Garden Plotting

This is the third installment in the collective blog series: Painting Our Black Thumbs Green. You can find other related posts in Veggies Squared. This blog meme is held in conjunction with Christina of The Table has Shoes and Other Ambiguities. We’re both garden virgins, making this our first undertaking in producing edibles in our own yards.

This week’s topic: What’s going IN the garden?

Find out what Christina is planning on planting in her garden here.

MyNeChimKi’s Square Foot Garden

After the last post you left while I was still standing atop my “Heirloom Variety / Organic” soap box.  I will step down now, make every effort to leave such seriousness behind and we can discuss more frivolous issues, such as the shape of my future garden…

The biggest challenge so far to this gardening adventure has been reigning myself in from buying every seed variety out there!  Sitting inside watching more snow and ice accumulate on our lawn is not helping my spring fever one bit.  Every time we have a snow storm I find myself ordering more seeds.  No more!!  I’ve made the decision (until the next snow storm) that I’m going to have more than I know what to do with once summer comes.

In Chapter 3 of Mel’s book, Square Foot Gardening: A NewWay to Garden in Less Space with Less Work, he writes:

[quote]So often, the size of the garden has nothing to do with how much space is needed to grow the amount of food the gardener is likely to need.  And no one actually sits down and says, “We’ll eat about three cucumbers a week, so two vines are all we need to plant.”  Instead you go ahead and plant three seeds every couple of feet until the packet is used up or you run out of room, whichever comes first…. Whether you are a beginner or an expert just wanting to try this method, your very first garden should consist of only one block for each person in your family.  That’s a 4-foot by 4-foot area, only 16 square feet.[/quote]

Of course, like Mel says in the book, DH and I did not sit down and figure out how much of what veggies we eat in a week.  So far, so predictable.  And when I read the whole business about one block per person I kinda scoffed at it.  I mean, really!  32 square feet is hardly a respectable garden, right?  I had decided that I would start with two blocks, a tomato trench, a second area for winter squash and another small “reduced-sized” square just for salad greens & goodness.  Because that sounds like a respectable garden.  And that almost really happened.

First we’ll start with a simple list:
Key: OP = Open Pollinated, O = Organic, He = Heirloom, Hy = Hybrid. Note: Not all seed catalogs commented on whether plants were open pollinated, so a blank doesn’t mean that the seeds weren’t open pollinated, just that the catalog did not venture to mention the status of pollination.

Veggie / Herb OP? O? He? Hy?
Persimmon Tomato
Hugh’s Tomato
Dr. Carolyn’s Tomato
Matt’s Wild Cherry Tomato
Mini Orange Tomato
Yellow Pear Tomato
Black Prince Tomato
Costoluto Geneovese Tomato
Old Virginia Tomato
Appalacian Red Garlic
Calabrese Broccoli
Corona Pepper
Sweet Chocolate Pepper
Keystone Resistant Giant Pepper
Masai Bush Haricot Verts
Spineless Beauty Zucchini
Early Summer Yellow Crookneck Squash
Carnival Acorn Squash
Waltham Butternut Squash
Seminole Winter Squash
Mokum Carrot
Yaya Carrot
Afina Cutting Celery
Tango Celery
Midnight Black Turtle Beans
Genovese Basil
Spicy Globe Basil
Lemon Basil
Sweetie Baby Romaine
Gala Mâche
Monet’s Garden Mesclun Mix
Heirloom Cutting Mix Lettuce
Cut & Come Again Baby Mesclun
Farmer’s Market Blend Lettuce
Midnight Lightning Zucchini
Apollo Broccoli
Bitonto Tomato
Bright Lights Swiss Chard

And yes, I realize that there are 10 different tomato varieties in that list!

Plotting the Plots

When I actually sat down to plot out the squares, I realized that this was going to be more technical than I thought.  Sure, you can plop your veggies down in any square, following Mel’s general guidelines for spacing, but to make it attractive and a likely success there are other factors to think about.

My first attempt at plotting out a 4x4

All that graph paper and I still couldn’t get it right on the first try!  I even used a real architect’s scale (though the drawings aren’t exactly to scale… I really just used it as a straight-edge).  When you’re planning your garden here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Plant height. Remember, these guys are going to grow and you don’t want  your bigger plants to shade or crowd out your smaller plants.
  • Pest control. Luckily, in a square foot garden your pest control plants (like marigolds and onions) are never very far away from your other plants so you don’t need to repeat them often.
  • Growing seasons. If you’re not fitting it all it, it’s OK.  Some of your plants will be better growers in cooler temps (spring & fall) and some will be better in the summer.  Once your spring veggies are done you can likely plant summer plants, which will later give way to your fall crops.  It all works out in the end.

I had decided in the beginning stages of my planning to use Mel’s “trench” method that he talks about in chapter 8: Vertical Gardening for both my tomatoes and my winter squash.  I realize with 10 different varieties (9 of the indeterminate) I will likely be swimming in tomatoes by late August.  With that in mind, it seemed only natural to give them their very own spot where they can go crazy and not choke out my other veggies.  I’m thinking that I’ll miss some of the suckers here and there and they won’t look like perfectly trained little tomato plants.  I decided to do the same for my winter squash because, frankly, I’m not so confident that winter squash will really do what they say it will do (i.e., grow vertically).  So, here’s the plan:

Clydesdale Crops

The first 4×4 is my main “work-horse” veggie square.  It’s got my everything in it… everything except salad, tomatoes, and winter squash.  I’m really excited about this whole adventure, and I feel like I’ve got a really good handle on what’s going in this block, when it needs to be planted, what can be sown directly in the garden and what needs to be started earlier inside, and even a little bit on how to harvest it.

The Tomato Trench & The Squash Section

The second frame is the “Tomato Trench” and the “Squash Section.”  I’m also really excited about this part of the garden. I can’t tell you how excited I am about those tomatoes!  I’m sure that I’ll be cursing them by September, but right now I just can’t wait to taste them.  But I’m also super excited about one of my squash varieties!  The Seminole Winter Squash has an amazing history and I’m planning on writing a future post about it as we see how it takes to my garden.

Salad Garden Fit for a Sultan

The last block is my salad block.  I had assumed that it would be a smallish block because I’m putting it right outside my front door in the section of my front garden bed that is currently void of life.  Except, when I measured it, the area will fit a 4×4 block with no problem what-so-ever and I will still need to actually put more plants to fill it up!  Because I wasn’t planning on a full 4×4 I only have a draft for that square.  It’s mostly lettuce, some basil, maybe a few other herbs, and one lone determinate tomato plant.  However, I wouldn’t just say it’s just lettuce… because I made sure that I have extremely tasty heirloom lettuce!  And the cutest little determinate tomato plant anyone could ever find… topping out at just a foot!  And I’m hoping that my nasturtiums will cascade off the side like the crown jewels.

The last thing for me to figure out is how to secure my backyard garden (the Clydesdale Crops, Tomato Trench, and Squash Section) from a very persistent critter – the Dalinois.  Or better known by their individual names: Magnolia the Dalmatian and Rebel the Malinois.  These three areas will go in the northwest corner of our fenced yard, but they need to be protected from any kind of havoc that my two dogs might decide to wreck upon them.  Since this “protection” will have to incorporate any future expansion it will require some careful planning.  DH and I don’t particularly like to build fences so we only want to have to do it once!  I’ll post later on the design and execution of the Dalinois Pest Control methods.

I think that about sums it up!  Now… has anyone actually planted any of these things???  Got some tips for a first-timer?  Or maybe you’ve had a horror story with something on my list.  It’s not to late to save me from making the same mistake!  Everything is just pie in the sky and I welcome other suggestions!

  • So ambitious!

    I love that you have one box just for salad. I can’t wait to see how your lettuce turns out – that’s one I can’t bring myself to try growing just yet.
    Christina´s last blog post ..Beanstalks To Clouds and Toys

    • Whitney Claire

      Ambition may be the death of me. However, one should take comfort in the fact that I’ve decided to hold off on the grapes and the beekeeping until next year! 😉 There is something to be said for moderation.

    • Whitney Claire

      Oh that’s awesome! Definitely keep me informed of his progress!! 🙂

  • My dad is growing grapes this year! It should be interesting – maybe you will be able to learn from his mistakes. 🙂
    Christina´s last blog post ..Beanstalks To Clouds and Toys

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