Saturday, March 23, 2024

2024 Garden Plan (v. 4)

So I want to do a pollinator garden this year, on the smaller half of my garden where my dwarf fruit trees are.  I thought that was going to mean I would need to cut back on the vegetables I planted; after all, the 7x18 plot that will be flowers this year was all tomatoes last year, and I will be planting the same amount of tomatoes to accommodate our salsa intake for the year.  The remaining half of the garden that will be allotted to vegetables is 15x18 feet.  So in theory that leaves me just 8x18 for other vegetables.  Unless I can find a more efficient gardening method.

I work at an ag & tech college, in a library where a significant portion of the book collection is dedicated to various agricultural sciences.  So I checked out the book on square foot gardening to browse over my lunch break.  I ended up buying a copy (Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew, used, 19th printing of the first edition, for less than $5 including shipping).

Trying out square foot gardening is going to involve some investment, mostly in a soil amendment to improve the aeration of the soil (vermiculite if I can get it, sphagnum moss if I can't).  When I originally dug the beds, I dug them deep-bed style, about 18" deep.  So the soil is pretty loose, and I'll till it again in about a month to mix in any compost and aeration amendments I'm adding.  (I'm assuming in a month; it might be later depending on how the weather goes.)

I will say that I am ignoring some of the advice in the book; I am not starting with just one 4x4 square foot bed.  I have been gardening in my yard with deep-bed spacing for around ten years, and I'm already accustomed to tighter plant spacing and not walking on my gardening beds.  The bigger change for me is the soil aeration and block rather than row planting for some crops.

Some of the solutions in the book I am already using, particularly 2' chicken wire to deter the rabbit(s).  Since I want to plant sunflowers again in the flower side of the garden, I'll be fencing the whole garden again this year, and I'll probably buy new chicken wire for it since my plastic fencing is wearing out.  I'm also going to build myself a little gate so I can get in without tripping over the fence this year.  (Well prepared garden soil is soft to land on but I don't want to squish any plants.)

Anyway, if this works, I will be planting... a lot more than I have in the past.  I've blocked out beans and carrots for canning.  I'm putting in some strawberries.  I'll put the herbs in the garden this year, rather than in pots, and do additional lettuces (staggered) in the planters by the back door.  Number of plants for some things was determined more by the number that come in a pack at the garden center I go to than anything else (brassicas and tomatoes come in 6 packs, most squashes and peppers are 2 packs).

15x18 foot garden planned in Excel where each cell represents a square foot 

The center of the garden, roughly north to south, will be two rows of tomatoes on either side of a 2-foot aisle, with the fencing for the peas, cantaloupes, and cucumbers on one side and the one for the squashes, gourds, and watermelons on the other.  I'll have room for a block of sweet corn.  I'll probably backfill some of the early lettuce and spinach squares with more flowers if I don't want additional leafy greens.  I may need to acquire more pint jars (since quarts of green beans is a bit much for two people in one meal).

The only complicated thing at the moment is I need to acquire additional fencing for the squashes and gourds, and I haven't found anywhere locally that sells 8' livestock panels.  Getting a 16' livestock panel home would be difficult, and it would also be annoying to wrangle and store in the off season.  So I may have to give them the one I have and do something like netting for the peas, which do not have the same support needs.

Anyway, if this goes too well, I'll probably be looking to unload more than zucchini and cherry tomatoes on unsuspecting coworkers at some point this summer.