Monday, March 14, 2011

Crop Rotation

The garden bed layout is finished, with some pretty significant changes from last year. I had begun with Eliot Coleman's crop rotation as a starting point last year, which was good, but definitely needed some tweaking this year. Here it is:

Those are our nine beds, left to right. The pile in the upper left corner are 2 herbs I won't be including in the raised beds and 3 veggies that took over the garden last year. I hope to find a permanent home for some rosemary bushes in the landscaping (perhaps by the front door?) and somewhere open for the candy roaster pumpkin and zucchino to sprawl and thrive. The marigold and nasturtium I will intersperse throughout the garden, along with some other flowering plants along the fence to attract beneficial insects. (Come here, little ladybugs!) Perhaps some frogs will find a home there too.

I'm sticking with the same varieties as last year for the most part. I was very happy with pretty much everything, and what I was disappointed in had more to do with my error than a poor seed choice. Plus, I have some of almost everything left. There are only a few things we still need to purchase, but I've heard rumor the Family Tree garden center carries a good selection of heirloom seeds, including Baker Creek seeds. I'll give a review after we visit...

I merely dabbled in beneficial flower plantings (or companion planting) last year, and I hope to expand that this year. I have lantana down the driveway side of the garden, and I am going to put red trumpet vine and morning glories on the corner fence posts. The list is long, so I'm just going to pick ones that visually appeal to me. Another option is to choose some bait plants. These intentionally attract an insect you have a problem controlling in your area. For instance, larkspur (or delphinium) attracts Japanese beetles and is poisonous, so they die. (Warning: fatal to humans too, as are many beautiful and beneficial plants, so choose carefully in regard to small children or animals.)

I'm way behind on starting my seeds, but I'm trying to schedule that in for this week. As I walked to the mailbox today, my second-year asparagus was standing thin and tall to greet me. A long-term investment that I am looking forward to reaping in a year or two. I am tentatively planning on dropping some more asparagus seeds in the bed, as it doesn't seem to be taking up as much room as I initially thought. A well-maintained bed can be harvested for over 20 years, and can also be dug up and moved if necessary, in between seasons.

As a final note regarding my bed layout, sweet potatoes and potatoes are not good companion plants, so I have them separated. I also spaced out veggies of the same family in case I don't have to rearrange my bed layout too much next year.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Beds are Ready

We all worked in the garden this Saturday, getting it ready for spring planting. Such fun! Especially since this is the first year that the boys could actually be out there with us :) I've made my list of what I'll actually plant, and I'm ready to start my seedlings! Starting some varieties indoors will definitely be a big benefit, (like, maybe I'll actually have some celery this year?) and should give us some hardier plants.

Seed trays are expensive if you want to do any quantity of seedlings (plus, I'm cheap), so I've come up with some practically free alternatives. I started saving my egg cartons awhile ago because I realized they were a perfect size for starter seeds. The 12-18 size is also a great way to separate varieties. I came across this tutorial for toilet roll seed starters that I was thought was super cute, especially if you need something sturdier. (I'd have to save all year to have enough, but still worth sharing.)

You can spend a fortune on handy gardening tools, but thinking creatively can stretch your dollars far. I'm currently brainstorming ideas for a cheap trellising system for my vining zucchini this year. It was one of my most productive plants (although nothing came close to the okra extravaganza) last year, but it took over the garden. Literally. So, it clearly needs a sprawling home this year outside the garden. It looked rather like the Hulk riding a tricycle on the 'trellis' I had last year. Although, the tomatoes, beans and cukes were quite happy with it.

We're hoping to add some fruit to the garden this year, even if we don't get much harvest yet. I have some melons seeds that should be fun to try, and also some berry bushes are in the plan.

Baby veggie pix coming soon!