Garden Plan 2010 Draft

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Been busy couple weeks at work and coupled with the snow I just can't wait for Spring to come around.  I'll be picking up my seeds probably next week and within the next 2 weeks, start some seedlings indoors.  Visited the local nursery and they still hadn't put out the Veseys Seedsyet, but should be out next week I'm told.  I might just order them online...

I thought I would put some of my work conference call time to good use and draft up what our new raised garden beds would look like in Excel.  It's not pretty and things will not be planted as shown in the image, but setting it up this way will allow me to easily move things around.  Still have some reading to do an beneficial/companion planting and aligning to the sun.  Looking at the image, East is the top of the beds and West is the bottom.  The right side length of the beds will face South.  I have to confirm the number of seeds per square, per vegetable type as well as I only used one reference online but it didn't seem that accurate.  Once it's all put together proper, I should be able to calculate by function the number of total plants per type and benchmark yeild, etc... ya geeky, but it's a start ;o) 

I had to buy a few more training books for work so of course bought a treat.  I figure after toasting my brain on Windows 2008 Active Directoy Configuration (yes it's as exciting as it sounds), I thought I should reward myself with some good reading so included All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space! in my order.   Talk about "one of these things are not like the other..." (if you ever watched Sesame Street you get that ;o)  I had the original edition from the library but had to bring it back before I was done since someone else had it on hold (good for you!!).

So the plan is to study, finalize selection of seeds, start seedlings indoors and complete the plan for the new raised garden beds, almost in that order.  I'll be pricing out the Hemlock that I'll use for the beds once I calculate how much I need.  Also have to start looking for my options on materials to create my own versions of Mels's Mix.  I won't have enough compost to do all the beds so have to find some alternatives.  I can get loam and peat moss perlite at good prices, but good compost in bulk might be hard to come by in the quantities I'll need to kick off all these beds at once.  Still researching at this point. 

So as this is posted it's another snow day here (30cm of the white stuff) and seems like Spring will never come, but it will and I can't wait!!

Planning Our Summer Garden: Raised Beds

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Backyard Garden 2009

For the past 3 years we've planted a traditional type of row garden in a 14' x 40' and 20' x 6' sections of our backyard.  When we bought the house from my parents, there was a large ornamental flower bed that we slowly converted to a full vegetable garden.  Not really knowing what we were doing, we started slow, learned along the way and know there's much more to learn. 

This picture is the only one I could find that showed the entire garden.  Even though it's a bit small you can see the rows and the 2 apple trees in the back that we planed last spring.  The large tree in the top left corner will be moved as this year we want to move towards raised garden beds.  We want to go down that road for a few reasons:

Dogs: We have a 3 year old and an 8mth old pair of black labs.  They are great but the little one is a digger and chewer, so this is one of the main reasons for the change.  She already chewed up my raspberry bushes planted last year, which was my fault for putting her out where she could reach them, what was I thinking??  More on my remedies for this later.

Square Foot Gardening: The last few years we basically bought our seeds on a whim without much planning.  This worked out OK, but we didn't space our our plantings and ended up with too much lettuce or cherry tomatoes all at once, not enough potatoes, beans or carrots to carry us into winter, etc...  This year we are going to plan for preserves and follow intensive square foot gardening practices to increase our yields and maximize the space we have.  Also want to try companion planting of mutual beneficial vegetables and flowers.

Extending Growing Season: I've seen a few articles on using 8' pvc pipe and cover to create nice row covers to extend the growing season here in our Great White North when frost comes earlier then we want, so want to test it this year along with possibly experimenting on a few removable "Cold Frame" cover for the beds.

Ease of Management:I've never worked with raised beds before, but from I've read and feedback I've received from others, they are easier to keep up and work on.  Ours will be hemlock, which will match our fence when it goes up.  Everything is at an arms length away and the paths in between give you ample room to move about, also important for the dogs and kids ;o)

Esthetics's:I honestly find raised beds more neat and esthetically pleasing to the eye.  Since my wife is a photographer, we have a few other backyard projects to create good photo ops, which will tie into the beds as well.

I'm still playing with the design and layout, but we can easily go with eight 4' x 12' raised beds in the main area and another two 4' x 8' in the back.  This year we're going to test growing potatoes in a "potato stack" so that will be in addition to the raised beds and another post all together.

Putting money away for this project already and will purchase the hemlock for the raised beds in end of April or start of May depending on how the thaw goes... can't wait and will do a follow up post including pictures ;o)

Garden Companion Planting

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Companion planting is the art of combining vegetables and plants that are mutually beneficial to each other.  For example, you can plant pole beans with corn to give the beans a natural trellis.  You can plant different herbs or edible plants as a natural pest repelant.  Of course you can't just throw just any plant together, so planning is key.

Native Americans planted "Three Sisters" which is corn, beans and squash which is a great time honored example of companionship gardening.  The beans use the corn as a natural trellis and the squash use the shade of the corn and beans.  Corn and lettus are also a good combination as the corn lends shad to the lettuce.  Examples of natural pest repelant companions are onions, marigolds, mint and sweet basil.  These examples have properties that either repel or lure away harmful insects from your garden. 

Research is obviously key and we will be picking up a couple of books this winter to help plan our garden for next season.  There are two books that come highly recommended and which we will do a review on after we read through them: Carrots Love Tomatoes and Great Garden Companion.  There is plenty of information out there on the Internet and forums as well. 

Our challenge is to find the best companions for our climate.  Although staples such as the "Three Sisters" can be grown in our Eastern Canadian climate, we want to expirement with other mixes.  Here are some ideas we have:

  • Basil: Will plant to help repel flies and mosquitos as well as improve our Tomatos
  • Sunflowers: Will plant to bring shade for beans and potatoes as well as attact birds and bees for pollination
  • Corn: Will be planting with beans and squash
  • Horseraddish: Will plant to deter potato beetle
  • Marigold: Will plant as a natural pest repelant
  • Onions: Will plant to protect against ants and slugs

These are just a few ideas and I'm sure they will change or become more elaborate as we research and put down our garden plan to paper for next season.  The key is how to put things together which is where your garden plan comes in.  Take the time to properly plan out your garden as noted in Garden Planning Helps.

Keep It Green!