Plotting out a vegetable garden is a fun winter task. Besides determining what to order from the seed catalogs and what soil mix will guarantee the best yields, invest some time with an almanac, a huge desk calendar and graph paper. You may become a better gardener once you understand the vegetable varieties that grow well in the regional climate, schedule your gardening chores on a calendar and then draw a map of your proposed garden to climb.
Graphs and Garden Logs
Having a daring, dark pencil, draw your own vegetable garden on graph paper, using the very small squares to adapt it to scale. Then put plain copy paper over the graph paper and trace the backyard’s outline onto it, noting the square footage in the margins. Make a few copies of this master, so you can redo your planting plan if necessary. When your plan is company for the present year, date the map and then file it. For plants that have to be rotated annually due to sensitivity to soil-borne pests and diseases, consulting this map next year can be invaluable. Utilizing your desk to log such information as when to fertilize and the date a certain vegetable ought to start producing helps you handle your backyard. Also make notes about the productivity of new varieties, this season’s rainfall and other weather events to use in next year’s planning.
Depending on your climate, you may be able to grow two, or even three, crops in the same garden patch annually. To succeed, however, you must carefully keep to a schedule and learn about your growing season. The amount of days between your region’s last frost early in the year and the first frost in the fall is the length of the growing season. The local extension service, an almanac or the Web are good sources for this info. Next, you will need to compute the length of time the veggies you plant take from sowing to harvest. Once cool-season fast crops, such as lettuce, broccoli and spinach, have been spent, you may be able to replace them with peppers, tomatoes and zucchini for your summer, without wasting any backyard space.
Contemplating which plants to plant jointly is important since two plants could be mutually beneficial to one another in repelling insects or diseases or leading vital nutrients. A classic case in point is”the three sisters” — corn, beans and squash — implanted from American Indians. The cornstalks affirmed the climbing beans, which fed the dirt, while the sprawling squash shaded the ground. Since many anglers grow tomatoes, remember they complement basil, onions, garlic, peppers and carrots, but do not plant them around cabbage, corn or potatoes, since these plants attract bugs detrimental to tomatoes.
A Model Circular Garden
Sunset Magazine designed a test backyard featuring 17 kinds of veggies and herbs, grown in two half-moon-shaped raised beds. The kitchen garden fits into a 16- by 16-foot plot with trellises around the exterior to encourage flowering plants, such as sunflowers, that bring in pollinators. Curving in reverse directions, the two beds form a open circle, with walking space in the center, as well as a birdbath. Bird visitors keep down the insect pest populations.