One of my favorite parts of gardening is the planning process. Every year around Early to Mid-April I begin figuring out what exactly I am going to plant this year in the Garden and break out my spreadsheet to start filling it in for the season. This is my time to reflect back on last years season and try to fix or better my garden this year. It also just, in general, gets me excited for summer and garden fresh vegetables.
This year, however with the super long winter and my trip, I have not really got around to doing this (except for thinking about it in my mind) until now. I thought I would share a bit of my process and the things I consider/go through before I actually get out into the garden!
- Assess What Did or Did Not Work Last Year. Every year I like to go back through, what went well so that I can do it again and what did not go so well (or according to plan as I like to call it). This year, I am giving up on peas and beans. While they did grow well and the yield was decent, every time I was in the garden I would snack on them, which was great don’t get me wrong, but very few actually made it on to the table. I also let the peas get out of hand early on and spent a lot of time trying to get the situation under control again.
- Understand The Timing. I.e when to plant and when to expect a harvest. In Calgary, I always find this is crucial because the weather can be so temperamental (especially early and late summer). It is important to make sure you are creating a perfect environment for your plants to thrive. This for me comes into play via a spreadsheet, where I lay out all my garden beds, what I am planting in them, where everything is going and when they are to be planted.
- Not All Plants Are Friends. It is crucial in the planning stage to make sure you are only planting compatible plants in the same space and better yet planting companion plants. I know as a beginner this can be something that is overlooked because it would just seem logical that plants can just go wherever, but not the case at all. Make sure to understand that the plants you are putting in a vicinity of each other will thrive and even help the growing process (no hindering). Some of my favorite vegetables and their Companion Plants are:
- Tomatoes: Peppers, onions, carrots, celery, onions
- Peas: Beans, carrots, corn, cucumber, radish, turnip
- Cucumber: Beans, corn, peas, cabbage
- Beets: Cabbage, broccoli, kale, lettuce, onions, garlic
- Carrots: Beans, tomatoes
- Consider Herbs. Further, the above point, many different kinds of herbs can ward off harmful insects to your garden that can wreak havoc on your vegetables. The all-around good go to is Oregano as it wards off lots of insects, but other herbs have more vegetable specific added benefits.
- Seeds or Grown Plants. I mostly will stick to seeds in my garden each year, but there is also some benefit to starting with an already grown plant from your local gardening store. Seeds are not always guaranteed to grow, can be slow starting and you will need to thin out the plants once they begin growing if you are like me and you have “over-seeded”. The main plants that I have opted for buying in the past have been peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Another good option is to start the seeds in your house before you plant them in your garden.
- Rejuvenate your soil. Or ensure your new soil is in good growing condition if you are starting from scratch (location, sunlight, nutrients, drainage etc.). In Calgary, we are lucky to have a massive city-wide compost operation that is now offering free compost for gardening, however, buying organic compost is another good option. You want to make sure you are planting your vegetables in the best possible soil from the start so they can thrive.
- Pick Plants You Will Enjoy. And that will also grow well in your area. I always say plan for a large harvest, but only expect a small one (good yields do not always happen). A good yield is amazing and can make you very popular amongst your friends when you show up with free veggies but you want to make sure you also enjoy them. So choose plants that can grow well in your area and that you love; look for recipes you use all the time or meals you enjoy for places where fresh veggies (or fruit) would fit perfectly and grow those!
What are some of the things you do when planning a garden?