise to sunset. Trees surround my home garden and some parts get barely 6 hours of sun.

March 19, 2012

Harvest Monday, March 19

Filed under: Broccoli,Cabbage,Gardening,Greens,Kohlrabi,Lettuce,Peas,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 9:22 am

In 1979, the old-timer next door advised me that St. Patrick’s day is the traditional time to plant peas in the Hudson Valley. Well, now I’m the age of that old-timer and for the second time in my life I’ve planted peas on March 17. The first time I planted early I decided that an earlier harvest (3-4 days) was not worth planting in the cold & wet.

2011-2012 was not our typical winter. The ground froze only briefly and only a couple of inches. The past week the temperature has been in the 60’s & 70’s. Lovely weather, though the garden is getting quite dry. I took a thermometer out to the garden and measured the soil temperature. On 3/18 it was 70 on the surface (in the afternoon sun) and 51 degrees F. 6″ down. Plenty warm enough to plant peas.

3/14 Wednesday: finished the layouts for both gardens. (I’ll post them next week.)

3/15 Thursday: finished teaching Vegetable Gardening A-Z for 2012.

3/16 Friday: started lettuce for transplants

3/17 Saturday: started cabbage, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, beets, and kohlrabi for transplants. Outside I planted 20′ of Dwarf White Sugar snow peas along the fence. I bought the seed in 2010 and didn’t test it, so I’ve got my fingers crossed.

3/18 Sunday: planted 10′ of Oregon Sugar Pod II snow peas and Bloomsdale spinach in a couple of rows down the other side of the bed opposite the peas.

3/19. The onions were planted 3/7 and the lettuce, just emerging, was planted 3/16.

Celeriac has tiny seed which is slow to sprout. This was planted 3/7 and sprouts are still emerging on 3/19.

All my seedlings are doing well. It’s been so warm that the seedlings have been out in the sun 4-6 hours every day, from the time they first emerged. They overnight inside, under the lights.  I potted up most of the sweet potatoes that were rooting last week. The Georgia Jets have been the slowest to root and several are still in water.

Rooted sweet potatoes for growing slips have been potted up.

Harvest: more salad of mache, chives, parsley & sorrel. Some of the mache is threatening to bolt and has lost its sweetness. New this week: violet leaves and leaves from a few mustard plants that sprouted last fall and over-wintered. New mustard is sprouting in the garden.

See Daphne’s Dandelions for more Harvest Mondays and discover what other gardeners are doing across the U.S.A. and around the world.

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