It’s finally time to create your garden plan

As a father-son team, we both tend to tear things up. We’re not reckless, just action-oriented – spontaneity can be a lot of fun.

However, the orientation towards action has costs, especially with regard to market gardening. We have lost count of the number of times we have had too many grafts for the allocated space, or not enough. Or when we forgot to add one of our favorite food crops when planting.

The best way to avoid disappointment is to create a plan. Here’s how to do it:

Start on paper. Computer software might work, but gardening should be an excuse to get away from the computer. Start with a pencil and a sheet of paper. Grid paper is useful, using a square to represent a square foot, or a third of a yard, if your garden is reasonably geometric. If your garden has a more organic shape, lean on your artistic abilities.

Establish a timeline. With your garden plan in front of you, you will need a calendar to plan the planting schedule. Time is as important as space, so it’s important to consider both as you go.

For example, in April, plan to sow the carrots, peas, lettuce, mixed greens, beets and onions that you want to grow directly in your garden.

In early May, when frosts can still be expected, plant kale, leek, cabbage, and Swiss chard seedlings. Keep track of this in your calendar.

The plan. Space is rarer than time in most gardens. Let your plan guide you and take notes on the timeline as you go. If you do not yet have an established perennial food crop, we encourage you to start your rhubarb patch and asparagus slice (asparagus is planted in a trench 12 inches deep and backfilled with quality soil as it goes. and as the plants mature for six to eight weeks). Start asparagus with year-old roots rather than seeds, which are difficult and take longer to establish. A planting of 20 asparagus roots requires a row of about two meters wide and three meters long.

Most crops do well with succession planting.  After starting with the first planting date and adding another seedling every two weeks until the final harvest.

A single rhubarb plant will require one square meter of space. Rhubarb is best divided from an established plant. Ask your friends and family for a share of theirs. Transplant the root before it flakes. Color them on the map – red for rhubarb, green for asparagus – and create a legend to keep track of what’s what.

Consider the white space on your map and think of it as a space where you have the opportunity to crash something different or unexpected. Take the time to imagine what you want to see there. It’s a dream exercise, so don’t think too hard.

Remember, the rule of the new generation of gardeners is that there are no rules. Mix ornamentals with your edibles as you like. After all, you are only trying to make yourself happy.

Mark is known to give tomato plants to friends and family after growing too many for his garden.

Almanac or seed catalog. When you have a picture of the garden you wish to plant, browse the Harrowsmith Almanac and Seed Catalogs (all Canadian). You will find information to complete your plan and schedule, including required spacing and days to maturity.

When creating your vegetable garden plan:

  • Find the crop you want to grow and the space it will need. Fill in this space on your plan.
  • Look for “days to maturity” which is the number of days to harvest from the time you plant the seeds. Work from the harvest date to mark the planting date on your calendar. Most crops benefit from succession planting, so start with the earliest planting date and add another seedling or planting every two weeks until the final harvest.
  • Go through the plan, your imagination, the seed catalogs, the almanac and your calendar, continue until your plan is fully completed. Keep in mind that this plan is not set in stone – it is built in the earth and destined to change. It’s just a guide to help you maximize the use and productivity of your backyard space.

Take a step back and appreciate the artwork you’ve already created, without even putting a trowel in the ground. With your plan and timeline at your fingertips, you can’t go astray in creating a gardening masterpiece in 2021.

But remember that a little impulsiveness can add to the fun.

Mark and Ben Cullen are expert gardeners and contributors to The Star. Follow Mark on Twitter: @ MarkCullen4
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