We are officially in the month of spring. That means spring break–and that’s just what I’m going to be doing next week. I’m going to be taking a bit of time to hang out at the farm and hang out with my family. It’s going to be a week off from the blog as well. I’ll be back after the break.
The month of spring also means that garden season is dawning–even here in Canada. The green in the photo above is the winter rye I planted back in the fall. I did not expect it to be this green at this time of year, but it’s a very encouraging way to start the year.
I already talked about my plan to add blackberries and some more grapes this year. The order went in to the nursery at the start of the week.
So now I’m thinking about the rest of the garden.
As a refresher, we have a roughly 2,500 square foot garden. It is round, so our strategy is to divide it into quadrants. Raised beds run around the perimeter.
After a lot of work over the last few years to finish the fence, build the raised beds, build trellises, run a waterline, construct and hang the gate–and clear the garden in the first place–I’m looking forward to being able to focus on plants and soil this year.
I have a few themes that are guiding my plans.
Last year I said we were going to use the whole garden. But I lied.
We only used three quarters of it. And the third quarter was filled with watermelons and weeds that we let run wild, so that was pretty much a cheat.
I realized as the summer progressed, that all of our plants could have used a little more elbow room.
We have a huge garden. There’s absolutely no need to cram things in. So this year, the plan is to give our plants lots of space and use the whole garden.
The easiest way to do that is to designate specific quadrants for specific crops. Specifically, tomatoes and potatoes will each get their own quarters.
The tomato and potato placement leads to my other priority for this year, crop rotation. Different plants draw different nutrients from the soil. Rotation is important to ensure the soil has a chance to recover.
From what I’ve read, potatoes and tomatoes are not the best of friends–as in you shouldn’t plant tomatoes where you grew potatoes the year before (and vice versa). My plan is to plant them in opposite quadrants so that we can rotate them (literally) around the garden each year and have a gap year between when potatoes and tomatoes grow in the same spot. (Does that make sense?)
I’ve moved plants around each year but not considered rotation in a thoughtful, strategic, multi-year way.
To make the rotation work, the potatoes will grow in the same spot this year that they were in last year.
A few other things are staying in same place, more out of laziness than any strategy. The squash trellis was a success last year, and I want to use it again. However, it’s a bit of a monster (16 feet long by about 7 feet tall and about six feet wide). The prospect of moving it is daunting. The best place for the sunflowers is the south side where the sun is the strongest. I don’t think one year of repeats for the squash and the sunflowers will be too tragic.
Oh weeds. Between 2,500 square feet of soil and my day job, I do not believe it’s possible for me to keep up with weeding the garden. Or at least I’m not willing to put in the time required.
So plan B. Mulch. Deep, deep mulch.
I think I should be able to buy (or receive) some old bales of straw from the farmer who does our fields. Old bales that are already on their way to compost would be perfect.
The mulch will (hopefully) not only keep down the weeds, but as it composts it will add nutrients back into the soil.
The big lesson you hear from a lot of gardeners is grow what you eat. If you ask Matt, he’ll say potatoes (the Kennebecs were awesome), peppers (I’d appreciate some red bell peppers and Matt’s particularly interested in jalapenos) and onions.
For me, the fun of gardening is still trying unusual and new things. That means probably planting a row of our purple potatoes again (we have some of our Russian Blues left that we should be able to use as seed potatoes). Trying some different tomatoes (probably not our giant Sicilian Saucers again). And experimenting with eggplant, broccoli or cauliflower for something completely new.
Oh and less zucchini. Again. We downsized to only a half a dozen plants last year and that was still way too many.
I’m excited for warm weather, longer days and the return of the vegetable garden. Until that arrives, I’m excited for a little pre-season vacation. I’ll be back in a week.
Do you have any garden plans yet this year? Any tips for things to grow? How about rotation or weed control ideas?