Dig In: No better time to plan

Planning the garden might be the most important part in its creation.

Mary’s support group brainstorming the garden plan. At least that’s what they claim.

Mary’s support group brainstorming the garden plan. At least that’s what they claim.

Planning the garden might be the most important part in its creation.

Gardening without a plan is like having a party without knowing who’s coming, how many there will be and where everyone will sit. Sure you can wing it and have a pretty good time — maybe — but you’re going to have a better time if you have a plan, and there’s no better time to plan than now.

You aren’t going to be gardening much this January.

It may be below freezing outside, but I have put my time to good use. I’ve figured out how to fit in as many crops as my space will allow and still give each bed a scheduled-in fallow period with a cover crop. In order to accommodate successive plantings my plan needs to encompass both yearly and seasonal rotations. Therefore, I have an eight-year plan and each year is subdivided into spring, summer, fall and winter.

If garlic is grown it will use the same bed from fall through winter and spring and come out mid-summer so the rest of the garden is planned around this. When garlic comes out, salad greens and radishes go into this bed until fall ends them and I try for a late cover crop. Early next spring I’ll plant more cover crop, dig it in before it goes to seed, repeat with more cover crop and allow the last batch in fall to take the bed through the winter.

The following spring I’ll plant early potatoes; when they come out in summer, over-wintering vegetables go in and stay through fall, winter and the following spring. Then in early summer the squash and beans go in. When I start harvesting beans I under-crop the squash and beans with cover crop so when the vegetables are finished, this cover crop will protect the soil all winter.

Peas go in the next spring, along with celery and celeriac; in summer the peas come out and late brassicas replace them, continuing with the celery and celeriac throughout fall and early winter. The next spring I sow roots including carrots here and I keep re-sowing them every three weeks until mid-summer so I’ll still be harvesting until late fall.

Early brassicas go in the following spring, late peas in summer and cover crop when they come out in fall. Salad greens and carrots follow the next spring and summer until finally garlic goes in again in October.

Every bed follows this routine as all my shade-tolerant crops rotate through the beds. I have a similar rotation plan for my four heat-loving crops on the south side of the house. Now, what else can I do while I wait for the thaw?

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.