Planning Your 2017 Garden, part 2 – What and How Much to Grow

Planning your 2017 Garden-What and How much to Plant
Planning your 2017 Garden-What and How much to Plant

Okay, so you have your garden spot picked out and surveyed, now you’ve got to go on to planning your 2017 garden. What to plant, and how much to plant. This decision is up to each individual or family. There are only two rules here: 1) Plant what you will eat. 2) Plant enough of what you will eat. Then a corollary: Don’t plant anything else, unless you have a good reason for it.

That’s the end of this blog post. Short and sweet, huh?

Planning the Crops:

The rest of the post is stories about how my wife and I plan our garden crops, as an illustration of the process.

For the herb garden, my wife is the major decision maker. She wants plants she can use in the kitchen. This means Stevia, Mint, Oregano, Cilantro, Parsley, Basil, Thyme and Rosemary. I have been looking at medicinal herbs, and herbs as pest attractors/repellors. I want to plant Lemon Balm, Sage and Tarragon. Other medicinal herbs can be planted later, after I get more education.

For vegetables, we both want lettuce, spinach, and tomatoes. Then my wife wants kale and Swiss chard. Broccoli and cauliflower are on our list, but last year, they were planted too late in the spring, and didn’t grow. Note to self: Better planning in the 2017 garden. Carrots are always on the list, but never seem to grow well.

We don’t want turnip greens. We discussed radishes. I wanted some, my wife wouldn’t use any. We compromised by planting them as companion plants. If any radishes get harvested, they are for my salads.

We discussed corn. My wife said there wasn’t enough ears of corn harvested to make it worth the while. One year, we lost almost the whole crop because of corn smut. Then we harvested too late one year, and the corn was too starchy. My 2017 plan is to plant more corn, and watch it closely.

We talked about peppers. Not my favorite, but we planted a bush each of red, yellow and green bell peppers. Seems like they were harvested mostly green. We also planted a hot chili pepper, and that was too much for us. We harvested and dried a bunch, and the bush kept on putting out more peppers. The rest of the crop pretty much went to waste. Planning for the future means finding some other way to use the excess

My wife is ambivalent about potatoes. We plant them, and hope for the best. One year, the ants got them; another year, they were drowned out by rain. One year, we got a crop of potatoes.

We are trying different types of bush beans and bush peas, as well as pole beans and pole peas. Another trellis plant we plant regularly is cucumbers. All of these are good producers for us.

The experiments:

Each year, we try some new plants. Garlic and onions last year; Ginger, pumpkins and cantaloupes this year. The garlic, onions and ginger did well; the cantaloupe and pumpkin were decimated by cabbage worms.

We tried watermelon again this year, with a successful harvest. Other years, the plants died before setting fruit.

How Much to Plant:

We decide how much to plant based on last year’s experience. One year, we planted a lot of okra, and got way more than we could use; this year, we had 3 okra plants, that was about enough.

We started this year with 4 tomato plants; 2 died from over watering due to the spring rains. The two survivors were cherry tomato plants, and they produced just about enough for us. A larger tomato variety would have been nice.

Zucchini gets mixed results in my garden. Some years, it produces a lot; last year, it died before producing anything. We have never had enough to put in bags on the neighbor’s porch in the middle of the night, like many anecdotes tell.

If you plant something, and it doesn’t come up, and you replant in that spot right away, you may be able to make up for the one that didn’t sprout.

There are also posts on Pinterest that talk about how much food to grow to feed a family of four for a year. The problem with posts like that, is that the harvest may come all at once, and then you have a problem with where to put the harvest before it goes bad. Learn to can, preserve and put up the rest. A root cellar is not practical in Zone 9, so canning and preserving might be the only options. We don’t have any canning experience at all.

In the end, how much to plant come down to personal preference and past year’s harvest experience. As you garden, year by year, you will grow in knowledge about plant yields, and can plan your 2017 garden accordingly.

Tell me your experiences in planting and harvesting–too much, to little, or in the Goldilocks zone-just right?