Planning Before Planting: A Gardener's Dream
January 22, 2015
With any project, a little planning can go a long way. A gardener’s case is no different. This is especially true for beginners, but for anyone who finds themselves reaching for the same old seed packets or buying the same varieties of sprouted tomato and pepper starters each year, some time with a pen and a pad can free you from the routine and actually improve your overall yields. Plus, it’s a great way to let your mind wander into the garden during long winter months. So grab your notebook and follow me into the garden dream for 2015.
I like to begin by standing in my backyard, facing my dormant garden beds and simply imagining a hot July day- birds chirping, the smell of lit coals in the air, flowers blooming and veggies about half their overall height just starting to fruit. I think about the visual impact my garden may have from that exact vantage come summer time. Plant height and size in-relation to the sun’s position in the sky are all important considerations. If you don’t yet have a garden, start small- there’s room to expand every year! Consider whether you want an in-ground or raised-bed plot - both have their advantages and appeal. Consider the shape of your yard and the ideal position and shape your garden may take. It’s perfectly fine to have a strictly-functional plot, emphasizing production over aesthetic, but it’s a fun challenge to make your garden visually striking too.
Once you’ve collected your imagination, it’s time to sit down and draw some pictures. Sketch out the shape of your plot (graph paper makes this especially easy) and get a sense for how much space you have for planting. Having an idea for companion planting will help with plant-selection and layout - my garden bible is Carrots Love Tomatoes. After a good friend recommended it, I look to it every time a new planting season comes around for inspiration of what to plant and where everything fits into a companion scheme. A good understanding of crop rotation also becomes important, especially after your first season.
As I layout my garden for the coming season, I consider the timing of plantings as well as crop selection. It is possible, nearly everywhere in this country to garden in all four seasons. Even if you live in a northern region, take it from Eliot Coleman, there are plenty of ways to grow food all year long. If this seems like a bit of information overload, don’t worry- this is all just to illustrate all of the options and considerations that could go into a garden plan. Regardless of what you plant, how much, or when, gardening is a most-enjoyable activity and the satisfaction that comes from growing even some of your own food is worth every bit of effort that may come from the venture.
The last step in the process is to sit down, garden sketch and reference books in-hand and open the latest seed catalog to place your order. If you’re like me, the anticipation of the coming season will inevitably lead to ordering more seed than your plot can handle, but don’t worry- a good seed collection is a useful thing to have as a gardener. There are plenty of opportunities to swap seeds with others throughout the season, and seeds usually last for a few years so hold on to anything you don’t end up planting. Now that you have a plan in-hand, rest easy knowing that you’re prepared for a lovely and productive spring in the garden and next time the winter weather gets you down, open up your notebook or seed catalog and cozy up with your new garden dream.