The Lay of the Land
Any of you who have a garden surely are familiar with the yin and yang of winter. These months of dormancy in the garden are a blessing in that they provide the busy gardener with time at his or her desk (or kitchen table) to sort through the catalogues and draft up the plans for the coming season’s garden. But winter, as it trudges along to late February, can be downright painful for the gardener psyche, having been penned up inside for so long. I have turned with new zest to house plants this winter, having missed my garden so very much. I have also been soothing the burning desire to get in the garden by meticulously planning on paper every detail of my little patch of green goodness.
Plotting out all the details of the garden has become increasingly important for me, thanks to both my experiences gardening in a small plot with an ambitious crop list and my reading list over this winter. One of the books I read from front to back and then again was Sarah Raven’s The Great Vegetable Plot. Just like her The Cutting Garden, this volume is jammed full of great tips for getting the most out of a small piece of land, focusing in great detail on succession planting, trellising, the most productive varieties of any given vegetable, and how to push the limits of the seasons. With these words of wisdom in mind, I drafted my layout for this year’s vegetable garden.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that one entire row of my vegetable garden isn’t even for vegetables. I made a tough decision to dedicate a quarter of my veggie space to cut flowers. As I see it, I only have a family of two (three if you’re talking about melons, in which case my cat has a near frantic obsession with eating them), and we don’t need great quantities of any one thing, besides some of the crops that will store for long periods (carrots, beets, rutabagas, etc). So instead of growing 19(!) tomato plants like I had last year, I’m only going to put in three this year. Following this pattern, I now have a free row for all the varieties of cut flowers I’ve been so desperate to trial. I can’t wait for that profusion of blooms in Row 1!
Another push I’ll be making in this year’s vegetable garden that’s reflected in the plan is the addition of some vertical elements to make the garden more visually appealing. Since this vegetable plot sits directly behind my ornamental plot, I’d like it to be a continuation of the overall design scheme of an English cottage garden. I’m going to try my hand at building two “tunnels” (pergolas really) of bamboo for the peas, squash and cucumbers to climb. These tunnels will make it interesting to walk down the center path, slipping in and out their shade. Also there will be at least three “teepees” of bamboo and twine to get the sweet potato, winter squash, and melon vines off the ground. Picking the vines up off the ground does more than just increase the aesthetics of the garden; it also makes harvesting easier and allows me to grow more vine crops than I could otherwise if I left the vines run wild.
Even with the flowers taking up one row, I’m still going to strive to grow over 30 vegetable crops in this space. That level of ambition demands an equally high level of organization. Besides this plan view to serve as a visual cue for placing my crops and being sure there’s enough room for each and that they’ve been rotated out of the bed they were in last year (to avoid some pesky disease and pest issues), I’ve plotted out a detailed sowing and transplanting schedule that I’ll also be posting shortly.
I don’t consider myself an expert just yet by any means, but I feel like I’ve learned an awful lot in this little garden of mine that’s extremely transferable. If there’s any garden planning questions on your mind, feel free to fire them at me and I’ll see if I can help answer them for you. What’s your plan for the 2009 growing season?
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