Last week we had a wonderful span of warmer weather–it’s the first time that all the snow has melted on the driveway and sidewalks! So of course, I start itching to get into the garden, and to my favorite store, IFA.
I’m excited to get compost for the garden, I want to grow a few new vegetables and varieties this year, and I have an awesome idea for a trellis for my cucumbers. As I started making my list, I realized I need to create my garden plan, inventory and organize my seeds; otherwise I will end up making endless trips to the store to get seeds and items I’ve forgotten!
This year across the top of my 4×8 bed I want to try building a trellis that spans the entire garden from the cucumbers to the cherry tomatoes in the shape of an upside-down U. I think I’ll make it from re-mesh or metal fencing. I want to try training my cucumbers up and over, which will provide shade for the plants below.
Another “intensive gardening” method I’ve read about is inter-planting. This means you plant small, quick growing vegetables right next to larger, slowing growing vegetables. By the time the big plant actually gets big, you have harvested the small plants. I indicated the inter-planting vegetables with an asterisk*. So if you look at the gardens on the left–there are 4 squares including a tomato, basil (to keep away aphids) and spinach or lettuce. First of all, both spinach and lettuce get planted sooner than the tomatoes. Second, they will actually benefit and grow better if they have some shade. I also did this with the broccoli–realistically it needs 18″, which is more than one square. I will plant it in the middle of 4 squares, with beets, cilantro, or carrots around the outside. And finally, I am going to try it with zucchini and carrots. I made sure to choose plants that grow well together, or at least don’t impede each other’s growth.
Staking and pruning zucchini
Last year I learned about a way to stake and prune zucchini so it doesn’t take up so much space. I tried pruning it, and it worked! So this year I’m moving the zucchini back into my square foot garden beds. I’m not sure how much space to give it, so I’ll inter-plant some carrots for good measure.
Since I’m a little OCD, I like to color code my plan according to when each vegetable is planted/transplanted into the garden. You can see most of my spring vegetables that get planted sooner (cool colors) are on the right–that is because this will give them morning sun and afternoon shade. As the weather gets warmer, late afternoon is the hottest time of the day. I hope this will extend the harvest for my lettuce and broccoli. It also means I can prepare half my gardens early in the spring, but the other half can wait a few weeks.
If you look for the squares with carrots and green beans, you’ll notice they are not all the same color. I’m going to stagger the planting, so that my harvest doesn’t come on all at once, but extends throughout the summer.