PLANNING THE GARDEN

So now that I have assessed the seeds that I have on hand and new additions are on the way, I have to decide where to put it all!  We had a couple of beautiful 70 degree days here.  My sap began to rise and I got a little anxious.  I started to feel overwhelmed, like I was already behind.  I had to remind myself that gardening and well, a lot of seasonal things, and things in general, are continuums.  It’s not a race, it’s a circle.  You can jump on the train at any point.  Or you can enjoy watching it go by.  It’s nothing to get anxious about.  And really, what is?  Today is cold again anyway, so I can relax in front of the fire and get down to the business before me.  Okay, I’m not the one relaxing in front of the fire.

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What really helped me last year was making a plan. 

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I started with a blank drawing of my garden.  And then I began to fill it in.  It helped me prioritize space and desire.  Of course changes occurred along the way as happens when a creative work comes to life, but having this place to start was incredibly helpful.  It also serves as a document I can refer back to over the years.  And if I forget what variety I planted where, I can just check the plan.  I was careful to note planting dates, but I still need to make some overall notes on the season that was while last year’s successes and failures are fresh on my mind.  And a column along the side with weather and rainfall information would be a nice addition.  I definitely need to note harvest dates this year.  That will help with late summer planting.  For instance, last year I planted purple hull peas and potatoes way too close together and the purple hulls never had their chance in the sun, but then after the potatoes were finished, I was able to plant purple hull peas again and had a nice late summer harvest.  We’ve almost decided to skip purple hulls this year.  As much as I love them, they take up a lot of space for the yield and are almost always available at our exceptional farmer’s market.

This week, I got out last year’s map and made a copy in ink so I’d have a keeper and so it would read better in a photo for y’all.  This is not the garden’s finest hour, but I wanted you to have a real life comparison, so bear with me. 

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For this year, peas are a good place to start because they get planted first and the legume bed is pretty simple having only a few inhabitants.  Peas and fava beans can go along one side, several pole bean varieties up the towers in the 4 x 8′ bed, bush beans beneath them, and potatoes along the other side.  Ideally the peas will climb up the fence, but I think I’ll also make them some supports perpendicular to the fence and have them grow between fava bean varieties.  Yellow Finn potatoes supposedly spread more than other varieties, so I’ll keep that in mind when I plant them.  And voila, one quadrant planned!  I do like to think about how things will look together, because some combinations are more satisfying than others, but in the end, it’s all beautiful, so I’m not going to lose sleep over it right this minute.

The root bed is pretty simple too; onions, leeks, carrots, radishes, beets, parsnips, and maybe some turnips.  I’ll probably put some chervil in there too since it’s in the carrot family.  I really enjoyed it last year in all its ferny delicacy.  

I planted garlic on November 20th of last year in the then empty 4 x 8′ bed in the fruit quadrant so that it would end up in this year’s root bed.  I worked the soil and added compost when I planted, so that bed is prepped and ready for carrots.  As a space saver, I like to interplant radishes with carrots.  The radishes break up the soil for the slower germinating carrots and they’re gone and eaten when the carrots get going.  Onions can go along the long side to keep them away from the peas, just in case.  Supposedly they don’t do each other any favors.  Beets and leeks can alternate on the other side with parsnips taking their time along the fence behind them.  

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Already showing growth!  I should give them more mulch.

How about those name tags?  Sexy, huh?

So that’s half the garden planned for spring.  Thanks for the motivation!  Now to mulch the garlic, top dress the beds with compost, and figure out where to put all those leafy greens!  And it’s about time to get some seeds started!  This is when I’m thankful for a few more days of cold weather.  I hope everyone is staying warm and enjoying themselves.  See you next week!

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