Tuesday, March 03, 2015

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Backyard Garden

Back Yard
This is my first year planning and planting a garden that is big enough to actually require detailed planning. I gotta say it's kind of fun. My parents always had a garden in the backyard but the majority of it was filled with tomatoes and peppers and not much greens of any kind.  I also remember them growing peas which I did not care for and still don't to this day. It is one of the few things I will not be planting in my garden.

An afternoon harvest last year
Before moving last summer, my garden consisted of a bed of blueberries, zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes and herbs and I planted the same thing in the same place every year. With the exception of tomatoes, I did experiment with different varieties every year and also tried growing different herbs once in a while. So, my garden was pretty boring compared to the one at the new house which includes a greenhouse. It did not however include any compost bins so that was one of the first things we built. When I moved in at the end of the summer, there were many things growing and ready for harvesting: chard, kale, carrots, beans, tomatoes, peppers raspberries and eggplant. The backyard also has mature apple, pear and plum trees. I was sad not to see an herb bed but there was half a bed dedicated to mint and another half dedicated to chives. Why anyone needs that many chives I will never know. They ended up getting dug up and only saved a few which I re-planted in a different location and I will probably be making the bed of mint a little smaller to make room for more tomatoes.

You would think 6 large beds and a greenhouse would be enough garden space for someone used to having such a tiny garden but I found the more garden planning I did the more I wanted to plant but didn't have the room. We ended up adding a smaller bed dedicated for herbs and another bed on the other end of the backyard between the compost bins and the chicken run for miscellaneous items like squash that take up a lot of space.

Originally I had created a garden plan in Excel which worked ok but then I started looking into some online apps that make planning your garden a lot easier and decided to go that route. There are a few free ones and a few paid subscription ones. The one I settled on using is called GrowVeg and may be the most popular but there is a $25/year fee and a 30 day free trial, which I find very reasonable. I found it really easy to use and the plans just look nice and are very customizable. Here are a few of my favorite features of GrowVeg:
  • exensive database of plants and varieties of each
  • ability to add varieties that are not built into the database
  • database includes spacing requirements for each plant
  • easy drag and drop interface
  • charts recommending planting times (indoor and outdoor) for your growing zone
  • email reminds when it's time to plant something that is in your plan
  • crop rotation: saves previous years plans and shows where not to plant certain plants based on where you planted it and others like it the previous year
  • ability to make your garden plan public 
current plan for 2015
So far the plan includes the following fruits and vegetables:

Asparagus
Basil
Bay
Beans (6 varieties)
Beets (2 varieties)
Bok Choy
Borage
Brussels Sprouts
Burnet Salad
Cabbage (2 varieties)
Carrots (3 varieties)
Celery
Camomille
Chili Peppers (2 varieties)
Cilantro
Cucumber (3 varieties)
Dill (2 varieties)
Endive
Escarole
Garlic
Kale (4 varieties)
Lettuce (4 varieties)
Marjoram
Mustard (3 varieties)
Onions (5 varieties)
Oregano
Parsley
Parsnip
Peppers
Potatoes (2 varieties)
Radish (2 varieties)
Rhubarb
Sage (2 varieties)
Shallots
Spinach (2 varieties)
Squash (4 varieties)
Chard (2 varieties)
Tarragon
Thyme
Tomatoes (13 varieties)

You can see my full plan including plant list and varieties on MotherEarthNews. I'll be sharing more here about my garden's successes, failures and some of the methods I used.

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