Editor's note: Small Space Gardening by Diane Dryden is a series of garden articles that will run the entire summer with information for both new and experienced gardeners.
Plot Planning, Bulb Starting, Crop Rotation, and Saving Toilet Paper Tubes.
Another essential part of dedicating a pad of paper to your garden project this year is so you can plot out your planting, because it's WAY TOO EARLY TO START SEEDS!
You should already have a list of things you want to grow on one of the pages, and this is where you draw out where you'd like your plot, plots, or containers and what you're going to put in them.
Remember, if you're planting in the ground, the tall plants should be on the north side of the bed, and the shorter plants towards the south. Another reason to know your compass directions and your sun patterns.
- Small Space Gardening: Sun Patterns And Soil Types
- Learning How To Read Seed Catalogs And Packets And The Difference Between Perennials And Annuals
I, like so many others, draw out where everything goes before I put in a single seed in. Once you've planted a row or two in the soil, pulling the seeds back out to put them someplace else isn't going to work, so plan ahead.
Because the subject matter of these garden articles is small space gardening, it takes careful planning to get in everything that you want to grow.
We plant in 4 raised beds. Two are 4' x 8', and two are 4' x 6'. We also have a 5' x 5' square spot in the ground, two hog fences that are 4' x 16' with their own long, skinny strips of soil on both sides of the fence, and five or six large containers.
The four raised beds form the sides of a large square, and there is space in the middle of the square for a small crop of something. Usually it's a flowering, climbing flower.
By keeping a copy of the drawing of which crop was planted, it's easy to rotate the crops the following year. The onions, garlic, and shallots we planted on the south side of the square last year are on the west side this year. Next year they'll be on the north.
Because each crop you raise depletes the soil somehow or leaves some of its own pathogens behind, moving that crop out of that space reduces the possibilities of building up the depletion. Corn robs the soil of nitrogen, and beans add nitrogen to the ground. It only makes sense when the corn comes out; beans should go in the following year. Didn't I tell you gardening was tricky? Another reason to start small.
The two hog fences are superb for climbing plants such as pole beans. They also make excellent places for tying those indeterminate tomatoes that insist on growing to glorious heights. I find I can double crop these fences by planting climbing plants on the north side and a short crop, like beets, on the south side of the fence. Neither one interfering with the other. Like a row of beets in front of climbing beans.
This year we're trying something new by planting three of our favorite tomato plants in large tubs and potatoes in recycled bags that once held purchased soil.
We'll be planting 17 types of vegetables, all in relatively small spaces. New this year are Nadapeno peppers, Glass-Jem Corn and Atomic Tomatoes.
The peppers are billed as having a jalapeno flavor, but not the heat. The corn is the traditional Indian corn but looks like clear glass, and the tomatoes are billed as wild-colored and cherry-sized.
Since we have a constant stream of deer that treat the garden as their personal salad bar, we always apply a hefty amount of Milorganite throughout the garden. It's the best deer replant/low-grade fertilizer ever available at most big box stores.
The drawback to this product is having to spread it after every rain. The plus side is it's all organic, coming from the breaking down of the solid wastes in a city's sewer system. Naturally, it has the slight smell of an outhouse, but it works. We use this product during the winter, too, for protecting our cedar-type Arborvitae trees from being a tasty winter snack for those hungry whitetails.
If you didn't get your fall bulbs in last autumn, like daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, etc., you could plant them now in the house instead of waiting for this October. Simply fill pots with soil and push the bulbs halfway down into the soil. Put them in a sunny spot, water when dry, and in a month or six weeks, you'll have blooming plants in time for Easter or Mother's Day.
A reader in Florida used egg cartons to start her peas this year. All she needs to do when they're ready to plant out is to nip out the bottom of each egg slot, cut the carton in half length ways, and nestle each half into that warm Florida soil.
Don't forget to check on any bulbs you dug last fall and over-wintered in the basement. Plants like dahlias, gladiolas, and Canna lilies. Check to make sure they're not sending out shoots yet, and if they are, you'll need to plant them in pots, put them in a sunny window, and hope they don't grow too tall before it's time to plant them out outside in the ground. Remember it's still way to early to start seeds!
It is time to start saving every toilet paper tube you can get your hands on and those nice clear plastic boxes that hold the salad greens you get from the grocery store. Plastic coffee "cans" are another must-save because it will be seed starting time before you know it!
Next time we'll discuss, February cabin fever, seed starting containers, grow lights and heat pads
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