Laying Out the Garden

You have 5 big, complicated questions to answer before your garden is fully planned.

1. Where will it be?

2. How will you arrange the plants in the site?

3. What will you plant in it?

4. When will you plant?

5. Will you use indoor starting/transplanting, cloches, cold frames, and/or a greenhouse to extend your season?

Where Will It Be? If you really want to have a garden, you can. I've heard from people who live in sunless rooms and have them filled with fragrant green stuff growing under special lights. I've read letters from and visited garden lovers in Nevada and New Mexico, where the natural soil is actually poisonous to plant life or untillable in the most literal sense. They literally built their own soil by bringing in sand, clay, and organic material and mixing, matching, and mulching until they had a mixture that would grow a garden. I've heard from a family that lives on a bare rock cliff and raises a wonderful yearly garden in 4 x 8 foot redwood boxes, 12-14 inches deep. I know Alaskans who do most of their gardening in greenhouses and desert dwellers who do part of it under light wooden slat roofs to keep out the extreme sun.

Water Supply. Some gardens are limited by their water supply—either by how much water they have (you need 1 inch per week from sky or hose) or by how far they can deliver that water. Unless you live in an area with dependable, abundant spring-to-fall rains, don't plan a vegetable garden someplace you can't get water to. Actually drag the hose out and make sure you can get water to all the area you're planning to garden. On the other hand, some land is too wet. In that case, you need a garden site with adequate drainage. Unless you're growing cranberries or water chestnuts, too much water isn't a good thing. If you have a drainage problem, you may have to design a ditching system to take water off or a levee system to keep it out—or grow rice. Available Sunlight Pick the sunniest spot available for a start because that's another thing your plants have to have—a minimum of 6 hours a day of sunshine. Hook up your water system in the middle of the sunny spot and see how much gets wet. Then you'll know you have both water and sunshine!

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Amount to Plan per Person

Expected Harvest Dat

Crop and Variety Nam

U«/) -a <u <u Z

Transplants

Seeds

8

3

June-July

Bush beans

X

X

4

3

July

Pole beans

Trellis

X

2

8

July

Beets

x

X

2

20

June-July

Carrots

X

X

12

1

July

Cauliflower

X

X

12

3

June-July

Swiss chard

X

X

12

4

July

Corn

X

12

1

Foxglove

Plant is bug repellent

X

2

12

June-July

Onions

X

12

1

Mint

Plant is bug repellent

X

3

8

July-Aug.

Parsnips

X

X

12

1

Petunias

Plant is bug repellent

X

12

3

June

Potatoes

Reds or cobblers

X

X

3

July-Aug.

Cherry tomatoes

Cage them

X

X

18

3

July

Leaf lettuce

Cover with boxes after

X

June 15, 8pm-10am

18

3

July

Head lettuce

Cover with boxes after

X

June 15, 8pm-10am Start transplants April 1; plant out on May 15. Sow seeds May 1 and May 15.

June 15, 8pm-10am Start transplants April 1; plant out on May 15. Sow seeds May 1 and May 15.

Water in the morning. Cover with plastic on hoops at night until May 15.

Slope. One of the best protections against erosion is to locate your garden on flat ground. Extremely sloping ground should be kept under permanent plant cover to prevent erosion. Less sloping land can be cropped if need be, but try hard to keep that ground protected by a crop (garden plus green manure or succession planting) at least three-fourths of the time to minimize soil loss. Only quite level ground—"bottom land"—is fairly immune to erosion. Lead in Soil. I used to complain bitterly about lawns that take up good ground. I'd say, "What is a lawn? It's grass that no animal is going to eat, occupying ground where no vegetable, berry, or fruit is going to grow." I noted that gardens were invariably in the backyard, as if using the ground to grow food instead of that cosmetic grass was a shameful thing. I've learned better. Gardens belong in the backyard— because of lead pollution. The more traffic that goes by your garden, the more lead content there is in the soil; the most dangerous soil is that within 100 feet of a street. If you want to grow food for yourself and your family, you need ground that's away from traffic.

Lead is a toxic heavy metal. Even a little of it can cause severe and permanent damage, especially if young children eat it. Lead is invisible, but if it is present in the soil, it will find its way into every plant that grows there, including parts you harvest for food. I've heard that near stop signs and stoplights the lead content is the worst, up to 5 times normal. That's why neighborhood gardens in urban areas with high traffic density are not as great as they sound—unless you truck in lead-free dirt. Jan Clark, a researcher at the U. of Washington, has found that organic matter in soil can help tie up lead. So one answer is lots of compost. Still, if you live in town, your backyard is the best place for the garden!

The other common source of lead contamination in garden soil is lead-based paint that has been scraped off onto the ground around your building. Any wooden house built before the 1950s, when lead was banned in exterior house paints, probably has lead-contaminated soil around the edges of it. Assume the contamination goes out to about 10 feet.

To test the lead level in your soil, inquire at a local Environmental Protection Agency office, county extension service, or toxics lab. To deal with this pollution, remove the top 3 inches of your soil and replace it with new, safe topsoil. Plot Size. You're lucky if you can make your garden any size you want. In that case, plant according to how many people are being fed, how much they'll eat, and what they like to eat. Ideally, plant about 50 square feet of garden for each person you're feeding, not counting paths. An acre of garden is a minimum for me. But most people are limited by space available. Many are also limited in that they don't have time to keep up with a big garden. You need to know the size of your garden in square feet and in acres, because garden products are often packaged for certain sizes. For easy arithmetic, use multiples of 10. About 200 x 200 feet equals an acre. (See measurement conversion tables in Chapter 1.) Use graph paper for your plot plans. Plot Shape. Both rectangular and square plots are typical, although you can actually work with any shape you please. You can have several small plots or one big one.

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to

Amount to Plan per Person

Expected Harvest Dati

Crop and Variety Nam

</> tj <d <d z

Transplants

Seeds

8

3

Aug.

Bush beans

x

4 8

3 3

Aug. Aug.

Pole beans Bush limas

Trellis

x x

4

3

Aug.

Pole limas

Trellis

x

1

Foxglove

Plant is bug repellent

x

2

20

Aug.

Carrots

x

x

2

Marigolds

Plant is bug repellent

x

8

4

Aug.-Sept.

Celery

x

x

12

4

Sept.

Corn

x

x

18

2

Aug.

Cucumbers

x

x

x

12

2

Aug.

Miniature eggplant

x

x

1

Mint

Plant is bug repellent

x

24

3

Aug.

Bush cantaloupe

x

x

x

18

4

Aug.

Head lettuce

x

18

4

Aug.

Leaf lettuce

x

1

Petunias

Plant is bug repellent

x

12

3

Aug.

Peppers

x

x

1

12

July

Radishes

x

18

6

Sept.

Spuds

Mulch well

x

x

24

3

Sept.

Yams

x

x

24

2

Aug.

Bush summer squash

x

x

24

3

Sept.

Late <Sr Longkeeper tomatoes

Cage them

x

x

Start transplants May 1; plant out June 15. Sow seeds June 1 and June 15.

Water in the morning. Seeds need 50°F soil; transplants, 60° soil.

Start transplants May 1; plant out June 15. Sow seeds June 1 and June 15.

Water in the morning. Seeds need 50°F soil; transplants, 60° soil.

How to Arrange Plants? Now you plan how to arrange your plants within the garden site, dealing with matters of beds or rows and planned paths. There are 3 main questions to answer:

1. Will you plant in double-dug, raised beds or use regular tilling, which treats the entire garden area the same way until you plant? If you're going to make beds, what shape and how large? (See "Raised Beds and Wide Rows.")

2. If you are doing a plain garden rather than raised beds, are you going to plant single rows, double (or triple) rows, or "wide" rows?

3. How wide will your paths be? This depends partly on your preference but also on your cultivating method. If you hoe out weeds, you can make narrow (and also uneven) paths between the vegetable rows. But if you plan to rototill, the space between rows must be wide enough so your tiller can get between them without tearing out your vegetables. In a large garden, you may need to make some paths wide enough to bring in a wheelbarrow. In a garden on a slope, it's a good idea to garden in raised beds that have protective sides to hold the dirt in, and to have strips of grass between the garden patches to prevent soil from working its way downhill.

Your Garden on Paper. It helps to use graph paper. Advice from Earthchild Marie: "Show trees, yard, house, garage, fences, flower beds, etc. If you have a compass, add the cardinal points symbol. If not, sketch in the afternoon shadows; then also show the morning shadows. Most garden plants prefer morning sun if there has to be a choice. Greens and beans need the least sun." Do be sure to place the tallest plants where they won't cause morning shade for smaller ones. After making that preliminary sketch, the next step is to choose your varieties. Then you can finish laying out your garden plan.

Spacing (Inche

Amount to Plan per Person

Expected Harvest Date

Crop and Variety Name

Remarks

Needs Full Sui

Transplants

Seeds

8

3

Sept.

Bush beans

X

4

3

Sept.

Pole beans

Trellis

X

8

3

Sept.

Bush limas

X

X

4

3

Sept.

Pole limas

Trellis

X

2

8

Sept.

Beets

X

X

18

3

Sept.

Broccoli

9-star is perennial

X

X

18

2

Oct.

Brussels sprouts

X

X

18

3

Sept.

Cabbage

X

X

1

Foxglove

Plant is bug repellent

X

2

20

Sept.

Carrots

X

X

2

Marigolds

Plant is bug repellent

X

18

3

Oct.

Cauliflower

X

X

12

1

Oct.

Chicory

X

24

1

Sept.

Kale

X

X

1

Petunias

Plant is bug repellent

X

18

4

Oct.

Corn

X

X

18

4

Sept.

Head lettuce

X

18

4

Sept.

Leaf lettuce

X

1

Mint

Plant is bug repellent

X

4

8

Oct.

Parsnips

X

X

6

4

Sept.

Kohlrabi

X

X

6

6

Oct.

Winter radishes

X

X

6

6

Oct.

Rutabagas

X

X

6

6

Oct.

Turnips

X

X

Start transplants June 1; plant out July 15. Sow seeds July 1 and July 15.

Water in the evening. To conserve moisture, cover freshly planted seeds with wood or plastic until they emerge.

Start transplants June 1; plant out July 15. Sow seeds July 1 and July 15.

Water in the evening. To conserve moisture, cover freshly planted seeds with wood or plastic until they emerge.

Perennials. It's wonderful to be able to go out and harvest without having planted! Perennials are plants that come back all by themselves year after year. Rhubarb, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, fruit and nut trees, berry bushes and strawberries, certain onions, garlic, and many herbs are perennials. When planting perennials, it's important to place them on the edge of your garden for safety, so that when you plow in spring you can get the job done without tearing out your precious perennials. Or give them a special area—your orchard and berry patch. What Will You Plant? Once you've decided exactly what you want to plant, you can complete your plans by deciding the exact arrangement in your garden of each vegetable type. In general, concentrate on the sources of food that will yield the biggest harvest for the least work. Then add a few more for exploration or fun. The varieties you can raise depend on your elevation, the part of the country you live in, your rainfall or water supply, and so on.

Your first garden is almost certain to have some failures. You'll grow to understand its peculiarities over time. But I'm sure you'll be able to raise something that first year. Companion Planting. Some people use a companion planting system, based on which plants are supposed to be most supportive to each other. But not everybody is convinced that all those so-called good companions are truly that. Some scientifically inclined folks regard some of it as fact but the rest as hokum. For much more info read "Companion Planting: Basic Concepts <Sr Resources" at www.attra.org/attra-pub/complant.html.

The "Garden Ideas" lists show you some possible choices for different kinds of gardens. Secrets of Getting the Most from a Small Garden Knox Cellars is dedicated to discovering how to do intensive gardening on city lots. They grow dozens of fruit trees by the espalier method and pollinate them with their own colonies of Orchard Mason bees. Their website, www.knox cellars.com/, features the most recent issue and several back issues of Urban Farmer. Most people pay their way onto the mailing list by buying something from them: bees, a book, or audiotape. They write an Urban Farmer from time to time, when the mood strikes, sharing interesting things they have learned about bees, bugs, or gardening.

1. Make use of semishaded areas unsuitable for tomatoes or root vegetables by growing leafy vegetables like lettuce, chard, mustard, or endive there.

2. Don't overplant herbs. Two parsley or chive plants can quite likely produce all you need unless your family is large.

Spacing (Inches)

Amount to Plan per Person

Expected Harvest Date

Crop and Variety Name

Remarks

Needs Full Sun

Transplants

Seeds

12

3

Oct.

Bush beans

X

18

4

Oct.

Chinese cabbage (Taisai

or Pakchoi)

X

4

20

Oct.

Carrots

In open cold frame

X

X

18

4

Oct.

Swiss chard

In open cold frame

X

18

1

Oct.

Kale

In open cold frame

X

18

4

Oct.

Sweet corn

X

X

18

4

Oct.

Head lettuce

X

18

4

Oct.

Leaf lettuce

X

18

4

Oct.

Mustard greens

In open cold frame

X

6

12

Oct.

Bush peas

X

X

6

12

Oct.

Snap peas

X

X

6

12

Oct.

Chinese peas (white-flowered)

X

X

3

12

Sept.

Radishes

X

X

18

4

Oct.

Spinach

X

X

18

1

Winter

Cherry tomatoes

In open cold frame

X

6

6

Oct.

Turnips

X

X

Start transplants July 1; plant out July 15. Sow seeds Aug. 1 and Aug. 15.

Start transplants July 1; plant out July 15. Sow seeds Aug. 1 and Aug. 15.

Water in the evening. To conserve moisture, cover freshly planted seeds until they emerge. After Sept. 15, cover garden at night with plastic.

3. Avoid sprawling varieties. You can plant 6 rows of carrots, beets, or onions in the same square footage that one row of squash would take because squash simply will spread out all over the place, but root vegetables don't. So limit or refuse summer squash, winter squash, cucumbers, watermelons, muskmelons, cantaloupes, and corn, because they take more space than they're worth. Or use the recently developed compact "bush" kinds of melons, squash, cucumbers, and pumpkins.

4. Consider interplanting so that fast-maturing vegetables use the space between slower-maturing ones that will later spread; for instance, plant radishes or lettuce between vine plants like squash or pumpkin. They mature so fast that you get a crop before the vines need that space.

5. Give preference to continuously bearing vegetables; for instance, choose chard over spinach, because spinach has a brief period of productivity but then is done for the whole summer. Chard will keep making harvest for you until frost kills it. Other continuous bearers are tomatoes, broccoli, kale, lima beans, squash of all sorts, eggplant, peppers, cucumbers, chard, and Brussels sprouts.

6. Use wide-row and succession planting methods to give you the most vegetable productivity per square foot. For instance, peas have a relatively brief production season, but they produce heavily while they are at it, and then you can till up the ground they were in and plant something else. Succession planting works best with a long growing season, but in most places peas, lettuce, radishes, beets, and carrots mature quickly enough that you have time for a second crop if you plant as soon as the first is harvested.

7. Harvest daily in season. Broccoli, cucumbers, summer squash, beans, and chard, for example, will stop producing if they aren't harvested. But if you keep them faithfully and regularly harvested, then they keep producing and you maximize their production.

8. Encourage your garden to grow up rather than across: Try climbing beans (pole or runners) or cucumbers trained to grow up something. Use a big vine such as runner beans, kiwi, or grapes to screen out an ugly area, make shade, or hang from a basket.

9. Plant tall crops such as corn or sunflowers on the north end of the garden so they don't shade other plants.

10. Practice deep watering; it allows you to plant closer together because the roots will go down instead of spreading sideways. Check out Success with Small Food Gardens by Louise Riotte; How to Grow More Vegetables than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land than You Can Imagine by J. Jeavons (1979), a classic on the intensive method; Growing Vegetables the Big Yield/Small Space Way by D. Newcomb (1981); The Integral Urban House by the Farallones Institute (Sierra Club Books, 1979); and The Complete Urban Gardener by Joan Puma (1985). The National Gardening Association offers info at www.nationalgardening.com and www.kids gardening.com.

Spring Planting Dates

Crop

March 20

March 30

April 10

April 20

April 30

May 10

Asparagus*

Feb. 1-March 10

Feb. 15-March 20

March 10-April 10

March 15-April 15

March 20-April 15

March 10-April 30

Beans, lima

April 1-June 15

April 15-June 20

April 1-June 30

May 1-June 20

May 15-June 15

May 25-June 15

Beans, snap

March 15-May 25

April 1-June 1

April 10-June 30

April 25-June 30

May 10-June 30

May 10-June 30

Beet

Feb. 15-May 15

March 1-June 1

March 10-June 1

Mar 20-June 1

April 1-June 15

April 15-June 15

Broccoli, sprouting*

Feb. 15-March 15

March 1-March 20

March 15-April 15

March 25-April 20

April 1-May 1

April 15-June 1

Brussels sprouts*

Feb. 15-March 15

March 1-March 20

March 15-April 15

March 25-April 20

April 1-May 1

April 15-June 1

Cabbage*

Feb. 1-March 1

Feb. 15-March 10

March 1-April 1

March 10-April 1

March 15-April 10

April 1-May 15

Cabbage, Chinese

+

+

+

+

+

April 1-May 15

Carrot

Feb. 15-March 20

March 1-April 10

March 10-April 20

April 1-May 15

April 10-June 1

April 20-June 15

Cauliflower*

Feb. 10-March 10

Feb. 20-March 20

March 1-March 20

March 15-April 20

April 10-May 10

April 15-May 15

Celery and celeriac

March 1-April 1

March 15-April 15

April1-April 20

April 10-May 1

April 15-May 1

April 20-June 15

Chard

Feb. 20-May 15

March 1-May 25

March 15-June 15

April 1-June 15

April 15-June 15

April 20-June 15

Chervil and chives

Feb. 10-March 10

Feb. 15-March 15

March 1-April 1

March 10-April 10

March 20-April 20

April 1-May 1

Chicory, witloof

June 1-July 1

June 1-July 1

June 10-July 1

June 15-July 1

June 15-July 1

June 1-June 20

Collards*

Feb. 15-May 1

March 1-June 1

March 1-June 1

March 10-June 1

April 1-June 1

April 15-June 1

Corn salad

Jan. 1-March 15

Jan 15-March 15

Feb. 1-April 1

Feb. 15-April 15

March 1-May 1

April 1-June 1

Corn, sweet

March 15-May 1

March 25-May 15

April 10-June 1

April 25-June 15

May 10-June 15

May 10-June 1

Cress, upland

Feb. 20-March 15

March 1-April 1

March 10-April 15

March 20-May 1

April 10-May 10

April 20-May 20

Cucumber

April 1-May 1

April 10-May 15

April 20-June 1

May 1-June 15

May 15-June 15

May 20-June 15

Eggplant*

April 1-May 1

April 15-May 15

May 1-June 1

May 10-June 1

May 15-June 10

May 20-June 15

Endive

March 1-April 1

March 10-April 10

March 15-April 15

March 25-April 15

April 1-May 1

April 15-May 15

Fennel, Florence

March 1-April 1

March 10-April 10

March 15-April 15

March 25-April 15

April 1-May 1

April 15-May 15

Garlic

Feb. 1-March 1

Feb. 10-March 10

Feb 20-March 20

March 10-April 1

March 15-April 15

April 1-May 1

Horseradish*

March 1-April 1

March 10-April 10

March 20-April 20

April 1-April 30

April 15-May 15

Kale

Feb. 20-March 10

March 1-March 20

March 10-April 1

March 20-April 10

April1-April 20

April 10-May 1

Kohlrabi

Feb. 20-March 10

March 1-April 1

March 10-April 10

March 20-May 1

April 1-May 10

April 10-May 15

Leek

Feb. 1-March 1

Feb. 15-March 15

March 1-April 1

March 15-April 15

April 1-May 1

April 15-May 15

Lettuce, head*

Feb. 15-March 10

March 1-March 20

March 10-April 1

March 20-April 15

April 1-May 1

April 15-May 15

Lettuce, leaf

Feb. 1-April 1

Feb. 15-April 15

March 15-May 15

March 20-May 15

April 1-June 1

April 15-June 15

Muskmelon

April 1-May 1

April 10-May 15

April 20-June 1

May 1-June 15

May 15-June 15

June 1-June 15

Mustard

Feb. 20-April 1

March 1-April 15

March 10-April 20

March 20-May 1

April 1-May 10

April 15-June 1

Okra

April 1-June 15

April 10-June 15

April 20-June 15

May 1-June 1

May 10-June 1

May 20-June 10

Onion*

Feb. 10-March 10

Feb. 15-March 15

March 1-April 1

March 15-April 10

April 1-May 1

April 10-May 1

Onion, seed

Feb. 10-March 10

Feb. 20-March 15

March 1-April 1

March 15-April 1

March 15-April 15

April 1-May 1

Onion, sets

Feb. 1-March 20

Feb. 15-March 20

March 1-April 1

March 10-April 1

March 10-April 10

April 10-May 1

Parsley

Feb. 15-March 15

March 1-April 1

March 10-April 10

March 20-April 20

April 1-May 1

April 15-May 15

Parsnip

Feb. 15-March 15

March 1-April 1

March 10-April 10

March 20-April 20

April 1-May 1

April 15-May 15

Peas, black-eyed

April 1-July 1

April 15-July 1

May 1-July 1

May 10-June 15

May 15-June 1

Peas, garden

Feb. 1-March 15

Feb. 10-March 20

Feb. 20-March 20

March 10-April 10

March 20-May 1

April 1-May 15

Pepper*

April 10-June 1

April 15-June 1

May 1-June 1

May 10-June 1

May 15-June 10

May 20-June 10

Potato

Feb. 10-March 15

Feb. 20-March 20

March 10-April 1

March 15-April 10

March 20-May 10

April 1-June 1

Radish

Jan. 20-May 1

Feb. 15-May 1

March 1-May 1

March 10-May 10

March 20-May 10

April 1-June 1

Rhubarb*

March 1-April 1

March 10-April 10

March 20-April 15

April 1-May 1

Rutabaga

Jan. 15-March 1

Feb. 1-March 1

May 1-June 1

May 1-June 1

Salsify

Feb. 15-March 1

March 1-March 15

March 10-April 15

March 20-May 1

April 1-May 15

April 15-June 1

Shallot

Feb. 1-March 10

Feb. 15-March 15

March 1-April 1

March 15-April 15

April 1-May 1

April 10-May 1

Sorrel

Feb. 10-March 20

Feb. 20-April 1

March 1-April 15

March 15-May 1

April 1-May 15

April 15-June 1

Soybean

April 10-June 30

April 20-June 30

May 1-June 30

May 10-June 20

May 15-June 15

May 25-June 10

Spinach

Jan. 15-March 15

Feb. 1-March 20

Feb. 15-April 1

March 1-April 15

March 20-April 20

April 1-June 15

Spinach, New Zealand

April 1-May 15

April 10-June 1

April 20-June 1

May 1-June 15

May 1-June 15

May 10-June 15

Squash, summer

April 1-May 15

April 10-June 1

April 20-June 1

May 1-June 15

May 1-May 30

May 10-June 10

Sweet potato

April 10-June 1

April 20-June 1

May l-June 1

May 10-June 10

May 20-June 10

Tomato

April 1-May 20

April 10-June 1

April 20-June 1

May 5-June 10

May 10-June 15

May 15-June 10

Turnip

Feb. 10-March 10

Feb. 20-March 20

Mar 1-April 1

March 10-April 1

March 20-May 1

April 1-June 1

Watermelon

April 1-May 1

April 10-May 15

April 20-June 1

May 1-June 15

May 15-June 15

June 1-June 15

This table gives the range of dates for safe spring planting of vegetables in the open. The date at the top of each column represents the average date of the last freeze in the area; choose the date that fits your area, and read down that column.

*Plants +Generallv fall-planted

This table gives the range of dates for safe spring planting of vegetables in the open. The date at the top of each column represents the average date of the last freeze in the area; choose the date that fits your area, and read down that column.

*Plants +Generallv fall-planted

?

aj

3

00 c

to

Amount to Plan per Person

Expected Harvest Dat«

Crop and Variety Nam

Z

Transplants

Seeds

4

20

Winter

Carrots

x

12

4

Nov.

Leaf lettuce

x

3

12

Oct.

Radishes

x

12

4

Nov.

Mustard greens

x

12

8

Nov.

Turnip greens

x

12

4

Nov.

Spinach

x

12

8

Nov.

Swiss chard

x

4

12

Nov.

Onion sets/seeds

x

x

4

12

Nov.

Leeks

x

x

4

12

Nov.

Garlic

x

4

Oct.

Tomatoes

Pull up garden plants; ripen in

greenhouse

4

Oct.

Peppers

Dig up garden plants

Rhubarb

In cold frame or pot

Nettles or dandelions

In pot

Start transplants Aug. 1; plant out Sept. 15. Sow seeds Sept. 1 and Sept. 15.

Start transplants Aug. 1; plant out Sept. 15. Sow seeds Sept. 1 and Sept. 15.

Water in the morning. Close cold frames at night. Cover garden at night with plastic on wireframes. Bring plants into the greenhouse on Oct. 1. As each planting bed is harvested, add 3 inches of finished compost, dig it all up for spring, and plant a cover crop such as clover to add nitrogen for next year's garden.

Earthchild Marie's Winter Garden

• Oct. 1: Plant peas outside for spring and mulch well. Bring in herbs and cold-frame plants to greenhouse; use large pots. Plant radishes and Asian brassi-cas in large pots in greenhouse. Cover rest of outdoor crops with a plastic tunnel at night.

• Oct. 30: Pile straw or dry leaves on the fall garden. Cover with 6-mil (.006 inch) plastic. Harvest from the ends of the rows or beds until December if you pick veggies only at noon and cover everything back up immediately.

• Nov.: Third coldest month of the year. Eat the veggies you brought into the greenhouse. Plan next year's garden and make a "Seeds Needed" list.

• Dec.: Make salads with the greenhouse veggies you planted in October. Enjoy your ripened tomatoes. Order seeds.

Begin sprouting grains for salads in the greenhouse or kitchen. Try planting a few Chinese brassicas in pots.

• Feb.: Second coldest month of the year. Make a hotbed in the greenhouse and start planting salad greens and Chinese brassicas in flats. Set a cold frame on your rhubarb, asparagus, or strawberry plants. Cover some daffodils and crocus plants with a cold frame. Think spring!

Winter Garden. Winter gardening right out in the garden can be done, of course, anywhere in the South, but some plants can also make it in the maritime climate of the northwestern United States (between the mountains and the ocean) and in Appalachia, northern California, and the south Atlantic coast. In such areas, and sometimes farther north, you can harvest these plants direct from the garden from Nov. through April. Brussels sprouts (Nov.-Dec.) Carrots (Nov.-Dec.) Chinese cabbage (Nov.-Dec.) Leeks (Nov.-Dec.)

Parsnips (Nov.-Dec.) Salsify (Nov.-Dec.) Kale (Nov.-March)

Leaf lettuce, grown in house/greenhouse (Nov.-April)

Witloof chicory (Jan.-March)

Jerusalem artichokes (whenever ground isn't frozen)

Asparagus (April)

Dandelion greens (April)

Parsley (April)

Swiss chard, if you have plants from previous year (April)

usda plant hardiness zones

Bigfoot The Northeastern States

Average Annual Minimum Temperature

Temperature (°F)

tone7 Fi I 10°to0°

For more on off-season gardening, see the "Undercover Gardening" section, and read Winter Gardening in the Maritime Northwest by Binda Colebrook (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 1989) and The New Organic Grower's Four-Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman, which covers cold-season vegetables in the garden and in cold frames, portable greenhouses, and root cellars (Chelsea Green). If you live in the northeastern United States, also read Intensive Gardening Round the Year by Doscher, Fisher, and Kolb (1981). Go to www.attra.org/attra-pub/nursery.html to read "Sustainable Small-Scale Nursery Production." And order the Ball Red Book, which is a good reference book for greenhouse production: 888-888-0013; PO Box 9, Batavia, IL 60510; www. gro wertalks. com.

Crop Rotation. Commercial farmers plant the same crop year after year; they hold down the pests with poisons and supply the "fertility" with other chemicals. Organic farmers realize that the insects simply get more resistant and the soil more depleted, and that a better answer is crop rotation. It's smart to move each kind of plant around in the garden every year. For example, you could avoid root maggot by not putting cabbage in the same place twice. If you don't plant the same crop in the same place 2 years in a row, that way at least the bugs will have to hunt every year to find it.

Rotation helps fertility too. Because some crops add fertility and some take it away, always follow the ones that add (such as legumes) with the ones that take (such as corn). Here are some tried-and-true rotation systems for larger, single-crop fields. (See Chapter 3 for others.)

• 3-year rotation: Potatoes; wheat; clover

• 4-year rotation: Wheat; clover; corn; peas or beans

• 5-year rotation: Clover; corn; peas or beans; tomatoes; wheat

Fallow. If a field is let "rest" for a year and no crop planted in it, but it's still tilled several times to keep out weeds, that's called letting it "lie fallow." You can grow a crop 2 years and then let the field lie fallow the third. The advantages of fallowing are that the land settles, organic material that has been tilled under has time to compost, bug and weed species die out, and the ground accumulates moisture. The problem with fallowing is that it risks erosion and wastes good crop land that could be producing a harvest or growing a green-manure crop. When Will You Plant? Planting dates can vary drastically. They depend on which hemisphere you live in and your altitude, basic climate, cropping system (single or double), plant variety, and intended use of the crop—for example, as grain or as green manure. To make planting decisions, you need some basic facts about your climate and the plants you want to grow.

Climate Zone. A valuable thing to know is what climate zone you live in. Your county extension agent can tell you, or you can refer to the map on page 90. When reading garden books and shopping in garden catalogs or nurseries, knowing your zone helps you tell what information is applicable to you and what plant species are suited for your land.

Growing Season. Your "growing season" is the number of days your plants will take to become mature, plus some more time for you to harvest them. If you live in a cold place such as Minnesota or Vermont, you have a shorter growing season than if you live in North Carolina or Texas. So find out the usual frost-free span for where you live: the number of days from the last killing frost in spring to the first killing frost in fall.

Spring and Fall Frost Dates. Your average local spring and fall frost dates, given in 2-week estimates, are available from your county extension agent and are a key planning tool. Some plants go in before the expected date of the last spring frost. Most go in after, and some go in long after. Pushing the Limits of the Growing Season. The usual growing season extends from the spring frost date (and maybe an extra 2-3 weeks if you're lucky and it's earlier than usual, which is a risk you can take) to the fall frost date. Actually, the fall date is not a simple, single one. This is because a light frost will ruin tomatoes, but certain other plants can keep on growing and producing for a while— until you have a hard freeze. That may not happen for even 2 or 3 months later, depending on what zone you live in. (For late fall and winter gardening, see the "Cold Frames" section under "Undercover Gardening.")

For maximum production, many gardeners push their growing season to the limits and beyond. They plant early enough to risk losing some of that first planting (seeds are cheap). If they have to replant, no big deal; they just do it. They also plant late enough in the fall to risk missing out on harvesting something, but frequently they luck out—because, you see, those frost "dates" are just an average, nothing absolute. In any particular year you've got 50 percent odds of being able to stretch the growing season—and 50 percent odds that it'll be somewhat shorter than predicted. Soil Temperature. This is the other key indicator for proper planting time. Every seed has a soil temperature below which it will not grow and above which it grows, but slowly. (Soil temperatures of various seeds are listed in

Knott's Handbook for Vegetable Growers by Lorenz and May-nard.) You can literally take the soil's temperature, and some people do in order to plant seed when the soil is in the best temperature range for a particular plant. However, most people don't bother with that. There may be another temperature above which it grows rapidly. On the other end, of course, there's such a thing as soil that's too warm.

There are so many different vegetables and each one is a little different, but here are some basic categories: Frost-Tender Plants. Frost-tender vegetables can't survive a light frost. Don't plant frost-tender vegetables, either seeds or transplants of started plants, until after the last even light frost. ("Frost" means when the temperature gets down around 32°F or lower, because that is freezing.)

Corn is frost-tender. Basically, frost-tender plants are semitropical or tropical natives that we manage to grow in the warmest part of a temperate-zone growing season. You plant corn after most of your other garden vegetables—after the lettuce, peas, beans, beets, chard, turnips, cabbage, and so on—but shortly before the most tender plants of all: cucumbers, muskmelons, watermelons, and squash. Semihardy Plants. These vegetables can live through a light frost but not a hard one. You'll have to find out the average frost dates for your area. Generally these are planted right on the last frost date. If you wait a couple extra weeks, you'll be safer but your harvest will be later. If you plant earlier than the average frost date, you may be lucky that particular year and be able to start harvesting sooner. Or you may be unlucky and lose all your plants and have to replant. Hardy Plants. Semihardy and hardy vegetables can live through some degree or other of frost; just how much depends on the particular vegetable. Peas, beets, and kale are in this class. They can be planted as soon as you can get the ground ready in the spring, or you can plant them in midsummer for a late fall crop. These seeds germinate at relatively low temperatures and can be planted 2 to 3 weeks before the expected last frost date.

If you buy the variety your neighbor is using, you're safe planting when he or she does. If you're buying seed from outside your region, ask the seed company for advice —and start with a small, experimental plot.

The "Spring Planting Dates" table, created by the USDA, is a good basic planting schedule for vegetables. Extended Season Gardening: Here are some methods gardeners use to allow them to eat fresh foods from their garden even longer than nature would ordinarily allow Succession Planting. "Succession planting" means planting another crop as soon as you've harvested the previous one. That keeps all your garden ground constantly producing. Warm-Season vs. Cool-Season Plants. Tomatoes, eggplant, green peppers, watermelon, cantaloupe, and cucumbers are warm-season crops. They are injured or killed by frost, and their seeds won't come to life in cold soil. They won't grow well until your days are hot. Cool-season crops, on the other hand, grow wonderfully in wet, chilly spring weather. Lettuce, spinach, carrots, and broccoli are cool-season crops. From cool-season plants, you typically harvest leaves, roots, or stems (rather than the seeded fruit you harvest from the warm-season vegetables). If the weather turns hot, a cool-season plant tends to "bolt"—it produces flowers and seeds instead of the leaves, roots, and stems that you want to harvest. Succession gardeners plant cool-season vegetables to catch the cool part of their season. They put in the warm-season vegetables timed to catch the right part for them: the heat.

Double-Cropping. This is a basic 2-plant succession. Any garden crop that is harvested and out of there by midsummer, such as peas or beans, leaves a space where another crop can then be planted and still have time to mature before fall frost. That's "double-cropping." Green manure crops, quick-maturing corn, and buckwheat are good possibilities. Another double-cropping pattern starts with a fallplanted crop of winter grain. After it is harvested in midsummer the next year, a batch of quick-maturing vegetables can be planted where the grain used to be. Multi-Crop Succession System. From Earthchild Marie: "Divide your garden space into thirds. One third of the available space will be planted in April, one third in May, and one third in June. In July, April's garden will be finished and that space replanted. August's and September's gardens will go in where May's and June's were." NOTE: "The secret is to plant something every 2 weeks and to pick something every single day of the year!"

"The worksheets [Earthchild Marie's planting worksheets have been reproduced on these pages] describe exactly what, when, and how you plant everything. Be sure to record the variety names you plant on the worksheets. Use a pencil so you can use the worksheets over and over. On a separate copy of the plot, plan where each kind of plant is to grow in the garden. When finished, photocopy. One copy goes into your gardening notebook. One copy (encased in plastic) is stapled to the door of your toolshed for easy reference all year long. If you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse, keep the third copy there."

Earthchild Marie lives near Spokane, Washington. In adapting her planting worksheets for your own use, adjust the planting dates and varieties according to where you live. Your Garden Record: Your first garden is the hardest one to plan because everything is theoretical. To plan subsequent gardens, you can just adapt the plan you used in the previous year, making changes based on what you have learned. Don't wait until winter to think about lessons learned from your summer garden; you might forget too much. It helps to keep weekly notes, even during the busy growing and harvesting months. A big calendar with plenty of space to write those notes in will do. Keep your record going all summer. You'll be so glad you did when you sit down to order again. Write down:

1. The varieties you planted.

2. How much seed you used and how many feet of row you were able to plant with it.

3. Any problems that developed—for example, poor germination, an attack by some insect or disease, or poor performance in dry weather.

4. When you were able to begin harvesting.

5. Whether the yield was good.

6. What you want to do differently next year, and what to do the same way.

Next Year's Garden Plan. Although seed catalogs don't usually arrive until January, do a preliminary plan of your new garden in the fall, as soon as you get some relief from harvest work. Do it while you still remember the successes and difficulties of the just-past gardening season. Use the winter months to consider all the results of last summer's garden, figure out what changes you want to make, and plan next year's garden as exactly as possible. Based on the summer's experience, consider changing some varieties or quantities.

Words of warning: No 2 gardening years are exactly alike. Weather changes. Pests and pestilences appear and disappear. So 2 or 3 seasons give you a better picture than just one. And things can still change.

Continue reading here: Buying Seeds

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