Springtime. Time for the weather to warm up, the sun to shine down, and the start of another growing season. In nature, the animals and plants have to rely on chance and circumstance to get a bountiful harvest.
But we aren’t animals. We don’t have to leave our gardens to chance. We can figure out and plan to get the most in the spaces we have. We can enhance the area we plant in and protect it from both animals and the weather alike. All it takes is some forethought to construct a garden that will last all season long.
And hopefully many seasons after that.
Planning – Garden Boxes
I’m a fan of having some rows and some larger boxes. I designed my garden to be feasible for a greenhouse, so you’ll need to figure out if that’s in your future too. If you’re looking to move forward with a greenhouse make sure that two side are long and there are openings in your boxes to walk through in the middle. If you’re not I’d still suggest sticking with no more than 1 opening per side, or perhaps opening just in the corners to reduce the amount of unused space. Also keep in mind that your walkways need to get you to each area and the depth of the planted areas as you’ll not want to walk on plants to get to everything.
I like spreadsheets for planing because I can set the default width to a square (to represent my default 2×2 foot box) and just move things around. But good old pencil and paper works well too. Again most of my ideas are based around eventually moving up to a greenhouse design. If moving to a greenhouse, try to keep the largest length to be no more than 20 feet. The largest width I’ve found in plastic covering is 20 feet, and unless you are going to buy custom sizes online, that’s what you are stuck with. Here are some ideas:
I try to keep my designs to a base of 2×2 feet for simplicity (and sanity) sake. 2 feet is the easiest to both plant with I’ve found, and to reach and manageable use. 4 foot deep beds are great for massive plantings (onions, scallions, asparagus) or ground covering items (squash, melons) or bushy plants (tomatoes). Beds are also useful for experimenting or trying new ideas as you have more wiggle room. Rows are best for things that you don’t need to reach behind to easily get at or things that you can string up to take advantage of the rows (cucumbers,).
Planning – Plants
Next up is to figure out which plants to go with. Some plants you’ll need to plant each year (annuals) and some take a bit more forethought as they live for more than 2 years (perennials). You will need to figure out how much space the plant will need, as sometimes they can grow quite large, if they have “runners” (mint and strawberries are notorious for this), and how they will behave with other plants (some enhance each other either by nutrients or flavor). These will be with you a while so you’ll ned to put bought into where you want them to stay. Once in place, they aren’t moving easily.
I have in my garden a few perennials: rosemary, thyme, mint, strawberries, chives and asparagus. I’ve tried isolating these on opposite ends of the garden to allow for more room to plant annuals through the year. You don’t want to plant constantly next to these plants as you might disrupt the root systems they have in place.
You also should keep in mind when to plant different plants. Some plants (like lettuce) do better in the cooler temperatures, where others like Tomatoes prefer the voter months. You don’t have to lock down a certain spot for the entire growing season. It just takes some planning to figure out when one plant can be removed and another added to get the most out of your garden.
The Paths & Boarders
You’re done right? Almost. The pathways need as much attention as anything else. the idea of a garden is to make your life easier. If you ignore your pathways, you are just asking for weeds and other muddy problems. You can avoid this by planning ahead.
The first way is to line the pathways with cedar chips. They come in a variety of colors and can add a nice hue to your garden, while helping keep weeds and mud down. You can also lay down flagstone (or any flat stone, or even bricks). This is a bit more expensive, but much easier on your feet. Unless you are the master with laying things out, you are going to have empty spaces… make sure to fill them in with mulch. Weed blocker can only do so much, and if you leave it exposed, weeds can often find ways to get through. By keeping your paths clear you’ll have an eraser time managing your garden.
So paths are the inside, but what about the outside? Too many years have I tried to grow corn… and too many times I just end up feeding the deer. By designing your boxes in a nice rectangle, you can add a very simple fence to keep out the critters (if you get “fancy” it can make it a bit more difficult to set this up). It depends on how much you want to spend, but you will have all the tools and anchors you need built into the raised beds themselves. Attach poles alongside your boxes and then wrap your garden in some netting. Or go a bit higher text and put in an electric fence. You can be as fancy or simple as you want. Just remember when figuring which plants to put in what boxes,that you don’t grow something that the animals will be able to get to easily next to the fence.
So you now have your design, what you are going to plant, and where/when, and how to keep it all organized and safe from the animals. So your done yes? Well no. Now you need to set it all up. And then once we have the basic down and the garden in place, we can enhance it with a bit of engineering…