Spring is arriving and we are starting to get busy! Back at the beginning of winter, we decided that we were going to have a garden this year. No big deal, right? Well, between my history of killing plants by simply looking at them and our “don’t go out there after it rains unless you want to wind up at the bottom, no seriously it’s that steep” backyard, this was going to take some work.
So I started researching. Since we pretty much have clay for dirt and we’re renting, raised beds and containers seemed to be the way to go. So I started researching some more and, I swear, I read probably every blog post in the world about raised beds and container gardening. I compared buying vs building, new materials vs reclaimed materials, movable vs semi-permanent vs permanent, vertical vs horizontal, urban vs suburban…then I checked out some books from the library and even bought a few. I made notes and lists and compared prices until I finally felt informed enough to come up with a plan. I would create two semi-movable raised beds out of cinder blocks. (I say semi-movable because the blocks themselves could move, but there would be no bottom so the dirt would stay behind if we moved them. I would prefer totally movable beds, but the start up cost was just too high for us.) Everything else would go in 5 gallon buckets reclaimed from Blue Mountain Pizza and maybe a couple other “odds and ends” containers that were laying around the house. Convinced the planning part was done and tired of researching, I happily set everything concerning the garden aside and put it out of my mind.
Then the seed catalog arrived and I got excited again. Bundled up inside while it was snowing out, I flipped through the catalog. I dreamed of spring, warm weather, being tan, the massive amount of crops I would be harvesting. I distinctly remember envisioning my huge market basket overflowing with carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, potatoes, okra, melons, strawberries, pumpkins, herbs and flowers. I even remember thinking that Sam would have to carry it inside for me.
With these thoughts keeping me warm, I brazenly circled anything in the catalog that I would like to grow. 3 different categories of cucumbers with 10 different types? Well, I do love cucumbers and adore pickles so how about one of each kind? 34 varieties of tomatoes? Awesome! I want them all and we’ll can the rest (note: I do not know how to can), so let’s just circle the header and move on! By the end of it, I had circled close to 60 different vegetables/herbs/tubers with over 150 different varieties. That’s not even counting the flowers! This is about the time I started considering that I might be getting carried away.
Being stubborn, cold and excited, I plowed (garden pun, teehee!) forward with my planning. I researched what should be planted with what and how far apart everything should be. I started making garden drawings on grid paper and color coordinating each planting (figured I would succession plant some of the crops while I was at it, right?). After drawing out an acre of tomatoes, I sat back, took a break and accepted that I’m insane. An acre of tomatoes? Seriously?
This is the point where I would like to throw all the blame for my insanity straight at Sow True Seed. They need to take all their pretty pictures and delicious descriptions out of the catalog for the good of all gardeners! It’s indecent to send those to us in winter, while we’re huddled inside, cold and bored with our produce. Needless to say, it was back to the drawing board for me.
The first thing that I would need to do is get the 2 raised beds together. After rummaging around outside, I found about 14-15 landscaping timbers (~8 feet long and ~4 inch x4ish inch) that were stacked up and rotting in a corner of the yard. Sam said they were up for grabs so I headed out to see how far gone they were. I guess karma was on my side because 8, the exact number I needed, were in good enough condition to use for my bed sides! I remembered seeing some ‘raised beds’ that were really just mounds of dirt so I figured I didn’t need to worry about the end caps. I ran to Lowe’s and picked up some garden stakes and a roll of organic landscaping fabric. (I believe it was this but it’s hard to tell online. I’ll try to remember to double check the next time I’m in Lowe’s. NOTE: I took the picture to the right the last time I was in Lowe’s. Can’t believe I remembered!) I stacked 2 of the landscaping timbers per side and laid the landscaping fabric under them. I was hoping that it would help kill anything under it and help with weeds later. The first bed came out as 8 feet by 3.5 feet and the second was 8 by 3. I could’ve made them both the same size but our front yard doesn’t get good light so I was trying to keep them in as much light as possible.
With that done, I could figure out exactly how much space I had (not counting containers) and could start planning the garden for real this time. New problem: how do I know how many plants of each type I should plant to feed us? After some more online lurking, I found a wonderful guide from the Well Fed Homestead. With a bit of math and quite a bit of patience, I finally formulated a garden plan that would actually work in the real world…where I suppose I live 😉
End type and number to plant:
Tomatoes : 2 Black Cherry, 10 Mountain Princess, 10 Arkansas Traveler (HAD to pick that one since Sam’s from AR!)
Onions: 120 Tropeana Tonda
Okra: 15 Hill Country Red
Carrots: 80 Tendersweet
Beets: 45 Early Wonder
Lettuce: 24 Parris Island Romaine, 24 Buttercrunch, 24 Black Seeded Simpson
Cucumbers: 9-11 Bush Pickle
Potatoes: 1 lb Yukon Gold
Herbs: Basil (Thai, Genovese, Lettuce Leaf), Lavendar, Rosemary, Chives, Mint, Dill, Catnip
Flowers: Marigold, Echinacea, Cut Flower Mix, Shade Flower Mix, Beneficial Attractant Mix
I, of course, created a chart for all this and more. Took me a couple extra days, but I really think it will help out in the future.
I will probably turn it into a spreadsheet at some point and add it to this post. It outlines all the different projected plantings (including inside starter seeds), projected sprout dates, projected harvest dates plus room for me to add in when everything actually happened. If I keep up with it (and this is a big if), then I’ll add in how much I harvested for the season at the end as well. All in all, I feel EXCELLENT about this plan!!