Grit Blogs > Another Kind of Drew

Garden Planning: Planning Your “Potential”

A photo of Drew OdomIf you are anything like me you find this time of year to be stifling, frustrating and sometimes completely overwhelming. The rain never seems to end. The sun seems to take hiatus and leave us with nothing but lackluster dirt and plants who can’t even muster enough energy to be a pretty brown. They are dull and lifeless moving inertly in the cold breeze offering little that is thrilling or inspiring. But as my Facebook page gets weighed down by people’s images of fleeting winter wonderlands and no-school days due to snow, I find myself dreaming about cucumbers and English ivy; a garden so green even Marvell is taken by its beauty.

“No white nor red was ever seen / So am’rous as this lovely green.”

And so this past weekend my wife and I sat down with some tea and a few leftover niblets and began to plan this years “potential.”

Garden Plans with pen and computer

We talked about containers, raised beds, our existing landscape and what percentage of self-sustainability we were currently living in. We quickly decided to expand our main garden by another 98 square feet. We opted to remove our tomatoes from the garden bed and grow them instead in containers so as to move them around, if necessary.

Our seed catalogues had long been sitting next to the couch with dog-eared pages and post-it notes as well as highlighted items and notes in the margins. I have been staring at the pages long enough to know the scientific names of some plants I had never even seen before. Between Victory Garden, Main Street Seeds and Johnny’s Selected Seeds we were confident we would have an even better garden than last year.

Armed with a piece of posterboard, a ruler, some Sharpie pens, a Macbook and Excel, we got down to business. I plotted and she entered. Before long we had laid out beds, prepared our seed orders and continued our dream of becoming homesteaders free from the confines of our local grocery store.

Tips for Your Own “Potential”

• Do your homework. Find seed catalogues and online reviews to match. Remember, plant what you like, not what the books tell you to.

• Find our germination times and hardness zones. The right time to plant is as important as what to plant! If you start indoors and transplant outside you will need to do some basic calendar counting to figure out your key dates.

• Layout your garden on paper. Don’t let your taller plants shade out your smaller ones.

• Think about companion planting so you can make the most of your soil.

anotherkindofdrew
2/10/2010 6:43:01 PM

@Paul - Thank you so much for your compliments. While my memory is still pretty sharp, I completely believe in planning ahead and knowing what you need to do to maximize effort and investment. Sounds very methodical, I know, but it makes me happy and what good is gardening if it doesn't make you happy! Cheers!


paul gardener
2/10/2010 5:32:24 PM

Andrew, Very nice. I give a number of gardening classes every year and I can't stress enough how important I've found that taking the time to plan and to journal journal journal. I had to come to grips that my memory was not what I had hoped it was and have become a regular garden journal devotee. I like the detail you've put into it too. I bet it really helps you plan how it will look and you start to get a great picture of it in your head huh? I look forward to seeing how it pans out for you! Best of luck Paul~


anotherkindofdrew
2/4/2010 9:17:42 AM

@Sarah - I am so excited to "hear" your excitement for this years bounty. I hope you have a wonderful time planning things, dreaming, imagining all the possibilities. I know it will be awesome! Keep us posted, please.


sarah_5
2/4/2010 9:01:15 AM

This is the first year I am actually going to do something major with my garden and flower/herb beds. Last year, I fought a battle with the chickens and they won. They tore apart my tomato plants, and broke off green beans. The pecked into squash... They were horrible. But this year, they will not win. If I have to camp out in my garden this year, I'll do it! I have my seeds, they just came last week. I CANNOT wait for our snow to melt here in Indiana. I am going to start planting indoors in about 2 weeks! I bought enough seed to eat and can/freeze/dry. I am going at this, this year, with such an excitement. I am looking forward to not having to buy from the chain store "produce department"... I look forward to my grocery bill going down, and look forward to the pride of all of those delicious winter meals filled with good homegrown produce... Thanks for the motivation of planning (on paper) a garden. I think I will do that real soon! :) Great idea.


anotherkindofdrew
2/4/2010 7:42:48 AM

@Melissa - What a great book. You are WELL on your way if you are using Ed Smith as your guide. His bible was the first book I ever bought when I headed down this path.


melissa_1
2/4/2010 6:52:39 AM

Count me in on the Stevia endeavor! Hope it grows ok in Northern Vermont..........hmmm. LOVE your diagrams! I think I'll give that a try planning my garden this year. I'm using the methods in 'The Vegetable Gardener's Bible' by Ed Smith this year...looks like good stuff- raised beds, wide rows, I definitely recommend it. :)


anotherkindofdrew
2/3/2010 9:00:15 PM

@Nebraska Dave - Thank you so much for your kind words. You are right, we are going forth (headfirst might I add) in homesteading. The chart is just how my mind works and it helps to plan my gardens in a way I can manage. Good call on the onions and I can just see beautiful braids of onions in your storage area. It'll be great! I hope you get to really create your gravity watering system and if you do land on something you really like, please do let us know. One thing I like about this community is we revel in each others accomplishments! Here's to you and your finger walking too! @Oz Girl - Okay hearing you are going to plant stevia (in addition to all the others) I have decided to do some myself. Here we go guys! Stevia time....


oz girl
2/3/2010 6:52:50 PM

Hi Andrew~ I have spent numerous hours the last 10 days or so planning our first garden. Vegetables, herbs, flowers.. I want it all! But I am realistic above all else, so I will start small this year and add to our garden each year. I have found the KSU website a phenomenal resource, esp for native plants. It also has a great list of vegetable varieties that will thrive in the Kansas climate. So it's a good start. Along with the onions, the cukes, the tomatoes and peppers, the lettuce and the basil, chive, dill and lavender, I want to grow some stevia. At least one plant. We'll see how it goes! Great post here, it motivates us all to keep on planning our spring gardens. :-)


nebraska dave
2/3/2010 5:54:45 PM

Drew, Wow you are really going forth into backyard homesteading. I am impressed by the planning diagram you have completed. I’m barely finished with just the list of things I would like to grow. My space is a limiting factor which just might be a good thing as I would have the entire backyard in garden if I let my fingers do the walking through the seed catalogs. I do have a general idea of what will fit in my three raised beds and have opted to take your advice and eliminate some questionable things and plant more onions as I too really like onions in almost everything I eat. I’m working on a basement storage area so hopefully I’ll be able to store a whole lot more stuff this next year. I have sure enjoyed the fruits of my labor from last year through out this cold snowy Winter. Hopefully I will be expanding the garden again for 2011. Since I won’t be doing my 10 hour a day Spring time seasonal job this year, I will have ever so much more time to work on yard and garden projects. Nice!! I think I have figured out my project for the year. It will be a gravity feed automatic watering system for the garden that will include a water feature and native Nebraska fish. Well that could be a little ambitious for one year and might turn out to be a multiple year project. I wish you and all the readers a wonderful seed catalog walk and many happy days of planning as the days tick toward that infamous no frost date for your area.


anotherkindofdrew
2/3/2010 2:44:26 PM

@Lori - If there is ONE thing I have learned it is that you can never have enough onions. We flew through ours last year and are planting about 3x as many this year.


lori
2/3/2010 2:35:33 PM

Wow Andrew, great planning! One change we need to make for this year is to find room to plant more onions! We went through them so fast last year. I'm also making room for stevia. There are a few things we won't need to plant because we had an abundance from last year. Just a few plants for using fresh, so it should all work out in the end. I'm not quite as organized as you are! ~ she grins sheepishly~ If we have to, we'll make another bed somewhere. We have the space, It's just a matter of deciding which location is best!


anotherkindofdrew
2/3/2010 10:00:14 AM

@vickie - Bless you. What a sweet thought. Although canning and jarring can become laborious when you are staring at pounds of produce, it tastes so wonderful come mid-winter! Here's to a glorious bounty for us all!


vickie
2/3/2010 9:58:48 AM

Andrew, I think it's great advice to plan ahead like this, you will definetly get the most out of it this way by using every available space to your advantage. I can see all your canned and dried goods now lining your shelves. It looks like it's going to be a great garden. vickie


anotherkindofdrew
2/3/2010 9:29:17 AM

@Shannon - I think it is going to serve our purposes and then some. Thank you for the compliment!


s.m.r. saia
2/3/2010 9:07:30 AM

Looks like a nice garden!!!


anotherkindofdrew
2/3/2010 7:30:34 AM

@Sweden - Stress. You hit the nail on the head. Who would think that gardening - a supposedly relaxing hobby - could be stressful. But I have found myself many times lying awake at night thinking about my shoots and my suckerlings and all the things I need to do to really get my garden(s) going. I like your idea for the tomatoes. I think what you will find is that by giving them a dedicated bed the soil will almost feed itself the nutrients it needs. I have found with my tomatoes that they do better in a raised bed situation with plenty of drainage and even some mulch around their bases to keep in moisture. The tomatoes suck down the water, it seems. Be encouraged!


sweden
2/3/2010 5:11:27 AM

What great advice! I have been gardening for years but it is so easy to make mistakes in the spring when the plants are taking over the windowsills and there is so much stress to get all the plants ready for the great outdoors. Last year I planted my tomatoes on the outside border....that gave too much shade to my other plants. This year the tomatoes will find their place in a new bed where they don't shade anything. / Jessica in Sweden