Friday, January 27, 2012

2012 Garden Planning: The Layout

Winter has finally arrived. Snow in the past few weeks has covered the garden and insulated it from the cold temperatures that followed. Since the winters are long here in Maine, garden planning continues at a slow and thoughtful pace.

Planning begins with a blank garden plan, a list of plants that provide well for us, and a list of new things to try. Then I try to fit everything in the garden plan, determine how many plants of each are needed, and plan out my seed-starting schedule.

Some things to consider in this preparation are:
  • Crop Rotation: The Solanaceae family (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and eggplant) represents the majority of what is grown in the garden making crop rotation a challenge. 
  • Growing Vertical: Tall trellised plants such as pole beans, indeterminate tomatoes are limited to the north end of the garden beds so they don't shade other plants.
  • Spring Planting: Early planting is mostly limited to the raised garden beds because they warm up and drain quicker in early spring than the in-ground beds. It is also easier to use hoop protection because the edges of the box helps hold them secure.
Fresh vegetables that mature quickly in spring is essential as we wait for the others to grow and produce. Fresh spinach, lettuce, herbs, and other various greens are extremely desirable after the long winter.

An inventory of the preserved garden bounty from last year also factors into the amount of plants in the plan. I don't weigh my harvests, but keep notes on the number of plants grown from year to year.

We rely heavily on canned tomato sauce, canned salsa, and frozen tomatoes to use in soups and stews. So tomatoes, peppers, onions, and garlic are considered staples in the garden and take priority on the garden space.  So far last year's inventory is still plentiful and I think it will last us until the garden produces this summer. So little will be changed as far as the amount of plants.


A garden plan has been developed for 2012. A larger version can be seen here in my sidebar. It's a starting point and provides a general idea of what the 2012 garden will look like and the number of plants I will need to grow to fill it. I will probably adjust and tweak it as I go along. The seed-starting schedule will soon follow.

20 comments:

  1. Great design. I too struggle to be able to rotate my crops because my garden is smaller and we like the crops we like a lot. We can a lot of jam, and family recipe sauces. I have not canned tomatoes for tomato sauce yet, but maybe this year. Will you plant early and late crops?

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    1. I have Early Blight in my soil and it affects my tomatoes every year, but usually at the end of the season after the majority has been harvested. It seemed to start earlier last year prompting me to seriously try to figure out a crop rotation schedule. We will see how it goes. I do some succession planting when space opens up. Mostly carrots, lettuce, spinach, and other greens. I am not as well organized with my late crops though.

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  2. Isn't this just the best time of year! I love the planning stages. It gets easier every year.....sometimes I almost think I try and complicate it because I enjoy it so much. You certainly have an impressive layout.

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    1. Sue: Yes, it does get easier every year especially when you know what you want to grow and how much you will need. I also tend to over think the garden plan as well. Right now I am worried that I won't have enough tomatoes (sigh).

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  3. Looks great! I just love doing the garden layouts!

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    1. Thanks Robin: It is a good starting point. I always end up moving some things around at planting time.

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  4. I have trouble estimating when a bed will empty -- I'm not always sure when the "end" for a crop will be. Add that to general spaciness, and well, garden planning is an art.

    Yours looks fantastic. I find that I grow fewer and fewer varieties as I discover what I really like.

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    1. Stefanie: Knowing when a bed will be finished is much easier with our short growing season. Also, most of what I grow doesn't finish until the end of the season, so there are only a few opportunities for succession planting. I am usually disorganized by the time fall rolls around. If I can get my act together, I could plant more fall crops and try to grow some greens into winter under protection.

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  5. Planning out the garden is so much fun. For me not quite as much as past year. I've always devoted 1/3 of the garden to the solanum family. With my nightshade poisoning I'm only going to plant about 1/18th I think. So just half of a bed. 4'x8' Not much at all. So sad. I'll miss them. But I'm going to add in more corn and a lot of sweet potatoes for the first time this year.

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    1. Daphne: I am sure your will miss your solanums this year. Luckily there are so many other vegetables to fill your garden. I am tempted to try to grow Sweet Potatoes especially after reading Norma Chang's (Garden to Wok) post on them last week. I always thought they couldn't be grown here in Zone 5, but I would like to try some plants this year if I can find a few slips. I can't wait to see how yours grow.

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  6. That looks like an awesome layout!

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  7. I usually sketch my garden plans, but this is so clear and organized. In my desk is some landscaping software that I have not used to its full potential. Perhaps I could try using it to create something like this. I like your blog so much so that I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award in my last post. Enjoy!

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    1. I like using a layout on a computer because I can change it so easily. I also sketch things out on paper before I apply it to the computer layout.

      Thank you so much for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award :) I am truly honored.

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  8. Very nice garden plan, awesome attention to detail. What program did you use to design it?

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    1. Hi Kris, I used Adobe Illustrator for my garden plan only because it is a program that I am very familiar with because I use it every day for my profession. Otherwise I would probably sketch it out on graph paper.

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    2. Thanks..you are very good at using it.

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  9. I always look forward to seeing your garden plan; it's the kind of logic problem I really enjoy. And I love the *look* of your plan -- especially those cute little carrot and pepper icons. :-) -Jean

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  10. Coming up with these garden plans is a great way to get through the winter months (although things are much milder this winter), and yet I find when I actually get out to the garden with all the seedlings, I tend to play it fast and loose depending on what space is actually available, how many varieties I started and REALLY want to get in the garden compared to how much space I alotted on the maps, etc. My biggest issue usually turns out that I only alotted space for x-amount of something like peppers or tomatoes, and then I actually started y-amount, which is often bigger than x. The last few years I've found I have all the tomato/pepper plants lined up on the ground, and have to start saying "ok, I can do without you this year" or "only one plant of variety can go in the ground, even if I have 3 plants." And then after I max out the veggie beds, I start trying to find places around the yard to tuck in those spares...or I give them away to friends/coworkers.

    Gardening is so traumatic! ;-)

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