Do you methodically plan out your garden each year? Or do you buy seedlings and plant them wherever they might land? I must admit, I start the season with the best intentions of following a plan. However when the time comes for planting, things seem to have a mind of their own!
There are some things you must keep in the back of your head.
Crop rotation – Don’t plant the same crop in the same place for over two years. Vegetables are categorized as “light” or “heavy” feeders, meaning some deplete lots of nutrients from the soil while others use very little. In addition we also have vegetables that build nutrients in the soil, like beans and peas – they fall into a category called nitrogen-fixing. The trick is to balance these 3 types of plants from year to year to keep your soil as healthy as possible. An example might be: leafy greens, then fruits, then root crops, then nitrogen fixers.
Crop rotation is also important for pest and disease problems as well. Tomatoes, for example, should not be planted in the same location year after year because some of the common diseases they can get remain viable in the soil over the winter.
Plant What You Will EAT! I always mess this up, even though I know what I should be doing. The first year you grow vegetables, you might try some unusual things – only to find out no one in your family will eat them. By doing this you are wasting precious space where vegetables that WILL be eaten could grow. I have learned to limit myself to 1-2 new types of vegetables each year, so I don’t waste too much space.
Quantities and timing are also huge considerations. If you family loves fresh green beans, but you are not able to preserve them – plant short rows every 2-3 weeks to ensure a continuous supply throughout the summer. However, if you plan on freezing those green beans, the planting should be longer rows so that you get more beans at one time.
Likewise, if you are the only one in your family who eats tomatoes, then you don’t need 10 tomato plants. I need to learn this lesson myself.
I don’t really eat tomatoes, but every year feel the need to see the different colors and shapes as they ripen in my garden. That usually means about 20 different tomato plants!