Garden Planning Basics

We love any excuse to sit down with a mug of tea and day dream about food. January is the perfect time to dream about sunshine filled days, abundant gardens, and seedlings and flowers popping up.

While West Coast Seeds catalogue and their Garden Wisdom blog is our primary go-to for starting our plan; we like to follow basic guidelines each year to ensure an abundant garden.

Planning your garden allows you to become aware of your space, revisit favourite vegetables and evaluate how your garden fared in previous years.  Now is the time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t.  Scrupulous notes from days past would be helpful here but the reality is that most of us home gardeners plant, water, eat and repeat, and that’s okay!

 

“When to Plant?”

Let’s start with the ever important question “When to Plant?”.  We have three (3) growing seasons to consider during planning:  cool (spring and fall), warm (summer), and cold (winter).  Each season has vegetables that thrive in it’s conditions, with some vegetables overlapping (cool season vegetables are the most adaptable).

Since temperature is beyond our control, it needs to be the most important consideration when deciding what to plant.  If you don’t have notes for what worked in previous years, the West Coast Seeds Vegetable planting chart can be used to guide you in matching vegetables to their most productive season(s).

Suggested planting dates are based on the date of the expected last spring frost (March 27).

“What to Plant?”

Choose vegetables you like! Choosing what to plant based on flipping through a catalogue might not be the best way to decide.  Another option (dare we say better), is to ask your family what they like to eat.  Choose vegetables that are the most delicious when harvested fresh from the garden. If you have neighbours that grow crops, set up a barter system to share bounty.  In small home gardens space can be limited and sharing crops can expand your selection.

Cool Season vegetables. Cool-season vegetables grow an average of 10C to 15C below the needs of warm-season crops.  These crops can be planted in early spring and their crops will mature before the heat of summer.  Planted late in the summer, they will reach their peak during the cool, shorter days of fall. Some of our favourite for the West Coast are below.

Cool Season (Spring/Fall)

Arugula

Asparagus

Broccoli

Cabbage

Carrots

Cauliflower

Celeriac

Celery

Chicory / Endive

Chives

Cilantro

Collard

Corn Salad

Cress

Dill

Fennel

Kale

Kohlrabi

Lettuce

Mesclun (salad greens)

Onion Set

Pac Choi

Pea

Radicchio

Radish

Rhubarb

Shallot / Scallions

Spinach

Swiss chard

Watercress

 

Warm Season Vegetables.  Warm-season, or summer, vegetables need soil to be warm, long days, and higher temperatures day and night to form and ripen fruit.  Less hardy than cool season vegetables, they do not tolerate frost and thrive in warm weather.  Some of our favourite vegetables are below.  Note that peppers and eggplants may need to be grown under plastic in order to get enough warmth to be bountiful.

Warm Season (Summer)

Basil

Bean

Cabbage

Carrot

Corn

Cauliflower

Cucumber

Eggplant

Melon

Mustard

NZ Spinach

Nasturtiums

Okra

Onions

Pepper

Pumpkin

Squash (summer & winter)

Sunflower

Sweet potato

Tomato

Watermelon

 

“How to Plant?”

Plants do not thrive when crowded.  Light, air, space, water and nutrients are key to a strong yield.  To achieve the ideal spacing for plants, we follow the Square Foot Garden method.  Rather than spacing the plants by the directions on their seed packet, we plant them based on a number of plants per square foot.  It’s easier to remember and apply to your beds.  It’s a easy as running string along and across your beds to delineate multiple square feet. Plant each plant in a square foot area as outlined below.  It’s easiest if you plant the same crops in the same row, whether you have 2 square feet or 4 square feet across.  The below table can help you plan your garden area by showing you how many plants fit in each square foot area.

 

Square foot garden cauliflower
Square foot garden carrots

Cool-season Plant Spacing

SMALL PLANT (16) MEDIUM PLANT (9)
Arugula

Beet (small)

Carrot

Onion Set

Mesclun

Parsnip

Radish

Scallion

Turnip (small)

Beet (large)

Chives

Cilantro

Mustard

Onion Bulb

Pak Choi/Spinach

Pea

Spinach

Turnip (large)

LARGE PLANT (4) EXTRA LARGE PLANT (1)
Fava Bean

Garlic

Celeriac

Kohlrabi *

Lettuce

Shallots/Leek

Swiss Chard

Parsley

Radicchio

Broccoli *

Brussels Sprouts *

Cabbage *

Cauliflower *

Celery *

Collard *

Dill/Fennel

Endive

Horseradish

Kale *

Potato

Rhubarb

Watercress

 

* seedling

 

Ready to Plan?

If this is your first year planning – congratulations! You have taken the first step in what we hope will be a lifetime of growing food. If you are a seasoned gardener, use this year to journal your garden adventure, take note of weather (last and first frosts, daily changes), planting dates, successful harvests, and failures (these are just as important!).

By starting your planning with our 3 simple questions, you will be well on you way to fresh, local produce.  Gift yourself the gift of time and get started  as you note that:

  1. Understanding the growing seasons will help you understand when to plant your favourites
  2. Choosing the vegetables you love will ensure your veggies are enjoyed and won’t go to waste
  3. Square foot gardening is a simple method to help you get the most our of your garden space

Happy Planning!

Love the EarthBites team.

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