Thursday, February 14, 2013

Get Your Gardening On! Project 1

I told you I'd be back today with detailed garden plans, so here they are. Last Thursday, I helped you make a seed list. This week, I'll show you how making a garden plan will help you figure out how many of each type of seed you'll need. Next week, I'll tell you when to plant.

Let's start with Project 1: The Large Garden. For many people, the space pictured below will provide a lot of food for their family.

I'm going to be completely honest with you. This is a crappy picture. But that's alright! It allows me to have a clear plan and know what I'm planting and where. Also, I burnt myself out taking on too many seed varieties last year, and I fizzled out mid-season. I had two part time jobs, my two-year-old son to take care of, and a large garden to tend. This year, I am determined to keep the seed varieties to a minimum and have a clear plan as to what I'm doing where and when. Here's my Master Plan for Project 1:

I always put the North direction at the top of the page, and I try to arrange my plants for maximum sun exposure, since the sun's rays are strongest from the south. This means that trellised plants could block the sun from smaller plants if not placed on the north edge of the beds.

Last year, I planned to double dig 8 garden beds that were 23 feet long by 3 1/2 feet wide. That didn't happen. The soil was clay, and digging in it by hand was slow-going. I only completed the 3 beds you see running from East to West, but they were tilled and surrounded by cinder blocks. I then added soil amendments and planted what I could. The rest of the garden space remained uncared for, and weeds took over, spreading even to the inside of the raised beds. Really bad!

I'm going to leave these beds where they are, but take a half a foot away from the width and one foot away from the length, making them 22 feet long by 3 feet wide, a more manageable size. On the Southwest side, I'm adding 5 garden beds using the Mittleider Method. They'll be 15 feet long by 18 inches wide. On the Southeast side, I'm adding six strawberry beds. You can't see the sixth strawberry bed, because I ran out of space with the graph paper. The strawberry beds are 10 feet long and 2 feet wide, and the strawberries will be planted on hills 8 inches high.

The Mittleider Method is supposed to be very effective at producing high yields, even in poor areas for growing. I'm going to use this method while simultaneously growing the same plants in my existing raised garden beds using intensive gardening techniques I gleaned from Brett Markham in his book Mini Farming: Self Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre. I look forward to the results!

Here's a closeup of the Mittleider Method garden beds:

I based my plant spacing on Mittleider's recommendations and companion planted based on my online research. Some plants don't do well planted next to certain varieties for various reasons. Maybe they transfer pests readily or they both consume a lot of nitrogen. This is why it's good to do a little research before you make your plans and make lots of notes in your garden journal!

Your needs may vary from mine. Maybe you only want 1 zucchini plant, because you had way too many last year and couldn't even give them all away! As you grow each year, you'll be able to adjust your garden plans based on your needs. With these plans, you'll know exactly how many seed packets to buy of each variety. 1 packet of each variety will usually do the trick, but some seeds are sold 5 per packet, and in that case, you may need multiple packets.

Here's a closeup of the strawberry beds: 

I'm going to plant 2 different kinds of strawberries: June bearers and Ever bearers. As you may be able to guess, June bearers produce their fruit at the beginning of the season. Ever bearers produce a steady supply of fruit in smaller quantities all season long. I'll go into more detail in regards to their care in future entries.

Here's a closeup of one of the existing raised beds in 10-foot sections:

I'm spacing the plants further apart and fertilizing mainly with compost throughout the growing season. Of course, I'll detail how this method differs from the Mittleider Method as I update in future entries.

Are you feeling inspired to make some plans of your own? You could follow these to the letter if you wish, but your growing space may differ from mine, and you may want to plant more of some vegetables and less of others. Don't have any graph paper? Here, I'll share! It's not the best, but it'll do until you can buy some of your own from an office supply or craft store.


I'll announce 2 more projects next week (adequately named Project 2 and Project 3) and explain what types of seeds you should start indoors (or buy from a reputable garden center) and which varieties are best sown directly into the garden bed. As always, thanks for stopping by!

1 comment:

  1. I should have a plan like yours. I just buy my organic plants and put them in the ground.... then my Hubs comes lugging more and before I know it, we have more plants than we know what to do with..