Monday, February 2, 2015

Planning Your Annual Vegetable Garden

Now that you've planned the perennial part of your garden it's time to move on to annuals. If you don't already have a way to track your garden, this is a great time to start. I've been thinking about this blog for a while now but couldn't put together a good way to share the idea. The multiple notebook page style that I have always used works fine, but it took me a year or two to get coordinated in a way that was easy to track. Luckily, it finally came to me, via facebook. has a great 5 year garden planner that you can download and print. It's simple design makes it perfect for multipurposing in the way that I want to share with you.
Planning your garden is important. Then loving to be in it becomes more important. This isn't the best picture, and it looks more like a jungle, but it's the way I like it. Barefoot wading through the vines and plants.
Yes A garden you love to wade in does produce.

When you start planning which veggies will make it into your garden think first about what your family eats the most. If the hubby loves potatoes with every meal than you might want to consider adding a large patch. If your the only one that will eat beets then a small planting might be the best use of space. Next thing to consider is, are you planning on canning or otherwise preserving from your garden? If not then a few plants that are really well cared for will give you that summer freshness without the waste of time, energy and money and the shame of throwing out the wasted abundance of your efforts.

Now we get to the fun part (in my opinion) and where the garden planner becomes one of my new favorite tools.

I plan my garden to feed my family. Canning, dehydrating, freezing..... Then subtract the things that can be bought in bulk for a price that is more reasonable than planting. Dry beans, for instance, are super cheap and already preserved for you. By the time I planted, cared for and prepared them for storage I would have put far more into it than it's worth to me.

My list might start something like this.
15 lg tomato plants
8 paste tomato
3 cherry tomato

I plant different varieties of each because I love the choices of colors, textures and flavors. This is where it's important to keep track of what you planted and where you got it. If you plant (specific) variety of cherry tomato and it doesn't produce in a way that suits your needs, you don't want to plant it again next year by accident. On the other hand if it does well, especially in bad weather, you want to be able to find it again. Take a moment here to find a list of good companion planting. There are some very useful things to be learned about what works well with what, such as tomato worms actually like dill better. If you plant plenty of dill in you garden some for use and some sacrificial to the worms you win twice. The worms are easier to find on the dill.

So now my seed list looks like this.
German Pink 1pkg. (catalog or store where they came from)
Green Zebra 1 pkg. (catalog.......)

If February is when you start seeds indoors, or out, use the Feb page in the same way. List how many of what variety you started. If you write small enough you will have room later to record what your success rate was for each. If you tend to write to large, like me, you can easily print multiples of this page. You continue this process throughout the year. When did you plant them in the garden, how did they perform for you and even if there was an unusual weather event that might make you like/dislike the plant variety. (example. cold wet weather on (date) one variety did especially well/hot dry weather on (date) one did especially poorly. Next year when you start breaking out the seed catalogs you can just look back in your journal and see what you want to make sure to/not to order again.

If your putting your produce up for storage you can add this to the planner. Print extra copies of these months. Use them to keep a running tally of how much you put aside.

At the end of the printable are also some sheets of graph paper. Use these to plot what and where you planted .

Finally to bring the whole thing into a circle.

In the end, you have a great record of your last year. When January rolls back around, the holidays are over and your looking forward to the spring season, break out your folder and put it all together. On a fresh January page total up how much of what you ended up having for storage, check this against what you have left. If you used up your tomato juice before you even got to christmas then plant/can more. If your cucumbers did really well and you pickled your heart out but the family doesn't eat pickles, maybe plant less or find a different way to use them. Don't forget to make notes of things that are available to you during certain months, peaches, wild blackberries, anything that you don't produce yourself but can forage for or pick up at a farmers market.

If this is your first time planting a garden, start smaller, don't get discouraged and most of all have fun with it. If your reading this then you probably have access to the wonderful world of web. A few suggestions for reading, whether your a new comer or an old hack, are Lasagna Gardening, Square Foot Gardening, Raised Beds.
If you read this far than I will take a moment to apologize for my clumsiness with my posting. I'm just learning how to work with all this social media stuff. I hope to be able to share enough useful information to those who are starting out on a project that they will ride along as I'm starting out on mine.