Today I’m happy. Hopeful happy. It’s a feeling I get every spring (never mind that the weather and the calendar aren’t communicating very well these days, it is spring).
I’m hopeful, excited and optimistic about what this coming growing season will bring. Like most, I have a spring to-do list about a mile long… plan my veggie garden, start seeds, order seedlings, clean-up what I left behind last fall, prep the soil and get planting.
Where do I start? The wish list. Oh, that wasn’t even on my list! My son and I came up with a list of enough plants to feed most of the state, assuming we have a perfect growing season and all of them flourish. We can hope, right?
Next, I compare our wish list to reality. How much space do I have? Where did I put everything last year? What worked? What didn’t? If you don’t have a garden journal, start one. It makes this much easier next year. All of this information is really important for the health of your soil and your plants.
Whatever you do, do NOT plant everything where you planted it last year! Ideally, give your garden enough room to have at least a 3-year rotation. In other words don’t plant anything in the same spot until year 4.
Many people ignore this, until they have problems. It’s much easier to start off on the right foot – here’s why:
Reason #1: Plants need different nutrients – some are heavy users of certain nutrients and some replenish nutrients. If you keep the same plant in the same spot year after year you will start to notice a decline in your garden. Keep them moving to prevent the soil from getting depleted.
Reason #2: Plant fungus such as Tomato blight stays in the soil. If your plants got blight last year and you put them in the same spot this year, guess what? They’ll get blight this year. You also don’t want to put anything in the same family in that spot either. (Ex. :tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and peppers are all in the Solanaceae family.)
Attention container gardeners: These rules apply to containers too. If you stored them last year and don’t recall what was where, soak them for 30 minutes in a solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water and rinse well.
Back to the plan. Depending on what I planted last year, I tailor the wish list to the available space and then jot out what to put where.
The easiest thing to do for me is put a list of plants in the same family, figure out how many families I have and then set up a plan. Nothing specific, just A, B, C and D, where A = Solanaceae, B=Brassicaceae, etc. This makes future planning much easier, then all you need to rotate the letters on your plan.
There are many more layers you can add to your plan, such as companion plants, 2nd plantings, etc. But we’ll get to those later.