Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Making Plans- saves money & time, maximizes your harvest & happiness

A moment of sunshine in February is never wasted.  This past weekend, we grabbed the notebook, a couple cups of tea and went outside to make plans for our vegetable garden.

Before starting seeds, it helps to formulate a plan.  Since we are both enthusiastic gardeners and we share the limited garden space, we go through a negotiation dance to determine; what, where, how, and how much we plant.

The first step is sketching out all the garden beds on paper, so we can take notes.  (In the past, Terry would have done it to scale- hence the graph paper.)  This year we're comfortable with the size of the beds we're working with, so he skipped using a ruler and did a quick sketch.

There are certain crops that are planted in the same beds each year, due to the fact they are perennials or the type of structure we train them on.  So, we write them in first.  Then we discuss crop rotation.  We try not to plant crops in the same bed they were in the year before.  

There are lots of books and articles that discuss crop rotation.  Rotating crops help combat pest and diseases and also maximizes soil fertility.  The Maritime Northwest Garden Guide produced by Seattle Tilth explains crop rotation really well.  A rotation that is based on soil fertility starts with a well-manured and fertilized bed.  The sequence of crop types goes:  Leaf, Root, Flower, Fruit.  

We have more factors than just crop rotation to consider.  We have varying bed sizes and some beds get more sunlight and are easier to work in than others.  After walking through the entire garden, discussing details, envisioning our harvest, and jotting down notes; we are able to review our notes and make edits.  Once we are both happy with the plan, we can relax knowing that we both are going to get what we want out of the garden this year.  

The next step is starting seeds.  We keep our plans in a folder and keep it with our box of seeds.  The plan helps us determine how many seeds we need to start and when.  It also keeps us from wasting money and over-planting.  When the nursery is full of seeds and starts it is so hard to resist picking up just a few more of this or that.  By creating a plan early, you can research seed varieties and not feel rushed to just pick up what the nearest nursery has.     

After the season is over, we keep the plan as a record.  It's fun to look back at how our gardening plans have evolved over the years.

Whether you're a new gardener or a seasoned one, I highly recommend taking the time to create a plan, especially if more than one person is involved.  It gets everyone excited about the garden even when it's still winter, saves money, increases your harvest potential and makes planting feel a lot less hectic because you're not questioning quantities and varieties every time you visit the nursery during peak planting season. 

If you are local to Tacoma and need help developing a plan, let me know.  Happy Planning!

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