Vegetable Garden Planning
We are always happy to come out to do consultations to help people plan their gardens. However, we believe you may have a better use for our time and your money. If you really want us to come, we will teach the basics of soil science/ maintenance/amendments, sun, watering correctly, choosing crops, succession planning, and crop rotations, and then focus on your specific gardens. A great initial book to study for this is the Maritime NW Garden Guide, by Seattle Tilth (now Tilth Alliance). They also have affordable classes they teach on site. Contact CEL if you want a personalized class for you or your neighborhood.
Plants/Program from our Company
Another A great way to plan your garden is to sign up for a Membership in the Lite Version- of Community Supported Plant Starts Program We used to have 4 seasons of memberships, but slimmed down the program to just include Spring starts (available end of March, Summer Starts (available Mid-Late May, and Fall Starts to be in August. In it you get plants at the correct time of year, as well as planting tips and applicable notes.
There are many styles that one can employ.
One option I bring up is “Square Foot Gardening“. For larger plots, you will want to read Steve Solomon’s Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades. Then for intensive organic method is How to Grow More Vegetables, Ninth Edition: (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land with Less Water Than You Can Imagine
Basics of Planning (learn these and you’ll do OK!)
- Locate Priority, Tender, and High Value Plants: Plants such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers and basil need the most sun. You will need to reserve the sunniest spots from Mid May-September or October. South facing walls can be particularly good for providing the heat that these plants like in order to produce an abundant harvest. That said, you can have a quick succession of a leafy green in Spring.
- Succession Planting: If you are short of space or want a crop throughout the season, consider using succession planting and inter-cropping – see my article on getting more crops from an area and our video on using the garden planner (see below) to organize succession planting (see books and links above)
- Location, Location, Location: What plants do you want to be able to regularly harvest? Herbs, salad, tomatoes etc..? These should all be placed as near to your kitchen as possible. Not only will you then be more likely to use them but it will help you to keep on top of the weeds and remove slugs regularly.
- Be careful to NOT Overcrowd: A common mistake is to overcrowding and/or not thinning plants directly sown. Often nurseries sell packs of plants with multiple starts in them. When you direct sow seeds, you usually have to thin after 2-4 weeks. You must thin those out to the specific spacing (see books above). It is perfectly OK to thin, as if you don’t, none of the plants grow correctly!
- Sprawling and High Space needs Plants: Next place plants that like to send out vines that roam around the garden including cucumber, melon, squash etc. These should be planted in corners or edges of your beds, or possibly be in their own beds
- Vertically Climbing Plants: Anything that grows up supports – peas, beans and some squash such as cucumbers, will need to be located where they won’t shade other vegetables. The one exception is areas with very hot summers where some cool-season crops such as lettuce and spinach can benefit from shade in the heat of the day. Trellises are great. Check out our store for some options, and we are happy to build you custom ones as well.
- Irrigation: Some plants need consistent moisture. Lower parts of your garden will often (not always) collect more moisture. You probably will want to set up an irrigation to get consistent growth. CEL can help you with that. Please fill out our questionnaire to set up a site visit.
- Pollination: Certain plants need to be near others in order to pollinate. Corn is the most most obvious one that comes to mind. Squash will cross pollinate, so if you have more than 1 variety nearby, your seed will not breed true (but you still will get something that resembles what you planted)
Here are a couple of online tools we have found that are worthy.
Grow Veg- $29 per year, but you have 30 day free trial.
Gardeners Supply has a nice one as well.