Sunday, December 30, 2012

Garden Planning - OCD Nerd style

That's what my garden plan looks like. Yup, I'm a nerdy geek. You know what else? I am prone to using the scientific names when referring to plantings. It's how my brain works.

I have all of my planting areas laid out into a 6 inch by 6 inch grid, the walkways are coloured in, the plants I intend to plant are positioned and sized properly.
There is likely to be some tweaking, since I have not yet checked for cross breeding of sub species and also have not yet decided how much hand pollination I want to do for seed saving purposes. At least the cucurbitaceae (cucumbers, squash and their ilk) and gramineae (in my case maize, and in the fall wheat, but all the grass based grains) will have to be partially hand pollinated, I just don't have the room to fully separate them.
As far as the solanaceae (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and potatoes,etc), they are all open pollination, so I'll let them have their little orgy and be done with it, whatever will be will be. Except for the hot peppers, they will be diligently separated and kept from all the fun. I do NOT want to bite into a delicious, hand raised, lovingly prepared stuffed pepper and have it be HOTHOTHOT beyond the spices I add myownself.

I have basically 4 planting areas I plan out like this. Here is the largest one. We call it the back 40, it's 44 feet on each side, so it works for us, trust me ;)

The (coming soon) high tunnel is in there, upper left corner, and the chicken coop is also planned out for its new location, so the little feathered raptors can help me with pest control. I plan on what to plant where, and to some extend when by using this spreadsheet. I know the space requirements of each plant and have a little template of them which I copy however many times I want to plant a certain plant and then I play tetris.

I consider who plays well with who, who will play a bit too well with who, who does not like to play with who, who will get into fights, who will attract the wrong kind of attention, who will attract the right kind of attention, who will make good wing men and who will ripen/ be harvest-able at coordinating times. Then there is the new and improved consideration of where will the chickens come in most helpful, which plants should not be accessible to them and for what reason (poisonous? Not beneficial? Growing for their winter rations?) and where will they do the most damage. I also consider what was planted here last season and what will I stick in that spot next season/year?

There are also some areas on this plan that do not get full sunlight, so that has to come into the equation, too, as well as which areas of land are draining better than others. And then there is the arguing with the hubbin about where he has to dig first (you didn't think I did this all on my own?) and which plants he has to help me with planting and why they have to go there and not over here... :)

For the record, I call this fun. I no longer do this thing for pay, so it's even MORE fun :D And it really is kind of rewarding to play around with, to set it up for the next 2 years because of crop rotation and household needs. I try to plan so that I have at least a 2 year stock of the veggies I do not buy any more, so that if there is a crop failure (tomatoes last year and yeah, I had some dehydrated ones from 2011 left and they were still completely delicious). I have about 5 years worth of seed, some more, in the freezer, so I can operate this kind of setting on a seed/plant budget of less than $200.

I do not list all of my planned plantings in this outline, there are things I stick in wherever they can fit in for all the various reasons, like space, companion, growing season, etc, and the herb garden is not even on here, neither are the strawberries or any of the other perms, except the Asparagus, and that's because they are moving this winter, and will not fill the bed fully, so there is some rotating stock filling that empty space this year.

Ah, yes, empty space... I try to not have any. My cover crops are fruit bearing, think Buckwheat and Peas, both of which bind nitrogen into the soil, Alfalfa is on the horizon. The things I talked about plopping in where they will fit? Onions, Nasturtiums, Dill, Radishes, small and fast growers or beneficial companions. It helps with weeding (never done), maximizes my harvest and at the same time minimizes the need to squish bugs (cathartic, once I got over the ick factor) by either confusing them or attracting beneficial insects.

The reason the 'walkways' are coloured in, but part of the grid is because my beds are not actually raised, they are merely marked off with string or modular fencing. I can 'spill over' into the spaces between plantings, which gives me more freedom to accommodate my plants, a quick dig with the broad fork and I am off and running. So my layout changes somewhat from year to year, and we've added spaces to this every year we've been at it.

The other part that makes this a functioning tool for me is the seeding and planting calendar that shows me when to put things in the ground and when to expect to harvest them in relation to each other. So while I have a winter, spring and fall plan, it's a fluid reality and based on when things are spent.

A final thought: This will be my 4th year of doing this and my garden has NEVER looked like the plan. It's a starting point, a plan in fact. If I suddenly realize that I have a 100% germination rate with the peppers, but the tomatoes are failing, then I go with that. If the spring is so hot that the carrots all shoot into flower before the roots become more than the size of my pinkie then I just cover the flower heads and collect the seed, 'cause hey, seed! and I move on from there, checking if I have room for carrots planned into the fall garden. And if the spring is so wet that my low point; which is usually the most fertile; is under a half inch of water, then the early plants go elsewhere and I move where the late seeds go. This is nature I am planning out, things change. I cannot control these things, but I can plan for the eventualities :D. Probably the most important thing this plan does help me with is understanding and learning what can be done with my little plot of land.

Happy pinching.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing planning, very impressed. Tangentially related, how's the book report for the Feds going?