Sunday, January 9, 2011

2011 Garden Planning

“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature.
To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul.”
~Alfred Austin

I was able to sit down yesterday and plan out the garden and develop my seed-starting schedule for this year. Last year was my first year growing from seed under lights. Last year was also my most successful garden ever.

In the years previous to last, I purchased transplants and direct seeded the garden. Purchased transplants usually required a short hardening off period and seedling transplant all at once into the garden. Traditionally, Memorial Day weekend was the time to “get the garden in.” It always felt rushed and the seedlings almost always showed signs of living too long in their little cell packs.

Over the past few years I have improved the garden spot with the addition of six, 4x4 Square Foot Garden beds and utilized black plastic mulch to help increase heat and keep the weeds under control in the regular garden. I have also used home made self-watering containers to successfully increase production beyond the actual garden space.

Growing from seed gave me opportunity to take pleasure in a little gardening during the long winter months. I watched as life emerged from the tiny seeds and flourished into healthy seedlings. I enjoyed caring for the seedlings as they grew. Even when it was time to transplant the seedlings into the garden, it was completed at a much slower pace over a longer period of time. When the weather, seedlings and gardener were ready, not when it was time to “get the garden in.”

Planning a seed-starting schedule for the first time last year was a bit daunting. This year seemed much easier as I just took the existing schedule and tweaked it according to my notes and observations. First I plotted out the garden spot to see how many seedlings to plan on, and then developed the schedule knowing that I would probably modify it as I went along.

Some of the changes for this year:
  • Double the amount of onions: Last year’s crop was enough to use in canning salsa and tomato sauce, but not enough for storing.
  • Reduce the amount of tomatoes: We are not big tomato eaters, but I do make a lot of tomato sauce and salsa. I will keep the same amount of paste tomato plants as last year, but reduce the eating tomatoes to only a few plants.
  • Start pepper seeds earlier: The peppers germinated much slower that anticipated last year. I plan on starting them two weeks earlier this year.
  • Increase the amount of greens: In both variety and amount.
  • Reduce the amount of cucumbers: We had way more cucumbers than we needed last year. Even after making two batches of pickles and giving away the extras, the amount of fruit produced was above and beyond what could be used.
  • Reduce the amount of melons: I’ve grown melons for the past two years, this year I want to utilize the melon space other things. I almost eliminated melons completely this year, but then found a spot for a few plants. I will be growing a small yellow watermelon in a square foot garden on a trellis.
  • Add some winter squash: I have tried growing winter squash before with only minimal success. I believe the black plastic mulch method will increase yields.
  • Experiment with growing potatoes: I am toying with trying another method of growing potatoes after seeing the success Laura had at The Modern Victory Garden using the John Jeavon's Potato Planting Method.  Although I had a very successful first year at growing potatoes, I disliked the hilling method because of the labor involved in hilling, the unkempt and messy appearance of the plot, and the wasted space in between the rows.
My seed box has been sorted and organized. I tested and planted some older seeds and eliminated the duds. I will be placing a small seed order at Pinetree Garden Seeds this week. There will be some new varieties to try. I am ready and eager to begin the new gardening season.


  1. Sounds like a well thought out plan. Even though I always have too many tomatoes, the seed catalogs come and I feel compelled to try some new ones along with the favorites.

  2. Looks like you have things all planed out. I was just sitting down to figure out how many tomatoes to grow this year. I'm down to three. Two cherry and one roma should do it. I will also be starting 7 more tomatoes for the Haven garden.

  3. It's that time of year...planning the garden!! We have spent a great deal of time this past week working on the garden plans.

    I have never used that method to grow potatoes. I have always used the straw mulching method. This method is easy and requires no hilling either. It is in my favorite gardening book, "The Vegetable Gardeners Bible" by Edward C. Smith. I have had great success with this method. Last year I tried an experiment growing potatoes in was a complete failure.

  4. I have to agree with you on the tomatoes. Last year was my first full year of growing and it was definitely a learning experience. I guess we're all on a quest to make our gardens as efficient as possible.

  5. After all of the cold months, most garden lovers are probably ready to start thinking about the coming planting season. The good news is that there are projects that can be done during the winter in preparation for the coming spring.

    home and garden design

  6. Sande: Even though I don’t like tomatoes, it is difficult for me to resist trying to grow different kinds as well.

    Liisa: It is exciting get going again.

    Robin: I am vaguely familiar with Ed Smiths WORD methods, but have not read “The Vegetable Gardeners Bible.” I’ll try to see if it is available at the library to check out his potato method.

    Thomas: I probably overplanted tomatoes last year, but the wonderful weather we had also contributed to the abundant tomato harvest.

    Jazzie: I do like a little break between gardening seasons, but I am very eager for planting the garden once again.

  7. your plans for this summer's plantings look great! i highly recommend adding some delicata squash into your winter mix. it was the best tasting squash we've ever grown.

    happy seed catalog reading.

  8. Oh your seedling in a cup just warms my heart.

    Happy growing and happy eating.

  9. It looks like you have a wonderful plan, and having the most difficult year under your belt, this year should go smoothly. Should you need any Hungarian hot yellow wax pepper seeds, let me know as I would be happy to share.

  10. Seed starting schedules do get much easier after you get through the first year. Your adjustments are good ones given your experience and produce needs. I am constantly tweaking the amounts and even types of items we grow but this year I am having to adjust for the fact that it is the first full year that will be just myself and my husband as my daughter is now living in Pennsylvania (attending university there). Some things needed to be scaled back a bit for just the two of us - but it is leaving me more room for a few items I had to skimp on in the past. Going to take a few years to get my adjustments figured out though.

  11. Alison: I happen to have one open space for squash and Delicata is in my Pinetree Seeds catalog…I may have to try it, Thanks for the suggestion.

    Mangocheeks: Thanks!

    Diana: Gardening people are the most generous people I know. Thanks for your offer of Hungarian pepper seeds, but I think I am all set with peppers this year.

    Laura: I do feel more confident this year growing from seed. I think it was easier to plan because I know it is just a guideline and will be adjusted along the way. That takes some of the pressure off.

    It must be huge adjustment from feeding three people down to two. Having a little extra gardening space to experiment on different things could be fun too.

  12. I agree on the Delicata - it is DELICIOUS!! This was a wonderful post. I'm going into my first big year of vegetable gardening. It's so helpful to read other's experiences and learn from them.


  13. Your plan looks great. I just got my seeds organized and placed an order to Pinetree also. It is so nice to have notes from the previous season to see what worked and what needs to be tweaked a bit. You have me motivated to start planning out my garden.

    Thanks Jeana

  14. Sassy Butterfly: Ok, I have ordered seeds for Delicata and will update their growth. I've gardened for many years, but I am always learning and trying different things.

    Jeana: Winter is long for me and I miss gardening. Planning makes me happy while the snow is falling.