It is time to begin planning your 2017 garden! You may have already been looking over catalogs, and have an idea of what you want to plant. Hold on there!
First, you should look at where your garden is going to be. Near the kitchen, of course, but not too far away to be “out of sight, out of mind.” A possibility, if you have a large area, is a small kitchen garden for spices and herbs near the door, and a larger garden for fruits and vegetables further away. If you don’t have much space, think about planning a container garden or vertical gardens.
My garden is about 30 feet away from the back door.
What is the lay of the land?
Once you have a garden spot picked out, go and become ‘outstanding in your field’ during various times of the day. Stand there and look around. When will it be sunny or shady? Where does the sun rise and set throughout the year? Is it in full sun, or partial shade?
Get down low to the ground, and look at how the land slopes (or doesn’t slope). Look for low spots, or high spots. These spots can be used to advantage. You can plant water-loving plants in the low spots, and plants that like to keep their roots dry in the higher spots. Or, your planning may mean leveling it all out.
Is it accessible?
Look at the access your proposed plot has. It should be near to a place where you can get to in a vehicle, when you bring in dirt, plants, and other things. I’m not a fan of hauling things in a wheelbarrow for long distances. Where is the water source? Do you have a hose long enough to reach all the parts of your garden? In the future, I am going to put a water pipe and faucet into the garden. This arrangement will also allow me to use a soaker hose. And finally, are you planning a place nearby where you can work, where you can temporarily hold plants, bedding and other supplies?
What about those pesky animals?
If you are in an area that has deer, raccoon or other critters, you’ve got to plan how to keep them out of the garden. When we first started our garden here, we had rabbit problems. It took 2 years before I figured out a rabbit-proof fence around the garden. Deer and raccoon aren’t a problem for me. However, we had goats back then, and they would jump my fence to nibble the crops. I finally put in a higher and stronger fence.
Planning for what kind of plants will grow where you want to grow them?
So now, you need to figure out what will grow best in your garden area. Do your research to determine the light requirements of your plants. Which plants need full sun, which can tolerate partial shade, which plants grow well in the shade. Good planning here will allow for happy crops and bountiful harvests.
Which plants like lots of water, which ones like less? What plants like cool weather, and what plants like hot summers?
These questions will give you a general idea for your garden and plant layout.
Ideas for my garden
I have a plot plan roughed out, based on last year’s garden, but with modifications. I am planning 4 plots for herbs, near the garden gate for ease of access. Then I have 12 other plots, 4 foot by 6 foot, that I am dividing into 4 groups of three plots. One group of three will be fallow, planted in clover or some other soil building crop. One group of three will be for root crops, a third group for leaf crops, and the fourth group for fruit crops. The reason I am planning in groups is for ease of crop rotation. Next year, I can simply move a whole group into another plot.
Then I have a couple of other plots for overflow or experimental crops like amaranth.
Finally, I am going to use my fence around the garden for trellis plants like cucumbers, beans, peas or Malabar spinach. In the spring, the trellised plants on the fence will also act as a windbreak for the strong winds we get off the treeless pasture next door. That is another benefit of permaculture teaching–making one object do double duty.
I haven’t yet decided exactly what to plant in each plot, only a general idea. I do know what plants are good companions, and what plants attract bees and good bugs or deter the bad bugs. This year’s garden won’t be in neat blocks and rows, but lots of plants inter spaced with each other. It won’t look neat, but it will be tidy, and I hope, productive.
Keep up with me throughout next year, and I’ll keep you informed of my progress. Let me know in the comments below, what your gardening plans for 2017 are!