Neighbours talking over the garden gate has long been a tradition. They share gardening tips, complain about the weather and pests yet are ever eager to discuss their gardens. That is what I had in mind when creating this blog. So stop by my garden gate to find out the latest happenings in my garden.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
"All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child." ~ Madame Marie Curie"

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Garden Planning

We had five raised beds and now have eight all planted in the square foot gardening method using companion planting. The beds are planted based on the ADLF. This means the cool weather crops are planted a month before the ADLF, some are planted on the ADLF and the frost sensitive plants are planted two weeks after the ADLF. For that reason garden planning is a must. This planning starts with the previous growing season. As the fruits, herbs and vegetables grow I make careful notes in my journal.

I think keeping a detailed journal is a very important part of gardening. It will help you troubleshoot and plan for the following growing season. It will help you determine which varieties do best in your hardiness zone. I record the weather conditions and how the plants are growing. Any problems such as pests or possible disease are recorded with as much detail as possible. More importantly I take pictures and include them in my journal. Quite often I will sit down in the evening, read over my notes and realize that there is a problem that needs attention. Without my notes and pictures it might easily have been overlooked. I can't stress the importance of a gardening journal enough.

Once the beds are prepared for the winter I review my garden journal and pictures then start planning for the new garden season. I make a list of what grew well then create a layout for each bed. Of the five original beds, one is dedicated to strawberries so needs no plan. The excitement grows when the first seed catalogue arrives. I like both OSC and Stokes for the ease of ordering online. Once the seeds have been ordered I start a more formal plan. I used to do this by drawing out each layout by hand but now I'm using Garden Manager Pro software. This software has the vegetable information and garden layout adapted from Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholmew and has greatly simplified the layout planning.

Using the recommended square foot gardening recommended densities for each plant along with companion planting recommendations, I came up with the layouts for the beds then printed them off. As you can see the working copy becomes rather cluttered. I use it for making quick changes and notes of when to plant. Like any plan some flexibility is needed. Each square has a number in brackets after the plant name. This indicates the planting density. For example in bed #2 that is home to the herbs, I decided to plant lettuce in a couple of squares. The number after the lettuce appears as (4) meaning four lettuce plants to that square. I also use colour coding for a quick visual for when to plant according to the ADLF. This is really just a simple scribble with a pencil crayon. I even use Xs or checkmarks to planting times or if the square was planted. While the working copy appears to be cluttered it holds a lot of valuable information.

Working Copy

Sometimes a quick change is necessary if a volunteer plant is discovered. In bed #5 two volunteer sunflowers came up. Since that bed wasn't fully planned, I left them where they were and just incoporated them into the final bed layout. A volunteer pea plant surprised me in bed#3. Since it was in the bed where the beans and peas were going to be planted I simply left it there and noted the change on the working copy sheet. There are times when I realize I made a mistake in the planning process as in the fennel planned for bed #2. Fennel doesn't get along well with other plants so I decided to plant it in a container. I have also realized that lemon balm is a member of the mint family so is very invasive. It is everywhere so will have to be moved out of the herb bed. Mistakes are a good thing if you learn from them.

The herb bed is the easiest to plan as the perennials are already there so planning is only needed for the annual herbs. Again quick changes were necessary. I had a problem with the germination of some herbs in the greenhouse so found myself with nothing to plant in those spaces. Unfortunately the local nuseries didn't have potted herbs that I wanted. That left me with spaces to fill. When using the square foot gardening method there is nothing wrong with leaving a space empty or filling it with a non-edible companion plant.

Herb Bed Plan

When using the square foot gardening method, the plan is only a guide. As the cold weather crops like lettuces, spinach, radishes and peas finish the squares are replanted with another crop keeping companion planting recommendations in mind. Some squares like the pole beans, tomatoes, perennial herbs, peppers and onions will remain constant without replanting throughout the entire growing season. These are the plants I use to plan the layouts. They are planned first and everything else worked around them. Even with very careful planning always expect surprises and be willing to be flexible. My peas thew me a curve ball this year. Other years they have been punny and almost non-productive. This year I tried a couple of different varieties. They are over five feet tall and we had to make emergency supports for them. I'm not complaining as they are loaded with pods but this was totally unexpected. You can bet I'll be growing these varieties next year!

Planning your garden can be a very rewarding part of gardening. A well thought out and planned garden is more likely to be successful. Start planning your next season's garden with this season.

Happy Gardening

Garden Gnome


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