07 December 2011

Garden Planning

After reading a few gardening books with methods that I'm convinced will save me time and work (reviews coming soon!), I'm itching to get back to gardening. I had some pretty plants going around the border of our yard a few years ago - sunflowers, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, summer squashes - but when health difficulties hit, that went by the wayside. I'm getting to having more energy, so now is the time to start again. However, because it's been so long and now that we have our backyard chicken flock, we're starting from scratch (and have to build a fence or two to keep the girls out of the garden). Right now, we're simply trying to mulch the garden area, adding as much organic matter to it as we can to try to get a head start on enriching the soil.

We have a great book that details gardening in the Phoenix to Tucson corridor, but it's in storage with the rest of our books while we replace our 20-year-old carpet with wood laminate (which is back-ordered by at least a month, if not more). In the meantime, I'm looking at catalogs and websites of seed companies that are up north, where they have short growing seasons. Even though it may not have occurred to you (if you've ever spent time thinking about it), we have lots of short seasons here. We can have a week or two of frosty weather in late December, January, or early February, but then it heats up fast. We have to wait until it's warm enough to plant, but have to harvest before it gets too hot.

I've found a source of hay for deep mulch and am looking over seed company websites (and clipping all sorts of information to Evernote).

I've set up a spreadsheet in Numbers to keep track of what to plant when and what to harvest when. I'll also add notes about how things do, with plans for how to try to improve as time goes on. As with my health, I'm trying to approach gardening on an experimental basis. I don't have to know it all, but can learn over the course of years. I can experiment with different varieties and different growing methods. If something doesn't work this year, there's always next year.

To make the list, I'm going over past grocery lists and putting down all the fresh and frozen veggies we've been buying (as well as some I'd like to try). With the size of our family, I don't know that I'll have much to can or freeze, but if we can keep the garden growing most of the year, we should be okay. When more of the chicks have flown the nest, then I can think about storing our bounty (and passing it along to bless others).

I'll use graph paper to plan out the garden (note to self: add a column for plant height to the spreadsheet so tall plants don't (or do) shade short plants). I'm also going to lay out a calendar about what to plant and harvest when so I can figure out what I can plant in succession on the same piece of soil. Lots of planning to do, but that's part of the fun of it, isn't it?


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