Ok, it’s rainy and ugly and cold here and all I can think about is Spring, Spring, Spring.
Spring means lambs, and spring means flowers, and spring means the garden–which I’m not always as enthusiastic about as I should be. I think everyone should garden, at least a little bit, but not because it’s fun and easy and quick like most of the things I suggest around here. Just because it’s worth it.
Our vegetable garden is a. lot. of. work. Especially since neither of us is home full-time. It consumes huge amounts of our evenings and weekends around here. And if it’s not taking most of our time, it tends to get totally out of control! But Mr. Fix-It has big goals for our harvest and this year I’m determined to keep plugging away at learning to can and freeze, so I’m trying to turn over a new leaf of enthusiasm. And Mr. Fix-It is meeting me half way by adding more stuff that I like to the whole gardening process.
Like having a plan.
And having more fruits.
And having herbs.
And having a fence.
I’ll share some of our planning process this year (because I’m excited about it!) but you have to promise not to look too closely at my writing! My spelling’s not the best on a good day. When I get excited and hurried and am scribbling along while we talk or trying to write while thinking, it’s can get a little…um….creative.
- First–We started with a list of what we like to eat and cook with. (Seriously, there’s no reason to grow stuff you don’t eat!)
- Then–consider what is annual and what is perennial (or “permanent”). We’re using raised beds for perennials like asparagus, strawberries, and raspberries because we won’t move them around every year.
- Cut the List–I’m sure there are a few things on your list that probably aren’t worth your time because you don’t eat it a lot or don’t preserve it–or you know someone who can grow it just as well that you can buy from or trade with. Cabbage, cauliflower, sweet corn, and celery were on the cut list for us this year.
- Cut more–It’s better to have a small garden that turns out well, then a huge mess of weeds. (Ask me how I know…) Double check your work load and your perennial list before you plant anything! Since perennials won’t move, be sure of where you want them before you plant them. We’re up in the air about blueberries and grapes this year–so we’ll wait until we’re sure.
- Companions–there’s tons of information on the web about companion planting–which plants grow well together and which are bad for each other. (I’ve got a bunch of great charts pinned on my Gardening boards!) Take your final list and make note of what should and shouldn’t be together.
Then the fun part–layout!
Some folks get all exact and count the number of plants and use graph paper to draw it to scale. I’m not good at that sort of thing, and I’ve got Mr. Fix-It besides. I just sketch things in (not at all to scale) while eyeballing how much room I think it will need based on past years. My “layout” is more about grouping plants near good companions, separating bad companions, and making sure we can rotate plant groups next year.
Nothing on my drawing is to scale or meant to indicate a number of plants. Details come after Mr. Fix-It goes out there with this plan and makes some notes on how much he thinks we need. I used circles and squares to help me differentiate plant groups and planting areas, not necessarily for plant shape or planting layout.
The concept does help you define those physical boundaries and permanent planting areas, which will become boundaries for your rotating annuals. Grapes and blueberries are a great example–you’ll see both on my sketches with question marks because we’re just not sure where we want to put them. And we’ll probably hold off on planting them until next year to be sure of the location.
I’ve also laid out some ideas for herb planting to help with organic insect control (as well as making spaghetti sauce!), but I’m not sure if all of that will happen this year. It’s something new for us, so again, it’s just a concept we’ll test out as the summer moves on.
Our orchard plan is definitely a work in progress! We have one peach and one fig. We’ll be adding two apples and a second peach this year (they’re already ordered!!). Everything else is just in the “kicking-it-around” phase. There’s a lot of space there and we’re not sure what we want to do with it.
We’ve been gardening for several years now (I use that “we” lightly, it’s mostly Mr. Fix-It and the crew!) and this is the first time we’ve really sat down and put together a long-term concept. I’m sure it will be tweaked as we go through the season. But nothing about growing happens overnight!
Now I have to jump on the flower beds!
Do you garden? What are your plans for the year?