Tag Archives: garden planning

Starting Point


Hey, we’ve all got to start somewhere. And that I suppose is the theme this month in my garden. There are no showstoppers. No amazing spring miracles to report. No beauty shots of a well kept spring garden. It’s just this ol’ work in progress, folks.

Here are some photos of where things are at today, April 17th 2015. It’s been a very long time since my last post in 2013. My 2014 garden had it’s ups and downs, on which I did not report. Instead I took some time to reflect, focus on the work of the garden and mostly–tend to my May 2014 baby boy. That boy is turning 1 in a few weeks. I intend to give him–and his siblings–the gift of a beautiful garden in 2015.

So, here goes. We start here.

Well. This WAS the lemon tree. I'm not sure what happened. Perhaps I left it out too long in the cold weather earlier this spring. Or perhaps a curious three year old removed all the leaves. No one can say for sure.

Well. This WAS the lemon tree. I’m not sure what happened. Perhaps I left it out too long in the cold weather earlier this spring. Or perhaps a curious three year old removed all the leaves. No one can say for sure.

By the end of May I'll remove last years bean vines from these pots, add some new potting soil and get new beans started.

By the end of May I’ll remove last years bean vines from these pots, add some new potting soil and get new beans started.

This back bed contains perennials, but also garlic. My daughter planted 22 oriental lillies in here last weekend. She would like to have a cutting garden this summer.

This back bed contains perennials, but also garlic. My daughter planted 22 oriental lillies in here last weekend. She would like to have a cutting garden this summer.

It's always a happy day when the rhubarb returns!

It’s always a happy day when the rhubarb returns!

My son planted 30 gladioli in this small garden under the play set. It's pretty shady, but if they grow it will brighten up this spot quite a bit.

My son planted 30 gladioli in this small garden under the play set. It’s pretty shady, but if they grow it will brighten up this spot quite a bit.

I've made my way to about the middle of this garden bed, so far I've planted radishes, carrots, peas, pak choy and some flowering broccoli. Lots more to come in here.

I’ve made my way to about the middle of this garden bed, so far I’ve planted radishes, carrots, peas, pak choy and some flowering broccoli. Lots more to come in here.

I'm wondering if this clematis will do anything. It barely grew last year but is showing a few buds on the old growth. I'm hoping for the best.

I’m wondering if this clematis will do anything. It barely grew last year but is showing a few buds on the old growth. I’m hoping for the best.

Onions and garlic now poking through the surface of this garden bed. Teeny tiny spinach and arugula seedlings are scattered on the other end.

Onions and garlic now poking through the surface of this garden bed. Teeny tiny spinach and arugula seedlings are scattered on the other end.

Strawberries are in a new location this year. Looks like at least some of them will grow just fine here.

Strawberries are in a new location this year. Looks like at least some of them will grow just fine here.

Chives seem to be the only green visible in the herb garden.

Chives seem to be the only green visible in the herb garden.

Oh no! I don't think this rosemary survived the winter.

Oh no! I don’t think this rosemary survived the winter.

The kids have been collecting materials to create a fairy garden.

The kids have been collecting materials to create a fairy garden.

These peas we planted in March are coming along.

These peas we planted in March are coming along.

Raspberries doing their thing.

Raspberries doing their thing.

Here are my starts. There will be another tray planted soon, but for now I have various kales, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and parsley.

Here are my starts. There will be another tray planted soon, but for now I have various kales, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and parsley.

Excited to see the chocolate mint once again.

Excited to see the chocolate mint once again.

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All in!


All the pots have been moved to this location so they are watered while I'm away.

All the pots have been moved to this location so they are watered while I’m away.

The process of getting the garden in went into high gear this week as we prepared to head out of town.  It was really a family effort, with my husband doing much of the structural work and hauling of supplies and the kids helping me with seedlings, seeds, weeds and watering.

I knew several months ago that the garden was going to be more productive this year, but I had no idea just how many things we would be able to squeeze in.  I’ve used every inch of dirt and nearly every pot we have.  The result is a backyard full of dozens of varieties of vegetables and beautiful flowers.  I can’t wait to see how it all grows and what we are able to do with it.  I’m especially hoping to be able to preserve more to eat throughout the off-season.

Why do it this way instead of planting fewer varieties but more of them?  Done that way, I could have enough tomatoes to make all the sauce we’d need for the year.  But I wouldn’t have anything else.  And it wouldn’t be much fun.

Planting several varieties ensures that there will be successes, even amid failures.  If tomatoes get blight, there are still many other edibles to enjoy.  Variety is also a great way to draw beneficial insects to the garden.  Each one may attract something different.

And of course, variety is beautiful!

Herb garden is planted with parsley, chamomile, dill, lavender, thyme, sage, tarragon and chives.

Herb garden is planted with parsley, chamomile, dill, lavender, thyme, sage, tarragon and chives.

My husband helped the kids create their own little garden.  They have dinosaur kale and begonias.

My husband helped the kids create their own little garden. They have dinosaur kale and begonias.

My husband installed this lattice.  I'm planning to use it for cucumbers and zucchini.  The rest of the bed is planted with garlic, bush beans, nasturtiums, marigolds, two kinds of lettuce, various beets, celery, celariac, onions, radishes and swiss chard.

My husband installed this lattice. I’m planning to use it for cucumbers and zucchini. The rest of the bed is planted with garlic, bush beans, nasturtiums, marigolds, two kinds of lettuce, various beets, celery, celariac, onions, radishes and swiss chard.

This area has three tomato plants as well as pole beans, fava beans and watermelon.

This area has three tomato plants as well as pole beans, fava beans and watermelon.

This bed is planted with tomatoes, marigolds, three kinds of kale, fennel, two kinds of carrots, broccoli, pak choi, walking onion, leeks, red onions, nasturtiums and strawberries.

This bed is planted with tomatoes, marigolds, three kinds of kale, fennel, two kinds of carrots, broccoli, pak choi, walking onion, leeks, red onions, nasturtiums and strawberries.

Planning dinner six months in advance.


This time of year, you’ll see me with my stack of seed catalogs, but not far away is my stack of cookbooks and magazines for inspiration.

The reason I planted an herb garden a few years ago is that for years I had seen so many recipes in cookbooks and magazines that called for fresh herbs.  And I wanted to make them!  But fresh herbs cost a mint (pun intended) at the grocery store, and truth be told they really aren’t “fresh” inside those little plastic clamshell boxes anyway.

Grocery store herbs are reminiscent of fresh herbs, but lack the intense smell and flavor of freshly harvested herbs.

Because I love food–and because I love the people for whom I cook food–I had to grow my own herbs.  I couldn’t go wasting money on mediocre (at best) grocery store herbs and I HAD to make those great recipes I was reading and collecting.

Now I like to go back and page through my cookbooks or magazines and think about what we’d like to try in the coming year.  I see a great looking beet salad and I make a mental note to choose beet seeds that will be perfect for that.  Eggplant recipes have inspired me to grow a few different varieties.  When thinking about what to plant, it helps to think about what I will cook.

Last year I added tarragon to my herb bed.  How have I lived without tarragon my whole life?  I was inspired by recipes to add this and now I cannot imagine summer grilling without it.

So I’m looking forward to trying some new recipes this growing season and in preparation I’m going to be ordering the needed seeds.  I think of it as planning for dinner six months in advance.  Might seem a bit extreme to some, but to me it’s much less extreme than my herbs and veggies traveling thousands of miles to end up on my dinner plate.

A little advance garden planning makes it easy to throw together delicious meals during the growing season, such as this grilled chicken marinated in herb mayonnaise with fresh herbs.

Planning my garden, graciously.


Working a small urban garden requires creativity and planning.  With limited space and sometimes odd sun and shade patterns, a gardener needs to have a strategy for working the space.

My 2010 garden was the first garden I planned in which I purposely planted early and late crops, tall and small crops, quick growers and slow growers together but in harmony with one another in order to make the most of my space.  For a first timer, I did pretty well! 

Before and after, the vegetables filled in the entire space.

In one raised bed I started the season with peas, lettuces, arugula and radishes.  As those were being harvested, the cucumbers began to take precedence in the space, happily climbing up trellis in the middle of loose leaf lettuce.  I was picking the cucumbers by the time the pumpkins really needed to sprawl out, and was able to pull out the cucumber vines when they were done producing so that the pumpkins could have the whole bed to themselves for the end of the season.  When pumpkins were done in October, I planted garlic.  The garlic will kick off the 2011 season when it shoots out of ground in about a month.

Peas and lettuces fill this bed in May and June.

By the end of June, cucumbers are climbing up the trellises.

Pumpkins take over the space to close out the season.

 

In the other bed, things got even crazier.  Carrots were planted in a line down the entire length of the bed, dividing it.  They took a break in the middle of the bed to give the leeks a 1′ x 1′ space to grow.  I only grew 8 small leeks in that space, but they did grow!

Beneath tomato plants, I planted beets; next to those, marigolds.  Cabbages and radicchio were neighbors to the spinach.  Beans grew on both sides of the bed, and in the last remaining space I put fennel seedlings. 

Close quarters for the fennel and beans.

Leeks filling a small space.

Marigolds, tomatoes and beets.

It was about mid-season when I realized how much the sun was affecting one corner of that bed.  A tree was keeping it shaded for a few hours more than the rest of the garden, so the beans on that side did poorly.  And the insects really liked the damp microclimate that was created by the shade.  This was compounded by the fact that things were planted closely together, essentially shading each other.  This year I will know this and plant accordingly. 

There are many ways to plan a garden, I prefer to sketch things out beforehand, making sure I’ve got a spot for everything.  Besides the raised beds, I use pots and flower beds along my house as well.  All of these end up on my sketches, labeled with the intended occupant.

Once I’m out in the garden putting the plants in, I often make changes to my plan.  It’s the gardener’s prerogative I suppose.  Sometimes something doesn’t feel right, or look right.  I change it.  Sometimes what seemed like a good idea during a February planning session turns out to be a ridiculous idea in reality.  I’m open to that.

Last year I wanted to grow celeriac–arguably the ugliest vegetable.  I love soup made with celeriac, onions, apples and potatoes in the fall.  It didn’t work out though.  Turns out celeriac needs to be started really early, and my plan didn’t call for that.  When I realized this I had to make some changes.  No big deal though.  A garden is a very fluid thing.  It ebbs and flows.  It changes itself depending on sun, water and other weather conditions.  The gardener takes a cue from the garden itself and adjusts accordingly.

I’m working on my 2011 plan right now.  It looks like I’ll need to buy some new supports for beans.  I also need to think about how many vining plants I can realistically grow in a small space.  I’m so tempted to try melons and squash as well as cucumbers, but how to manage so many vines?  It really does require a plan, and probably some prudence as well.

I’m reminded of The Parable of the Sower (Matthew, chapter 13)  in which the farmer scattered seed over various surfaces with equally varied results.  We all know you can’t grow a seed on a path, a rock or among the thorns.  Good soil produces good results.  Likewise, God’s Word works on the soil that is ready to receive it.  My heart needs to be a vessel of good soil, ready for God to work it.  I can’t let the thorns take over my heart or let someone or something steal the Word from me because I’ve covered my heart with a path.  And I certainly don’t want God to find a rocky place when he comes to sow his seed. 

I’m making my garden plans, and I’m also preparing my heart for God.  It’s something I am reminded of when I think of my garden and the act of sowing seeds.  I know my heart can be a beautiful garden filled with the scent and beauty of God’s love.  “But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it.  He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”  Matthew 13:23

I hope my garden here at home is as abundant as that in the parable!

An "abundance" of eggplant grows next to the house.