Garden Planning 2015

Last year was my first real year to have a vegetable garden that was more than simply a collection of pots on the deck.  It was a great experience and I learned a lot of lessons.  I grew a whole lot of food and failed at growing even more.  So looking ahead to 2015 also means looking back.

Last year, my most successful crop was cucumbers.  This was both good and bad.  It was good in the sense that now I have a dozen jars of homemade pickles on my pantry shelves.  But it was bad because I have a dozen jars of homemade pickles and I’m the only one in the family that likes pickles.  I had a total of 10 pickling cucumber plants and they produced with an abundance that I simply could not keep up with.

Lesson 1:  Plant what your family will eat.

Another source of frustration for me were the pest issues I faced.  You might remember the squirrels who dug up all of my garlic last year.  They continue to be a major problem.  My bare, winter garden looks like the face of the moon.  It is full of craters dug by their tiny rodent paws.  To add insult to injury, just after my tomatoes set their fruit, a deer hopped my fence and ate the entire crop of green tomatoes.  The delicious pizza sauce I managed to jar came from store bought tomatoes.  Depressing.  Animal pressure is clearly a major issue for my garden, and I will need to take more aggressive measures this year if I want my tomatoes and all of my other vegetables to survive.

I’ve come up with some plans.  I’d like to make a small frame with chicken wire stretched across it to fit down over each my raised beds.  My hope is that I will be able to plant through the holes in the chicken wire, but the squirrels will not be able to dig in it.  As for the deer, I have a neighbor who has had great success with a motion sensor sprinkler, so I think I will try this.  The trick will be getting the angle just right to keep the deer well away.  I hope that between these two barriers, the deer and squirrels will look for easier places to cavort.

As for 2015, I’m going to narrow my focus on the tomatoes and plant mostly sauce-type tomatoes.  Burpee has a hybrid called Supersauce that promises huge fruit (one tomato to fill a jar!) and great taste.  Considering that my store-bought tomatoes only gave me 4 meagre jars of pizza sauce, the idea of enormous and prolific fruit certainly appeals to me.

I’m also going to plant more hot peppers for my husband who is a capsaicin addict.  We’re going to try Biker Billy, the same Jalapeno as last year, Diabolito, and one called Sweet Heat.  Hopefully that will satisfy my husband’s need to set his mouth on fire!

After the squirrel fiasco, I am not attempting garlic.  This has nothing to do with the fact that I put off ordering it until it was too late to ship.  Nope.  Definitely not.  But I did manage to get some shallots, so I’m giving that a try.

For the kids, I got some Bush Baby watermelon seeds.  I’ve never grown a melon, but it will be fun for the kids to give it a try!

As for my other plans?  I’m not sure.  I’d like to grow some peas and beans, but the rabbits hit them so hard last year that it hardly seems worth it.  Considering the extreme measures I am taking for the deer, I will probably try and hope that it helps, but the loss of the peas was such a bummer that I’m not entirely sure if I have it in me this year.  Broccoli and Cauliflower were also a major disappointment (thanks squirrels) because not only did they just stay thin and reedy, but the bastard squirrels dug them up, too.  I will likely try those again, however, and see if purchasing actual plants from a nursery works out better than attempting to grow from seed.

I’ve sketched out a preliminary plan for my garden.  You can see that there are lots of blank spaces still, but it gives me an idea where the big stuff will go.

2015 garden plan

I’m looking forward to spring.  We’re in the middle of rain and snow today, so sitting down and planning a garden helps me think of greener and warmer days.

Are you doing a garden this year?  What will you be planting?

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GARDEN PLANNING FOR 2014: SFG Design and Companion Planting

Thumbing through seed catalogues is both fun and overwhelming.  It’s got me alternating between pulling my hair out and rubbing my hands together with glee.  It’s hard not to feel in over your head if you’re starting your first real garden in a completely new climate, and you’re not sure what to plant, when and where.

Luckily, square foot gardening (SFG), which I talked about in my previous garden planning post, makes things much easier.  It’s just a matter of mapping out your squares!  And that’s exactly what I have been doing over the last few weeks.

A simple google search found a wonderful online SFG planning tool, which has been easier than graph paper for the time being.  It’s called the SFG Planner, and it allows you to draw your beds  and plug in what you want to plant  It even tells you how many plants per square to put in.

I started making my list of what to plant, and I really did stick with the advice to plant what you will eat.  This coming year, I will be planting:

  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Peas
  • Cauliflower
  • Radishes
  • Swiss Chard
  • Broccoli
  • Romanesco
  • Parsley
  • Marigold
  • Hot peppers
  • Garlic
  • Strawberries
  • Bush beans
  • Carrots
  • Basil
  • Nasturtiums
  • Cilantro
  • Lettuce
  • Watermelon

Seems like a whole lot in a very small space, but with the creative use of trellising for the vining crops, we can go vertical and gain lots and lots of space.

You may also notice that the plants I listed above are not all vegetables and fruit.  I’ve included several culinary herbs and a few flowers, but they all have a use.

They are all companion plants!  That is, they will help the other plants by repelling pests and helping to improve the soil.  For example, marigolds drive away any number of pests.  Not only that, but marigolds are… calendula!  Which is a wonderful healing herb with many uses for children.  Nasturtiums also repel pests and the flowers are good in salads.  Radishes repel cucumber beetles, and lettuces and nasturtiums improve their flavor and texture.  Basil makes tomatoes tastier.  And the list goes on!

Having my gardens laid out in squares makes companion gardening easy and allows me to plant friends close and keep enemies (like strawberries and broccoli) separated.

I still haven’t settled on the specific varieties that I will plant, but for the time being, this is a general look at how I will plant my garden in spring:  SFG Planner – Design Square Foot Garden online 

Have any of you started garden planning?  What’s going in your garden next year?  Have you had good luck with companion planting?  I’m eager to hear about your experience!