You may be thinking it is February and way too early to be thinking about your veggie garden. I know here in Zone 5, it is still only 14 degrees and everything is covered in snow so it seems a little silly. But, trust me, the best way to get the most out of your garden is to plan it out! I also love planning out the garden this time of year and day dreaming about warmer summer days with baskets of fresh veggies coming into the house. Ahhhh, that is the life!
Do you think you can’t garden if you don’t have a yard? Get creative! Here is a picture of my first garden on my own. I lived in an apartment so I didn’t have much room to work with, just a little patio. Container gardening is awesome, easy, and totally possible!
If you have never in your life grown a single plant or if you are convinced you kill everything you touch, this is your year! Trust me! Whether you have a big plot to work with or just a patio with hopes of a few containers, this is for you. So whether you are a new or seasoned gardener in the country or in the city, get a blank notebook out and let’s get started.
STEP 1- Get yourself a blank notebook. Keeping track of your garden plan is the easiest way to keep things organized throughout the season. On the first page, start writing the veggies that you eat all the time and would love to grow in your own backyard. Love tomatoes? Write it down! Eat salads every day? Write down lettuce, carrots, peppers, etc. Don’t worry about the space you think you have or whether you are just planning on a few containers. Just think about what you would really love to grow and eat. As you can see, I like to write it on many papers, haha. I also save previous years of garden plans to keep everything organized.
STEP 2- Put on your coat and head out into your yard. You need to find a spot for your garden! Now, if you have just a patio or a small balcony, it is already decided for you. But, you can still decide how much of that patio you are willing to give up for your garden. If you have more yard to work with, try to decide a good spot in the yard that is close to a water source and close enough to the house that you will get out to the garden often to check on things.
STEP 3- You want to check out your sun exposure in your desired spot. Check on your ideal spot throughout the day. You want that spot to get 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day. A southern facing garden bed is ideal of light exposure. Both of my beds are skidding in on the 6 hour mark with southern exposure, the neighbors on all sides have a lot of mature trees that block a lot of the sunlight in the yard. The smack dab middle of my yard gets over 8 hours, but to have a garden bed in the middle justdoesn’t make any sense. You have to sometimes come to a compromise of location and functionality. If your yard is mostly shade, you might have to get a little creative with your garden. Does the front of your house get more sun? There are some veggies and herbs that you can incorporate into your landscape that will add both beauty and food you can eat! If you have a mostly shaded yard, there are still a few veggies you can grow, like lettuce and celery, that will tolerate more shade.
STEP 4- Draw out your garden plans. Get out some blank paper and draw out your garden spot. While you are doing this, make notes of which direction the sun comes across your garden spot. You want the tallest things in your bed (tomatoes, climbing plants) to be in the north and western most spots of the garden so that they don’t shade the rest of your plants all day. I do square foot gardening, which I love, so I broke my raised beds into square feet.
If you are interested in square foot gardening, here are a few links for you:
Overview & description of how to get started with a square foot garden: http://squarefootgardening.org/square-foot-gardening-method
How many squares each plant uses: http://www.mysquarefootgarden.net/plant-spacing/
The official book on the subject: All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space
No matter what type of garden you are planning on doing, it is important to see how much space you have to work with. This will determine how many plants you have room for! For me, I have two 3×5 raised beds. This means I have 15 square feet in each bed to work with. So 30 total squares to play with. Go back to your list of desired plants and start playing around with arrangements in your garden beds that work. I normally fiddle around with where I want everything for quite a while before coming to a final garden plan.
Keep in mind while you draw out your garden what veggies you really will eat and enjoy all season long. Yes, it is fun to plant 42 varieties of heirloom tomato plants, but once they all start producing fruit, you are going to up to your elbows in tomatoes. Which, if you love to can tomato juice, sauce, etc, is awesome. If you don’t can, chances are a lot of those tomatoes are going to go to waste. Maybe you only need 10 tomato plants to start and see how the year goes and change it up for next year.
This is a picture of my final 2014 garden plans (I am still finished up 2015, but I will post them when I get them finished!):
I will meet back up with you next week for the next step in planning the garden!