While our garden is now blooming and being fruitful, I though I would share some insight into the planning process that went into making it the way that it is. Back when Andrew was still in MN and I was here in NJ we sat down on Skype and started to plan out our garden using the collaborative draw tool on Google docs. We had gone in on a bulk seed order through the other gardeners at the community garden and ended up getting: green beans, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, snap peas, and zucchini. In addition, I have purchased some other seeds: broccoli and flowers (nasturtiums, marigolds, and 2 dahlia bulbs).
The night before the plot selection we had to figure out how big of a plot we needed. To do this we wanted to get an idea of everything we wanted to plant and how much to plant of each. It took awhile to decide upon on a tentative layout. The things we discussed were: total size of the garden, how much of each plant did we want to produce, how much room to give each plant, how tall were the plants going to get, which direction to plant the rows (N-S vs.E-W), and probably more that I can remember now.
We were able to come to a rough idea of what we wanted:
A 15’x17′ plot with a row of each of: spinach, lettuce, and carrots, short rows of peas and beans, 2 hills each of: zucchini and cucumbers, and lots of room for tomatoes and sweet peppers, and a small bit of room for the hot peppers and eggplant.
What we ended up with:
A 18’x25′ plot in the front corner of the garden (one of the choice spots in the garden with lots of light). Some unique characteristics of our plot:
-we have good drainage in both directions (although with a heavy rain, we may have to worry about our hills getting washed out)
-there is a mint infestation in the garden (in the front of our plot in particular). Because mint can effect the flavor of certain vegetables (like tomatoes) we had to keep this in mind when we redid our layout
-there is a shed in front of our plot which will shade the front section of the garden in the morning, but should not be a problem
-the garden curves on the corner
So we went back to the doc and took into account the new parameters of the garden. While the plots was a lot bigger than we had planned, it ended up being a good thing, since I had forgotten to include walk ways and drainage ditches between the beds. Plus we were able to space out some of our plants and add in a few new ones.
We decided to add some broccoli (since we had some extra space), and I decided I wanted to try my hand at companion planting. Companion planting involves planting different crops close to each other in order to benefit each other (either through nutrient uptake, pest repellent, pollination, or other factors that aim at increasing productivity). From what I have read:
Marigolds are one of the best for this as their smell is said to deter aphids from feeding on the nearby plants, and they attract hoverflies that are predators of aphids.
Nasturtiums are used as trap cropping, in which they attract predators such as caterpillars who prefer nasturtiums to the crops.
Here is a great doc with a list of plants that work well as companions: http://downloads.smilinggardener.com/files/images/articles/vegetables/companion-planting-chart.pdf
Here is the before and after pictures of the document we created for our garden plan:
Here are some pictures of our first adventures in the garden. Since no one had anything planted (and the garden is completely fenced in), Charley got the unique pleasure of running off leash. Fun times!
Our bare plot. The first thing I did was dig the walkways/drainage ditches and set up the trellis for the peas. It might be hard to get an idea from the plan what goes where in the pictures, but these pictures are mostly taken from the “bottom” of our garden plan, near where the hot peppers and basil were going to go.