One of my favourite garden tasks is completed in the middle of winter, while the garden is fast asleep - Planning.
Each year, the garden provides us with a fresh start and seemingly limitless potential – pests, diseases, and wacky weather are optimistically thought of as “possibilities”, not certainties. In my plan, the weather is perfect, not too cold/hot/wet/dry/windy, all my sowings are perfectly timed & every seed comes up, my netting keeps out all of the cabbage white butterflies, the slugs are kept at bay by my liberal and consistent applications of diatomaceous earth, and I am able to pick off every single Japanese beetle from the plum tree. As the snow flies and the temperatures outside are well below zero, such is the optimism that I feel while working on my plan for the coming season, .
|Old plans, new plans & current seed listing|
In the past couple of years, the garden has been expanded from 4 to 17 beds (for annual veg). It was a lot of work and I often found myself rushing from one task to the next. This year, I want to spend more time enjoying the garden, so I’m slowing things down and taking an “easy-does-it” approach.
I only have one major project planned – installing drip irrigation in all of the beds. This is one of those projects that will require a lot of time and effort up front, but will ultimately result in a huge time savings later in the season and for years to come.
I'm hoping to start the installation in late spring & have it completed by the time the outdoor gardening season gets into full swing. Installing a freestanding spigot in each area is also part of the plan and I’m almost looking more forward to that than the drip. It will be such a pleasure to be able to turn the water on and off without having to run back and forth to the house each time.
Area #1 (Beds 1 - 8)
One of the first tasks to be done this spring in Area #1 is the removal of the huge spruce that is pushing up against our shed.
The offending spruce is the one on the left
The pathways in this area were sheet mulched (again) last year, with an extra thick layer of cardboard & mulch, so I’m hoping that my struggle with grass and weeds will be minimal this year. However, I am planning on replacing the fencing, using taller U-posts & chickenwire. Practice makes perfect - or it makes “better” anyhow - and I feel that the fencing I put up in Area #2 & the hilltop was much sturdier & more secure than the one in this area, so I’ve decided to re-do it.
For the most part, my bed layouts this year are fairly similar to last year. In an effort to simplify crop rotation, I generally try to keep veg from the same family in each bed. Changes in this area include closing off the angles in bed #1 & #4 and planting chives in the newly created spots, growing some annuals in the herb bed, and building a couple of square planters on either side of the entrance for annuals.
I’m going back to the same tomato spacing that I used in 2014 and incorporating some herbs into those beds as well. Lastly, I’ll be growing legumes in bed #8 in an effort to ramp up its fertility after the willow tree (that has since been cut down) sucked all of the nutrients out of it.
Area #2 (Beds 9 - 12)
Not much will be happening structurally in this area, aside from installing the spigot & drip irrigation.
The other experiment will be with the pepper layout – you can see that I have an ENTIRE bed of peppers planted. I read (somewhere?) that peppers actually like to grow in close quarters with their leaves touching. Planting an entire bed would certainly be convenient. Of course, there is the issue of shading…will the plants in the middle rows end up suffering? Should I be planting 3 rows instead of 4? Once again, I’m willing to risk it – if it works, think of all the different varieties I'll be able to squeeze into one bed! If it doesn't work, well, then I'll have to try something different next year. But you never know unless you try, right?
Hilltop (Beds 13 - 18)
The hilltop is a long term work-in-progress.
|Hilltop - The lump of mushroom compost in the middle of the picture|
is where the one new bed this year will be going
And lastly, I’m hoping to start on the wooded area behind the hilltop garden, my focus being on buckthorn removal – one of the worst invasive species in our area. In the interest of slowing down this year and taking the time to “smell the roses” so to speak, I don’t have a definitive goal for cleaning up this area; it will simply be one of those tasks that gets done, little by little, whenever I feel the inclination.
I used 2 strategies when choosing the crops for the hilltop beds this year. Firstly, I’m not growing any climbers as last year I had issues with shading, due to how the beds were oriented. Secondly, I focused on long term crops, in that they all take a while to mature and then the harvest is concentrated over a fairly short period of time. I prefer to keep quick maturing crops and those that are harvested over an extended period of time in the main garden, which is closer to the house. I also specifically chose to plant squash and corn in the new bed (#17) so that I don't have to rush to build it in the early spring.
Lastly, I'll be adding a few more straw bales to those still left standing from last year. I'm planning to grow most of the winter squash in them again and am hopeful that I’ll have better luck this time round. Last year I made the mistake of not conditioning the bales and the plants didn’t end up taking off until much later in the season.
Other Garden Plans
Another idea we’ve been tossing around is installing a mowing strip around the different veg areas – this would keep the mulch in place and eliminate the need for weed wackering & manual edging to stop the encroachment of grass. If we do go ahead with this, we would likely hire it out and only do one area this year, just to see how it works out.
In addition, I didn’t end up meeting one of my goals last year of cleaning up & mulching all of the perennial borders (surprise, surprise), so that is still in play as well.
Hmm…looks like it will be a rather busy year after all. That's ok...I’m not much for sitting around anyhow :) So long as I take my time and enjoy the garden...no rushing around!...the most important goal this year will be met.