Garden for 2010

To plant, or not to plant, that is the question.  Almost a year ago, I wrote a great post about Saving Money With Gardening.  Even though I wasn’t able to tend to my garden properly last year, we still reaped the rewards with an ever blooming tomato plant, hardy bell peppers, and bundles of herbs that grew well into the fall.  This year we are going all out and will be trying many different methods to generate a bountiful harvest as frugally as possible.

Here’s how we got organized last month:

1) Make a list of what you want to plant.  Flowers, veggies, herbs, etc..  and the space, light, and water requirements for each.

2) Determine which item loves cool weather or hot weather.  Examples of cool weather crops: sugar snap peas, lettuce, radishes.  Examples of hot weather crops: tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers.

3) Figure out the technical details: irrigation (drip, soaker, rain barrels, garden hose, etc…), garden supports (tomato cages, bean trellises, etc…), animal barriers (protection from rabbits, deer, etc…), weed barriers (mulch, garden borders, etc…)

With items 1, 2, and 3, create your garden plan.  Go out in your yard and figure out where you can put your garden(s).  Do you have ample space?  Will you use containers to grow in?  Do you want raised beds?  Will you have separate spring and summer gardens or will you do a succession planting of summer stuff amongst the dying out spring crop?  Where is your water source located?  Where do you get the most sun?  Sketch out some ideas on paper to get you started with your plan. 

Next steps:

4) Decide if you want to start your own seeds, sow in ground, or buy seedlings?  This all depends on what you want to plant.  Spring crops do great by sowing in the ground directly.  Some summer crops should get a head start indoors, whether by yourself or by buying seedlings from a store to plant.  The reason for that depends on how long your summer is.  By the time some plants mature to produce fruit, summer is nearly over.  For example, last year I grew Thai pepper plants from seed and by the time the plant was producing fruit it was already late September.  If you are new to gardening, you might want to pick up some established seedlings at your local garden center or home improvement store when they come into season.  If you want to start your own seeds, stay tuned for my post about seed starting.  After my miserable seed starting failure last year, we are starting from scratch and going semi-pro.

5) Now that you have the beginnings of a plan, you can start talking budget.  Gardening takes money.  On the low end, you can buy a big pot, a bag of soil, stick a tomato plant in it and water it with a glass.  On the high end, you can build a raised bed, haul in truckloads of soil, and install drip irrigation on timers.  Figure in the costs of the plants, whether you plan to purchase grown seedlings or start your own (extra expense there).

We fall in the middle.  Every year we keep adding to our gardening treasure trove.  We have trellises, tomato cages, and drip irrigation built up from years of gardening.  We also have 3 very large areas of our yard that we’ve tilled truckloads of compost into over the years to go from clay to rich soil. This year we are adding seed starting to our budget.  We will spend very little for everything else.

6) Determine date for preparing garden.  This includes digging it up, checking the pH and amending the soil (compost, fertilizer), and taking care of any of the details from #3 that you can (ex. bury soaker hoses, dig in rabbit fencing, lay your border around the garden, setting up trellises, etc…).  Some things will have to wait until your plants are in the ground (ex. mulching, drip irrigation, staking, etc…).

You should now be ready to go shopping.  You have thought about your garden carefully and all it will require.  You have weighed the pros and cons of all aspects.  You will grow what your budget allows, even if it’s only an herb garden on your window sill this year.  Next year, you can expand upon what you already have.

That’s pretty much what I’ve been up to last month.  We dug our spring garden up, setup the trellises, and buried the soaker hoses.  I planted my sugar snap peas last weekend and will plant everything else this Saturday.  I’ve been stymied by thunderstorms for the past 2 weeks.  I can’t plant delicate lettuce seeds only to have them washed away during a storm.  It’s supposed to rain like the dickens for the next two days and we are cutting it close for a spring crop.  I’m starting our summer plants indoors this weekend, so at least we’ll have a bumper harvest mid-year.

Feels so good to get my feet dirty again!

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