As the season carries on and I begin to shift my workload in the garden from setup to more of a long term maintenance, I wanted to share with you the things I do when starting my garden, what plants I put where, why I put them there and how I keep it all together when the season hits its peak. I feel like I just got a grip on how to coordinate and plan for a garden throughout the early spring and into the summer months. Of course, every new season brings an unpredictable array of issues for you to try and juggle, but that is half of the fun in gardening. I hope to showcase the variety of vegetables that you can grow in certain times and how to pair and time them.
To achieve this, I am going to show you my overall design and why I put things in the shape/ function that I did. The vegetables I have already planted months ago and how they are doing in regards to overall health and production now that the average daily temperature has increased significantly. What I am planting, now that the weather is warm and the fear of frost is gone and lastly, what I have learned so far this season.
1. My Overall Design
My garden design isn’t too special in all honesty. I started with a 6x3ish wooden raised bed that I built from some scrap pieces of wood that I found in my grandma’s garage. I then added a strip of lasagna style gardening bed in-ground, which I have slowly been expanding and branching off of from. This last fall after returning home from college I continued with the general trend of expansion in the garden and now have a relatively large gardening area in the strip portion and a big rectangular plot that I added for my three sister’s experiment. All of the areas I mentioned are facing the southern side of the property and get full sun, but are slightly shaded by a cluster of mulberry trees and a few ornamental trees we have in our backyard.
As a general rule of thumb in permaculture teachings, I try to plant lower maintenance plants the furthest away from my house and in the less productive regions where there is more shade. For this region I planted things like green onion, onions, radish, carrot and potato. Notice the trend? These are predominantly root vegetables and are a “one and done” type of plant. These plants are typically low maintenance and just need kept relatively moist and spaced out properly. For the portion that is middle distance, in the spring I like to plant my hardier more long term greens such as kale and collard greens. These plants can grow all summer and may linger into late fall if lucky. These plants are more likely to be harvested repeatedly than the other, further parts of my garden. Lastly, the portion that is in closest proximity to my house is where I plant my leafy greens such as spinach and lettuce as I harvest this weekly and don’t want to walk a greater distance to harvest.
2. What I Planted In Early Spring
So as expected. A lot of the plants I planted were mentioned in the last paragraph regarding the distance from my back door. But I will repeat them for those who are curious as to what varieties I planted. The biggest crop I planted, which I was most excited for in the early spring was potatoes. The potatoes are still in the ground but I planted them a day or two after St. Patrick’s Day from 15lbs of Yukon gold seed potatoes I bought at local hardware stores in my town. I planted a few rows of green onion, yellow onion, a few snow peas along my neighbor’s chain fence, a few rows of tender sweet carrots, a few rows of some kale, and collard greens, cabbage, spinach, and romaine head lettuce. This summer I am working at a local popup plant nursery and get a discount so I decided to purchase a few strawberry varieties to see what would happen, I believe there were two varieties (eversweet and all-star).
Most of what I planted was directly sown in from seeds. I recommend everyone directly sow anything that grows as a root crop or leafy green as it is so easy to have success if you can manage to keep the soil wet throughout the germination period.
3. What Did Well
Honesty, my potato plants did way better than I had originally hoped for. Each plant is about 3 feet tall now and has a healthy amount of foliage. My only concern now is that I may have to cut back some old leaves as there is not enough light to reach some of the bottom layers as they are being shaded out by the dense foliage of other plants. If you have rich soil and are able to plant a variety of two I really recommend giving them a try as the yield is pretty amazing. All of the areas that I directly sowed onion plants and radish plants came up. Onions seem to be strong and are initially slow to grow, but seem to catch up quickly. Radishes are definitely one of the easier crops, but for some reason some of my plants are getting nibbled on by some type of insect, nothing too crazy though.
Only a few of my peas popped up that I planted, though I blame old seeds for this observation, but we will see how the three plants that came up turn out. Kale did well at coming up and so did the carrots. One of the most shocking crops I grew was actually the romaine lettuce as almost all of my seeds came up and I have an excess amount of baby lettuce that I need to harvest almost daily as to keep up and not let them become overcrowded.
4. What I Am Planting Now
Now that the weather has turned up a notch a lot of my cold crops are going to bolt or be harvested. And I intend to take their place with warm season crops. I just recently planted 15 Roma tomato plants in my garden along with a few basil seedlings from the store. I also added a few more carrot seeds next to my lettuce plants as to try and interplant the two together as well as a few more spinach seeds to see if I could get lucky with them. I just planted my Hopi blue corn in the little mounds I made for my three sisters garden area and hope they come up strong and healthy. Later this week I will be plating a few bush bean varieties (pinto/black bean), a few pepper plants (jalapeno and sweet bell) and lastly, some flowers that I mentioned in one of my more recent posts.
5. What I Have Learned So Far
You tend to learn things every season, especially if you are planting as much as I am this year. You learn things about the weather in your area, how the amount of sunlight changes as trees mature and seasons change, how your garden space reacts to little water, or excess water, how water moves, etc. You learn a lot about yourself and the plants you grow along the way too, which is one of the most overlooked relationships between s and the world in my honest opinion.
This year I learned a few things about crops starting early spring corps. I learned that things like members of the legume family, brassica, and dark leafy greens should be started indoors prior to the season as this gives them a much needed boost to produce before being too hot to focus any energy towards production of biomass. I also learned to not use sees older than two years old. Seed germination rates will be inconsistent and you will find yourself wondering why rows look so bad and why they took much longer than usual to come up. Lastly, I learned that though it is good to directly sow into the ground, it is important to make sure that when those seeds sprout, one must thin a variety of seeds as to help prevent disease, pests, and poor yield due to the crowding.
There is a lot of work that goes into designing a garden that many people don’t think about. It is important for that person to listen to the land and his or her gut. Don’t believe in every fad, and don’t become obsessed with the desired end goal. Understand that though we as humans can easily manipulate the soil, you need to be patient and show respect/humility for the pant that is giving its life to you. Think about the placement and variety of your garden, think about the things you eat now or would like to eat in the future. Lastly, think about the quality of the food you could grow even in grow bags or 5 gallon food safe buckets, it is amazing. I hope you learn from some of the lessons I have learned and keep putting roots in the soil.