Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What, Where, When, and How Many - Garden 2012!

It's winter and although I have a lot of winter activities to keep me busy, I can't help to start thinking about my 2012 garden. This past season I did a lot of research, learned a lot of valuable lessons, experimented some, and endured just a few set backs. We were able to have a few meals from our homegrown bounty, but the best thing I walked away from 2011 with is a desire to do it all again next year-bigger and better.

This year we got our first cold spell and snow around Halloween. This signaled the real end of the 2011 garden. Actually it had ended a few weeks earlier, but this meant we were heading into winter for real. With the end of the 2011 garden, I immediately started day dreaming about 2012. My first step, naturally, was to make a Christmas list that included a seed starting mat and a soil blocker. A seed starting mat keeps a tray of seeds warm while they're germinating. The soil blocker is a zinc coated stainless steel tool that makes free-standing compressed cubes of potting soil which hold their shape without any container or waste, allowing plants to transplant with less shock.

It looks like this:

Well, Santa delivered, along with a seed starting greenhouse! Isn't that what every woman dreams of finding under the Christmas tree?

I spoke to the town already and am fairly certain I will get a full garden plot next year, so I know (hope) I'll be working with a full 5'x20 garden plot in our town's community garden unlike last year's half plot.

This brings me to what I am going to call the what, where, when, and how much of gardening.

First step is to decide what to plant. Naturally, you should start with what you like to eat. But you also need to consider what can grow in your region and how much space you will have, how big the plants get, how long the growing season is and how long you're willing to wait for results. Don't start growing Brussels sprouts in
June unless you're prepared to wait until September or October because brussels sprouts can take 90 to 120 days to mature. Also, if you live in a region like I do (with seasons) you only have about 3 to 4 months of a growing season for warmer weather plants (like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant). Don't try to plant a tomato seed in June and expect to be eating tomatoes in August.

This is also important. Will you be using a windowsill, a container garden, or a garden plot? Which direction does your garden face? Do you have the room to grow what you desire? For example, zucchini plants can get massive. This wouldn't be ideal for a container or a small space. In contrast, lettuce takes up relatively little room and can be grown in lower light situations (some lettuce varieties can only grow in cool weather).

This is the big one I'm going to try to master next year. When to start seeds indoors, when to transplant, when to sow seeds directly in the ground, and and maybe even when to start a fall garden. You can only do this after you've decided what you want to grow and where it will be going.

How many?
Another consideration is how much of a certain type of vegetable to plant. I remember planting 5 green bean plants (bush variety) last year and a fellow gardener walked up to me and goes, "You see all this...," gesturing to my green bean plants, "if all this comes in...you might have enough green beans for one dinner for the two of you." I had overlooked the fact that pole beans produce a greater yield relative to their size.

Last year, this website was very helpful: http://www.growveg.com/freetrial.aspx

Next time that I write I will have a list of what i want to plant, followed by a schedule for starting seeds.

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