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Time To Plan Your 2013 Garden

Well, with the New Year approaching and the next couple of months bring hibernation. Now is the best time to plan your 2013 gardens. Planning your vegetable gardens in advance is so important for many reasons. Planning is very cost effective. When I first started growing vegetables I would look through the seed catalogs and get drawn into a frenzy of excitement with all the varieties and gorgeous pictures of perfect ripe veggies. I would order enough seed to plant 10 acres of a hundred different veggies when in reality I had one acre to work with and knowledge of about five vegetables. Having a realistic  plan of your available growing space is the first place to begin. Measure the perimeter of your entire growing space. Whether you plan to grow in row crops or in raised beds, knowing the total amount of space you have to work with is important. 

Next thing is to find a good garden planner tool. Now I have a friend who still uses the good old reliable notebook and pencil method. He simply draws a pencil drawing of his space, writes the measurements along the edges of the page and lays out in rows what he is planting in which location. He then keeps his notebooks from year to year for reference and remembrance of what worked and what didn't.

My garden planner tool is online. I have tried quite a few of the online planners and I have a reliable favorite that starts with a 30 day free trial and then has a $25 annual fee. It is wonderful and worth every penny of the fee.

You can find this planner at Grow Veg Garden Planner   

This planner will help you grow fruits and vegetables to the best of their ability, whatever the size or shape of your garden or plot.

With GrowVeg.com it is easy to draw out your garden plan and decide how best to plant it. The GrowVeg.com Garden Planner software shows how much space plants require and how to group them for maximum success, removing the need to look up planting distances and crop families.

Growing advice is just one click away as you select the plants that you wish to include, enabling you to solve problems and maximize your harvest from the space you have.

 beds2

 The Plan   
 new bed   

This planner has everything you need to be thorough and organized about your garden design. When growing vegetables there are many factors to consider to ensure success and an abundant harvest. Spacing, companion planting, crop rotation, each plant has it's own special needs and this planner helps you keep everyone in the garden happy. But, I think my favorite thing about this planner is that it has such a huge selection of vegetable types and then it has a drop down menu with variety names of the particular vegetable you have placed in your plan. For example, I have four raised beds just for my asparagus crop and in those four beds I have two different varieties, the same for my strawberry beds. Well, after I created my four asparagus beds in the plan, I could click on the asparagus image in my bed and a drop down menu appears with different varieties of Gus to choose from. I pick my variety and now my plan shows me which variety is planted in which bed. For those of us who grow a great deal of veggies over many years this is a great benefit for memory sake.  This plan also chooses the plants that are best for you according to your zone, because when you first set up your account it asks you your zip code and finds your hardiness zone for you. Awesome! I love this garden planner, it is not only smart and useful but it is fun and colorful making it appealing to use.   

newbeds   

There are many vegetables that cannot be planted where another particular vegetable has grown previously, so keeping a good plan of your gardens makes it easy to know who grew where and who can follow them in that particular bed or location of your garden. This is known as crop rotation. Planting certain veggies in the same place consecutively can cause diseases in your plants. It can also cause low production in harvest. For example, when you grow tomatoes in a bed, they are depleting the soil of the nutrients they need to grow. If you replant tomatoes in the same location there will not be enough nutritional value for them in that spot. But another crop, say green beans will do great there because they have different needs from the soil as well as adding nitrogen back into the soil. Crop rotation is an important factor in growing veggies especially if you live in an area where you have a long growing season. Here in Massachusetts I can grow two to three different plantings of green beans over a growing season, so I move those plantings around and put them in beds where say, broccoli had grown in early Spring, or my lettuce and spinach bed.   

Another benefit of planning before planting is growing realistically. As I mentioned before it is easy to get so excited at the prospect of growing every veggie known to man, but we must be realistic about space, our true likes and dislikes, "am I going to eat this veggie?" And how much of a particular vegetable do you consume. Our first couple of years growing I planted everything! I discovered we could grow great white turnips, they grew like weeds for us. But how many turnips can you eat in a year? And we also discovered we didn't know many people who liked turnips, so we ended up growing a crop that mostly went into compost. This is a tremendous waste of time and growing space. Now if your talking about beets, well, that is another story! Don and I could grow a full acre of beets and stand there looking at them all, then look at one another and say, "Gee, do you think that's enough till next year?" We can never grow too many beets, we love them! So I keep a good amount of growing space just for these burgundy beauties. Knowing what you like and what you'll consume or be able to give to others and what grows well in your area, are all realistic considerations when planning your gardens.   

When Don I lived in North Carolina and farmed, we could easily grow, leeks, and varieties of Winter squash that required 100+ days to come to harvest. Here in Massachusetts I have to consider varieties that require much shorter growing days because we do not have enough warm days for vegetables that take a long time to grow.  

All of these factors may seem overwhelming or just too much to think about to make it worth while growing your own vegetables. But trust me a week or so of dedicated planning and thought will make creating a bountiful vegetable garden a piece of carrot cake! I personally get a great deal of pleasure and relaxation in sitting down with my lap top and seed catalogs in hand, a steaming hot cup of coffee next to me and a window in front of me that I can look out and see clouds and snow covering my beds while planning and dreaming of next Springs gardens.  

winterbed

A little planning now and this is what you can have in a few months.

summerbeds

 greenbeans 
 strawberries 

Happy Planning!!!

For more great gardening articles and tips please visit our blog at http://itzybitzyfarm.blogspot.com/

And visit our web site at www.itzybitzyfarm.com 

cheryl aker
12/31/2012 7:54:35 PM

I always look forward to planning a garden each year. It's just fascinating to watch little seeds come to life and produce food or beautiful flowers! And now that we're endeavoring to put up as much of our own food as we possibly can each year, our garden planning has taken on even more significance. Can't wait to compare notes in the spring! Cheryl in Texas - A Wanna Be Pioneer (KC Farms on Facebook)


nebraska dave
12/27/2012 11:11:40 PM

Susan, GRIT has a gardener planner that I have used for the last two years and heading into my third year. It sounds pretty much the same as the one you describe and for the same price. The planner will help you find the first and last frost dates for your area. An email will come every couple weeks telling me what can be started from seeds indoors and later when it can be planted in the garden or when the seeds can be directly planted in the garden. The garden beds can be carried over from one year to the next and does tell you about crop rotation by flashing red when planning the beds where similar crops grew last year. I find that information very helpful. GRIT's garden planner is at this link. http://www.grit.com/garden-planner/food-garden-planner.aspx My issue is that planning doesn't quit until the seeds actually go into the ground. With the expansion into a much bigger garden this last year, I'm able to have crops that take much larger space like pumpkins, watermelon, and sweet corn. Nice :0) Have a great planning day.