Monday, March 25, 2013

One of my garden plans explained

In February I gave some quick tips on garden planning, using a simple 4' x 8' grid. Here I'll explain a few of my actual garden plans that have less regular, more complex shapes.

As for simple 4' x 8' gardens, last week I planted several with elementary school classes, and they didn't really require a drawn out plan. Rather, we just kept in mind where the warm weather crops would later be placed, so planted radishes, arugula, spinach or lettuce be harvested and replace by mid-May or June.

Now...for more complex planting schemes. Below is the plan for a school garden that had to be carved up into 17 spaces for 17 classes. I wanted each class to experience more than just “planting lettuce” or any other singular crop, so I'm giving all some succession gardening, while also creating a plan that makes sense as a whole.

 Before I explain the details of this early growing plan, it's worth showing the warm weather plan, which really dictates where short season plants can be sown earlier during the cold months.  So, let's skip over to the next diagram...

Warm weather plan....

 So... above I have in the red font, all plants that will be planted after the last frost.  There's also plants in blue font.  Those are the frost-tolerant plants that were direct sown earlier in the season, but they have long growing seasons so will occupy the space for the entire season, rather than making room for succession planting.  You'll see a lot of the brassicas such as kale, collards and kohlrabi.  Also, beets and chard.  Those just consist of two species.  Then, there's also potatoes, and nasturciums. 

Now, backtrack to the early planting plan....

All of the frost-tolerant plants that I previously mentioned are also in this plan.  The big difference is that the warm weather plants that were in red font, are now replaced by frost-tolerant, short season plants in blue font.  These all will be harvested before the warm weather plants are planted.  Or, sometimes they grow side-by-side for a short time.  

Another difference in the early and late planting plans, is that some of the companions in the early plan just drop off for the late plan.  One such common planting scheme is to plant radishes next to beets or chard (two varieties of the same species).  The radishes germinate quickly, produce quickly, while the beets or chard emerge more slowly.  The beets and chard don't really need the extra room until it's time to harvest the radishes.  In a school garden, it's important to tell the kids and teachers to be very careful to harvest only the radishes and be careful to not damage the small chard or beets seedlings.

Here are some explanations of good succession pairings, where one crop is completely harvested to make way for the next.  It's good to understand that all "short season" and "warm weather" plants aren't harvested or planted at the same time.

Radishes, arugula and spinach early; nightshades (eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, etc.) late.  Those first three are the quickest grown and harvested.  Radishes happen to be a bit quicker, but all could be harvested quite
early.  All will bolt (or go to seed) pretty early if left in the ground, so there's not even an option of keeping them in the ground for longer.

Lettuce early; nightshades late.  Lettuce takes a little longer to reach it's full potential relative to the radishes, arugula and spinach, but it can still be harvested ahead of schedule, or perhaps grown side-by-side with it's successor.  But, don't feel you need to save the lettuce, as a good looking plant will taste bitter by the warm summer months.  It will also eventually bolt, but just a bit later than the arugula.

Turnips early; okra late.  Turnips sometimes take a bit longer to produce, when compared to the other short season crops.  I've had some in the ground until early July, which is too late to plant the nightshades.  Okra is a perfect fast growing hot weather crop that can be planted as late as early July...although I would still try to plant them early.  It's just nice to know that there's a good option to use that space.  Fava beans would be another "longer of the short season crops" that can be succeeded by okra.

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