Planning Your Garden

I always recommend to people that they make an actual garden plan in conjunction with doing a seed order.  It is so easy to get carried away with plans for growing all sorts of vegetables in February when the snow is still on the ground.  Come the heat of summer, it can feel overwhelming with way more food than one can possibly eat and weeds sprouting up everywhere!  So, a plan, which confines your garden to a certain amount of square feet is always a good idea.

I start by making a list of all of the vegetables that I would like to grow in the coming year.  Then I get some squared paper and I draw out my garden.  I have been growing all of the food for my family from early May to late November is a garden of about 400 square feet and for anyone starting off, I would say this is a good size.  Learn to maximize  your growing space and to eat everything that comes out of the garden, before you let your garden get bigger.

In your garden plan be sure to include plantings from April until August, planting small amounts every month is best if you would like a continuous and manageable supply of vegetables.  In my book, From Seed to Table, I give several garden plans that illustrate how I do this.  If you plant quicker growing salad vegetables such as salad greens, spinach, lettuce, radishes, and green onions, you will find that the beds that you planted in April and May can be replanted in July and August.  In this way, you can use part of your garden twice and really maximize your growing space.

The other trick to getting more out of your garden is to design your garden around 4 foot wide beds with walkways that are 1 – 1.5 feet.  This wide bed system is based upon an intensive methiod of planting developing in Europe where is is common to find small commercial gardens of less than five acres that rely on small tillers and hand labour.  Many North American gardens are planted with a single row of vegetables seperated by a three or four foot wide walkway.  This type of spacing was originally designed for mechanical planting and weeding so the area between the rows had to be large enough to accommodate the wheels of a tractor.  There is no reason to give vegetables that much space, and for the backyard gardener this method results in a great deal of unproductive garden that must be dug, weeded, and watered along with the productive part of your garden.

Within the four foot bed, you can easily access half of the bed from the adjacent walkway and within the bed, the plants are spaced far enough apart that they have room to mature, but they are close enough together thar they shade the soil underneath them, keeping it cool, conserving moisture, and blocking weeds.  By having about 80% of your garden in wide beds and only about 20% in walkways, your harvest is much greater and the overall garden size can be much smaller.

So make a plan, and keep it small!!!

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