Planning for a year-round harvest (or How I went from slacker to Serious Planner)
Andrea Bellamy |

spring-planning

After months of dreaming, weeks of research, and a few nights of sketching and list-making, my veggie garden is planned out for the year. The permaculture course I just completed at an urban farm here in Vancouver inspired me to be way more organized about my planting this year. (More on this course and its awesomeness later.)

I’m not a planner by nature. I always start the gardening year with good intentions, but I never seem to be organized enough to manage intensive-production techniques like succession planting that make the most of a small space like mine.

I’m also prone to impulse seed purchases, which inevitably wreak havoc on any existing plan as you try to make room for the new crop. This is especially true for heirloom tomatoes. I tend to buy way more varieties of tomato seeds than I could possibly plant.

But enough about my flaws.

Sometimes it seems like the whole world conspires against your veggie patch – the weather stinks, leaf rollers destroy your kale, your dog tramples your seedlings – but planning your planting scheme for the year, and trying against all odds to stick to it, is something positive you can do.

I’m determined to make the most of my garden space this year. So I planned. I drew out my beds. I listed everything I wanted to grow. I figured out what was going to go in each of my three raised beds according to plant family and space needs. I sighed as I crossed things off my list I didn’t have room for. Despite that, I found myself really nerding out and getting into the process. I was even tempted to get out my pencil crayons at one point.

Then I used one of the techniques Farmer Rin taught us: plotting out what you’re going to plant, grow and harvest over the seasons using a simple chart. I drew a table with nine cells (three rows, three columns). Across the top I wrote, “Spring,” “Summer,” and “Fall” (you could also add Winter). Down the first column I wrote “Plant,” “Grow,” and “Harvest.” Like so:

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Then I wrote in what I needed to plant in each season, and when I could expect to harvest each crop.

I find this a great way to quickly see if I’ve got any obvious empty spots in a bed. In one bed, for example, I just had carrots and tomatoes, which left big blank spots in the “Harvest” row for spring, and in the “Plant” row for fall. By adding an overwintering vegetable such as leeks or Brussels sprouts to that bed, I could plant in fall and be harvesting the next spring – getting that much more action out of a single bed.

The other thing I’m doing this year is adding seed starting dates to my iCal. I’ve even got “reminders” set up so I don’t forget to start my beets around April 12, for example, or do a second seeding of lettuce on May 10.

Think that’s a little over the top? Maybe so. But if this is the first year I actually manage to have something growing in each of my beds year-round, it’ll be worth it. Now I just have to follow the plan. Wish me luck.



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