How to Plan Your Vegetable Garden!

It’s time, well it’s almost time. Fine, we had two snow storms this week but a girl can dream right? I was raised by a gardening power couple, picture the Jay-Z and Beyonce of gardening, maybe more like Bill and Hillary? We’ll circle back to that, Maybe. It might skip a generation, But I like to try! I’ve been at mine for 6 years, two of the last three it hasn’t been that bad. Last year was our driest year in 120 years, the well went pretty much dry so… that one sucked. But I still got to make pizza with basil, tomatoes and oregano I grew, so small victories.

My veggie garden has gotten bigger, and if I do say better over the years though. The first year to was little more than a heap of dirt which must have been a bottle disposal for the previous owner, but the soil was decent if still mostly weeds. Now it’s isolated from the rest of the lawn and we have plans to enclose it from the frost and the wind with the frame from our beaten car tent and a roll of vapour barrier. It’s surrounded by very old railway ties and I’m in the process of decorating the front with octagonal tile we pulled out whole from a century old row house in the Hydrostone district, I just couldn’t bear to throw it out! So as I sit looking at the first week with above freezing temperatures in the forecast I’m getting antsy!

The first thing to do is to drag out your seeds from last year and take stock. It’s a good idea to test a few from each and see how they’re doing. Place a few between sheets of wet, moist paper towel on plates, keep moist for a week and see how many sprout. If you want you can move these to seed trays for plants you want to start indoors. I haven’t had a lot of success with this but I gained some new information form Niki Jabbour’s radio show last year that inspired me to try again. Whenever I try to Harden them with an hour or so outside they die. I thought it’s due to our pervasive ocean winds but they need to go out at first in FULL shade as well, so I might give it another go this year. See insight!

Then I draw up a plan, trying to strike a delicate balance between who likes to play with whom and who does not get along by consulting a companion planting guide. Also I try to put sun loving plants in the front and shade tolerant plants in the back. Hard to get to spots can be filled with low macitence plants like potatoes, and I do mean draw it out. I created this handy table for you to consult.

Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 11.15.00 PM
Really it’s just a guide

Lettuce and greens are your friend they play well with everyone and tolerate shade so they can go anywhere. Actually keeping them out of the full sun can lengthen the time it takes them to bolt and increase your yield so it’s win-win. So you can sew a thin row to separate bad buds if need be. That being said some times I can’t take everyone’s needs into account and two bad buds end up next to each other, and the world keeps spinning just fine. Also think about how tall a plant will be so a tall sun loving corn can still go in the back. If you don’t know how tall plants are, well plant lots of beans and peas. Also it’s on the back of the seed packs.

Decide if you will be digging trenches between your plants, my parents did. I used to but I get more space if I don’t and trenching requires more watering. Now it’s time to plan. The back corner of my garden tends to be shady and the most moist. Once it’s all planted it’s not the easiest part to get to so hardy plants that don’t require constant care are I good idea for there. But I can still get in there if I do a tight rope move on the wooden edge of the garden.

Garden copy
Garden Plan 2017

So, makes sense right? All except the unplanned 15%, that’s because well you have to let nature take its course, I do any way. I have my seeds in a little reusable shopping bag and some inevitably spill out. It’s often knocked over by the wind when I’m out planting. I can’t seem to just throw out that possibility away so I spread them in a designated area and enjoy what ever pops out.  Then in my travels I find fun transplants, or on sale transplants and I HAVE to take them home. We live in a little tiny town with a little tiny grocery store, ultimately run by a big national corporation, and they send out that years trendy transplants for the rolling racks. These get badly neglected and marked down to 50% off in bad shape and I feel it’s my duty to take them home and give them a chance. Honey usually makes the, “are you going to roll those up and smoke them when we get home,” joke and they usually die but at least that Kohl Rabi had a chance! Hey, that’s how I got my relatively expensive Haskap bushes for cheap and last year they even produced enough to sprinkle on some vanilla fro-yo, yummy!

To this I will add the dates I plan on planting everything. Old timey gardeners will tell you to wait for the full moon in June. But I look at the night time temperatures around then and choose what to do. This year if our improvised greenhouse is up and running it should be less of an issue. I usually plant the sensitive stuff after the long weekend at the end of may to avoid frost. If it’s in the forecast I just throw my yoga blanket over the tomatoes for the night since it’s usually in my car or by the front door not put away…

Other than that I grow chives in the little flower garden by the step. They were one of my first plants, a gift from a lovely neighbour that since moved away. I actually started this one first, which was taken over with food until I started the veggie garden. I really do believe arable land ought to be used for food but it sort of symbolizes how far we’ve come as a couple. I started it during a rough patch and at the time the garden got rolled up into that. Some of those plants are still there and bloom every spring! The sad little clematises that took years to finally bloom now wrap around the spindles on the deck I built when Richard broke his collar bone. The wheel decoration came from my first apartment in college and the garden and we been going for 10 years since then! In fact it is one of the things I would miss the most if we left here, but I can always take some of it with me or at least try. Any tips would be much appreciated.

I also have strawberries in planters around the garden and chamomile in planters on the step. Bay leaf (which I usually kill as soon as it comes inside in a planter and a long line of shrubs, lilies and hostas along the drive way where it’s too steep to mow. We have a big apple tree at the end of the lawn that the kids used to pick from on their way too the first week of school. I did go back and look for a picture from two years ago but I can’t find it, sad face. You’ll just have to trust me that it was lush and green and amazing!

I plan on posting updated and I’ll keep you posted as the season progresses. My mom, who’e entire property looks like the cover of a gardening book says growing veggies probably is’t even a break even operation, but I’m starting to doubt that. I plan on keeping track this year of what I grow and how much it would cost to buy instead. I’ll keep you posted. Now all I have to do is wait for the snow to melt.

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