Garden Tips: Making a Garden Plan

Spring is around the corner, and empty garden patches are beckoning.  A little bit of planning now, though, can save you time, prevent confusion, and increase your chances of a successful harvest later in the season.  Here are some things to keep in mind as you plan out this year’s vegetable garden.

What should I plant?

Seed catalogs can be good sources of inspiration when you’re trying to figure out what to plant in your garden.  If the many options get overwhelming, think about this:

  • What do you like to eat?  Growing your own can be an exciting way to try interesting or rare new vegetables, but there’s no point in giving garden space to foods that you know you or your family don’t like.

    You can harvest leaves off one chard plant all season long.

  • What has done well in the past?  If there was something you really enjoyed growing last year, plant it again!
  • What will produce the most food?  You can keep harvesting from beans or greens over a long period of time.  Tomatoes will produce many pounds of fruit in a short time.  Corn or cabbage, on the other hand, take up a lot of space but produce relatively little.
  • What will save you the most money?  Tomatoes and salad greens are both expensive at the store or market, but are easy to grow at home.  Potatoes are cheap, so you might want to leave them out of your home garden.

When should I plant it?

Reference a Pacific Northwest garden calendar (here or here) or check out OSU Extension’s garden calendar to find the best time to plant a particular vegetable.  Check the seed packet for each vegetable’s “days to harvest”—how long you can expect it to be in your garden.

  • Remember that you can plant some fast growing crops like lettuces or radishes multiple times throughout the season, to have a continuous supply.  Other, cold tolerant crops can be planted once in early spring for a summer harvest, then again in mid summer for a fall and winter harvest.
  • Also note whether each plant can be planted from seed, or must be transplanted.    Tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers all need a longer growing season then our climate allows.  You need to give these plants a head-start by transplanting them into your garden as starts.

Where should I plant it?

A map of your garden can help you decide where to plant each kind of vegetable.  It can also help you remember what you planted, and where.  As you’re drawing your garden map, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Space plants according to the directions on the back of the seed packet. Although it can be tempting to put plants close together to squeeze more in, too-close plants compete for sun and nutrients.  Your garden will produce more if plants have space to spread out.
  • Think about using space vertically.  Pole beans, peas, indeterminate tomatoes, winter squash, cucumbers and pumpkins can all be encouraged to grow up trellises, stakes, cages or strings.  The plants often do better grown this way, and it opens up garden space for other crops.   Put trellised plants and taller plants on the north side of the garden, so they don’t shade shorter plants.
  • Some types of veggies grow better when grown together; others can actually inhibit each others growth.  Check out this chart to see who to pair with whom, and who to keep apart in your garden.

A map for two four by eight food garden beds

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1 Comment »

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