With the chances of frost rapidly disappearing, I decided to buckle down and plan my garden this weekend. I wanted to get some seeds in the ground, especially those that could handle a little cold if the heat retreated.
But like previous years, I wanted to know exactly what seeds I was planting where before I even touched the soil. This approach allows me to group plants in ways that are ecologically and practically sound. In addition, it means that even if I lose my markers, I can check the map and see what I planted. It doesn’t completely prevent me from mistaking purposeful plantings for weeds, but it certainly helps.
I based my garden map around what I personally like to eat, what seeds I picked up this spring, and what vegetables I can harvest over a number of different seasons.
Based on some previous success and my love of cooking with them, I’m replanting tomatoes, eggplant, basil, and peppers. Nothing is more delicious in the late summer than a pasta with a simple sauce of fresh tomatoes, basil, and Parmesan cheese. Knowing how much the tomato plants sprawl, I’ve given them plenty of room. I’m not going to sacrifice one of my other plants to their continual shade and roaming roots again.
Despite being years old, my broccoli seeds actually sprouted, so I had to find a place to put them. I’ve had a little bit of an aversion to broccoli while pregnant – mainly because I tried to eat it with some dodgy dip early on – but I’m hoping that will go away by early fall.
Greens and root vegetables provide produce long after the less hearty crops, so I’m hoping I can extend my harvest using them. Spinach is very versatile and will stand up to a variety of weather conditions. I’m co-planting it with the broccoli because they’re both fairly big but low to the ground and one shouldn’t overshadow the other too much. My carrot crop has been iffy in the past, but I figure they’re so versatile that I’ll try growing them again. While I’ve had zero luck with parsnips before, I really enjoy their unique flavor and they store extremely well. I’m planting the carrots and parsnips together, so when I dig them up, I’m not destroying the roots of a neighboring plant. Ideally, I should be able to harvest batches of them together. Sweet potatoes are another late fall/winter go-to, so I’d love to be able to store some instead of having to buy them all from the farmers’ market. While the sweet potato vine we bought a few years back ended up being ornamental, real sweet potatoes also take up a substantial amount of room. I’m inter-planting them with a few nasturtiums so that they don’t block the vegetables. Nasturtiums supposedly keep away insect pests and their flowers are edible. They should add a little color to the garden and our plates.
Last of all, Chris has been bugging me to grow corn since we first started the garden two years ago. In the past, I told him that our garden isn’t big enough – corn needs to be in 4X4 rows to pollinate – but this year I’m giving it a try. I’ve been encouraged by a couple of our gutsy neighbors who grew corn in their front lawns last year, right against a fence or lamp-post. Despite the small number of plants, they did seem to produce some ears. To maximize our space, I’m doing an abbreviated version of a Three Sisters group. One of the old Native American approaches to planting, Three Sisters takes advantage of the positive relationships between corn, beans, and squash. The corn grows upward with a sturdy stem, which the beans can wrap around. Through their nitrogen-fixing capabilities, the beans provide the hungry corn with nutrients. Lastly, the squash creates a ground cover to protect the others from weeds. While we’re leaving the squash out of the equation due to the fear of lingering squash bugs, inter-planting the corn and beans should maximize our yield and minimize the space it takes.
Besides deciding on new plants, I’ve also had to work around what was in the garden from last year. There’s a thyme plant that Chris brought home, some garlic and shallots I planted in the fall, and an ill-fated decorative cabbage plant. Who knew there was purposely inedible cabbage? While it makes sense to pull it out, as it doesn’t serve any purpose in my garden except to look pretty and attract leaf-cutter bugs, I hate killing plants on purpose.
So that’s our garden for the year – we hope. While my plans never completely reach fruition, I think we’ll get a good crop of a variety of different vegetables.
What are you planning to plant?
I used to plant onions around my tomatoes, as the onions were pulled up about the time the tomatoes started to sprawl.
This year’s garden will be just like last years: onions, potatoes, and garlic. I also have an asparagus bed and an herb bed — the garlic chives are already useable; I should mow the thyme before it starts to green up.
We did Three Sisters two years ago as part of our Native American study. I added tomato cages around the hills so that I could remember where they were. We only got 4 corn plants, but that was enough to get 5 ears of corn. The beans got late blight, so we didn’t get many beans, and the squash overran the whole garden and went way out into the yard in all directions, yet only produced five edible squash. It was fun, though.
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