Monday, February 7, 2011

Starting to live it up

February is garden planning season. Mike and I set up the grow table yesterday and I started basil, lettuce and pea shoots.  Now that I am feeling my greeness, I am ready for the part of gardening that maters the most - good planning.

Mike and I plant in one main bed, one smaller bed by the greenhouse and some square foot beds.  I also intermingle my flowers and veggies in the front yard.  This has many advantages (including saving some harvest from tomato blight last year), but it makes planning more complicated. It is also more complicated for me because Mike and I grow all our own seedlings.  That mean I need to know in Feb. and March what I'd like to plant in May. 

Because I am an organic gardener, I don't amend my garden beds, except with compost.  That means I need to know which plants work well together (called companion planting) and which ones are best planted after something else grow there last year (called crop rotation). My final factor is the amount of light and heat that each location gets.

Here are the crop families I grow and where they grew last year. My next post will work on the plan for this year.

Alliaceae (Alliums)
  • chives - a perennial I grow year round inter-planted in my back flower beds. They have purple flowers in spring and are very hardy. I don't move my chives very often, and they even tolerate the high acidity of living under my pine tree.
  • garlic - I haven't had much success with garlic, but I have always planted it in the early spring and just used sprouting garlic from my fridge.  Last fall I planted actual grown for planting garlic and put it against the outside south face of the greenhouse so I have given it all I can. We'll see how it does this season.
  • onions - like garlic, onions haven't done well for me.  I grew yellow onions in my south greenhouse bed 2 years ago, but the resulting onions were tiny. Last year I grew purple onions from bedding plants, and they did almost nothing.
  • asparagus- is also a perennial, and I grow it in a sunny spot against my fence. It is a heavy feeder so I give it a lot of compost in the fall and eat it in May and June. I haven't transplanted it yet, because I don't have a warmer spot for it. 
Brassicaceae (Brassicas)
  • kohlrabi - I love kohlrabi, but it always gets eaten by pests. This year I will grow it under a net. Although it can be grown from seed in May, I also pre-start some in April so I can eat it all summer long.
Chenopodiaceae (Goosefoot)
  • spinach - is very cold tolerant but goes to seed in the heat.  I grow it spring and fall
  • beets - last year mine were washed away in flooding twice and then overshadowed when they eventually sprouted.  I grew them in the main bed last year and need to move them this year
  • swiss chard - is a great substitute for spinach in the summer and even survives light frost. I planted some amount flowers in the front and some in the main garden plot.  I will go mostly with the front this time.
  • lettuce - is like spinach, it has a hard time in the heat.  I grow it in part sun, usually in the main bed
  • sunflower - this is usually Leora's flower, and she grows it in the front bed. I need to rotate it to middle height positions this year, as it was a tall back of border plant last year.
Cucurbitacae (Curcurbits)
  • cucumbers - did very well on my south square foot bed, and I am going to put them there again. I amend those beds so they are 1/3 compost because I need to plant the same heat lovers there year after year.  They are pretty sheltered, so I haven't had a pest or disease issue yet.
  • pumpkins - I am not sure where I will grow these this year.  I am leaning toward the front yard among the flowers.
  • spaghetti squash- Last year I grew these on the back fence and they did not get enough light.  I am moving them back to south square foot bed.
Fabaceae (Legumes)
  • beans - last year I grew 5 types of beans, scarlet runner (in front) and yellow and green bush, broad been and edamame been in the back.  I always rotate those around in parts of the main bed and in the front.  They can't get too close to me neighbours tree or the worms eat them.
  • peas - last year I grew these in the main bed along the north fence. I am going to try them against the back fence and see if they get enough light.

  • basil - is always a potted plant for me, and lives in the greenhouse all summer so it is happy.  I started it this week and will be able to eat in the spring. It bushes out when cut, so I can eat it until fall if I plant nearly 12 plants.
Poaceae (Grasses)
  • corn - I grew this on the north side of the main plot last year and it did well despite the cold and damp,  It is a heavy nitrogen user, so I am moving beans were last year.  They add nutrients and fix them in the soil for my corn.
Solanaceae (Nightshades)
  • peppers - I grow these in my greenhouse or my south square foot bed. They have to have lots of heat or I don't get to eat them
  • potatoes - I grew these in the middle of my garden last year. I'll put them where my tomatoes were last year, unless the blight might transfer. I need to read more.
  • tomatoes- I am going to grow some in the front and the rest where my pumpkins were last year.
  • carrot - did really well last year, and they are moving slightly over in my main bed this year
  • dill, cilantro, parsley - I grow these scattered throughout the yard, as they are self seeding and act like weeds.
Having a record of where things are planted only goes from year to year for me usually, but I got a book for tracking each year.  Combined with my blog, I hope it will really help me learn more from my planting processes.


  1. You're getting pretty specific there, latin girl. I'm hungry already. Are you going to link this post on SaskEcoFamilies?

    Re: Basil. I know we are still eating our frozen stuff, but we never have enough early on. I think we should plant MORE. We can always cull it later on or give it away to huge ovations from the recipients.

  2. Wowza, I'm always in awe of your garden when I can visit it. I didn't realize there was SO MUCH to think about, even in early February! :)

    We'll be planting in our square foot garden boxes too. If we buy a house, we'll hire someone to move those suckers, doggone it. I missed the garden last year, and am hoping to replicate my success from two years ago.

  3. Wendy ... pretty impressive! I don't even give a thought to my garden until spring time ... that'd probably be why yours is a fluorishing, sustaining garden and mine is a flop! Happy planning to you. :-)

  4. I was worried this post might seem a little esoteric. . . I think maybe it was. I'll try to make the next one a little more down to earth.