The Road Home

The Road Home
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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Planning The Garden

One thing I have learned about gardening is that it pays to have a plan. That doesn't mean it won't change in midstream or at the last minute, but a well thought out gardening plan tends to pay off with more to eat in the long run. And it's nice to do this pleasant chore from the comfort of my favorite chair.

I have saved my garden maps from the past two years, so I can move my crops around from year to year. The first map I saved is from 2012 and it wasn't on purpose. When I was putting this notebook together, I realized I still had the map and how much I could use it for future reference. Trying to pretend I will remember where I planted my vegetables from year to year is not realistic, so having this history in writing is a valuable tool.

A few years ago, I got out my companion planting information including my best resource, Carrots Love Tomatoes, and typed up a table listing my most commonly grown vegetables. It's a quick, easy reference for my garden when I am planning a new year.

The map from last year escaped somewhere before I got it put in my binder, so I had to make one from memory. That means it is not as accurate as the one from 2012. I have found that even if I make a map, if I change my mind, I can write the changes right on the map and keep it accurate. That means many of my pages are full of writing and scribbling. It will look like a mess of chicken scratch to most people, but it makes perfect sense to me. That is a key point. It makes sense to me. Use whatever system works best for you. Period.

My garden isn't very big so the space has to be utilized as much as possible. It also limits the distances I can manage when rotating my crops from year to year. I'm trying to wait at least two years before putting the same crop in the same place again, but I'm not always successful. 

Part of my plan includes when to start seedlings, when to plant them in the garden and when to direct plant seeds into the garden. Once I decide what I am going to plant, I can look everything up and determine when the seeds need to be planted, indoors or out. One of my problems every year is that I want to grow everything! And I want to try too many new things. Wanting to learn and do so much is exciting, but it turns out I am trying to do too many things at once. This means some things grow and some things don't, increasing the failure rates of my crops. This year I am going to (try) to limit the number of crops and the number of varieties within those crops. For instance, instead of growing eight different types of peppers, I am only growing two, jalapenos and an Italian sweet pepper.

Since I have completed my map and my planting schedule, I wanted to share my calendar of events so far.

I need to start seedlings for the following vegetables by February 15th.
  • Celery and celeriac - to be planted April 1st
  • Peppers - to be planted April 15th
  • Beets - to be planted March 1st
  • Onions - to be planted March 1st
  • Lettuce - to be planted March 1st
  • Carrots - to be planted March 1st
  • Tomatoes - to be planted April 15th
  • Peas - to be planted March 1st
  • Spinach - to be planted March 1st

I need to start seedlings for the following vegetables by March 15th.
  • Cantaloupe - to be planted April 15th
  • Cucumbers - to be planted April 15th
  • Pole beans - to be planted April 15th

I will plant some seeds directly into the garden. Most of these are larger seeds and plants that don't take well to being transplanted. I will plant these seeds around April 15th. Our last average frost date is April 1st and most of these plants like warmer weather to germinate. 

This list includes:
  • Corn
  • Purple Hull Peas (cow peas)
  • Okra
  • Yellow Crookneck Squash (which I start off as seedlings sometimes, it depends on how much time I have)

I need to start seedlings for my winter squash on July 1st to be planted around July 10th. These will go where the cabbage, beets, onions and lettuce will be winding up. The turnips I will direct seed into the garden around July 15th. They will take up the space the corn has been grown in this year.

These cold, dreary days of winter are a good time to dream of spring, new growth and warmer weather. And it doesn't hurt to have a picture of seedlings on the blog to cheer things up. 

Planning ahead for future needs is an essential task if success is to be achieved, whether it is for gardening, cooking a meal, or surviving a collapse. There are so many things happening in the world right now. Do some very serious planning and pondering. Get what you need, before you need and can't get.

Until next time - Fern


  1. Okay...I know you said only two kinds of pepper...but gee HAVE got to try Black Hungarian peppers......okay we have become obsessed with them.
    1- Beautiful Purple flowers
    2- Gorgeous Near Black Jalapeno shaped peppers
    3- Like to grow in Pails
    4- Prolific...29 to 35 peppers per plant [maybe more if we didn't use them as they grew]
    5- Superb flavor and varying degrees of flavor and heat.
    6- Mild sweet heat at the black stage
    7- Much hotter and spicier as they ripen to a near Black amazing color.
    8- They dry well and reconstitute wonderfully. 1 pepper is a real boost to flavor soups and stew.

    Okay there you have it. My sales pitch.
    The Seed is Available at Baker Creek Heirloom seeds.

    The garden plan is crucial isn't it. You really do get much more produce and better use of the area you have. I have grown winter squash in areas of marginal and under windbreaks and all I did was dig up a 18 inch square of soil..add a bit of compost, plant the seeds and then ignore them..if they grew it was good and it wasn't all over limited garden space.

    Happy planning!

    1. Thanks for the information and the encouragement, Fiona. I already have my seeds this year and have promised myself just two kinds of peppers, though. Maybe someone else will want to give them a try.

      Happy gardening!


  2. I've learned something new, thanks Fern! I didn't know that beets and carrots could be started ahead. How do you do that? Plant lots of them in flats and then pick them apart and transplant into the garden? Or do them more individually like tomatoes?

    1. I don't think most people start their beets and carrots as seedlings, but we did last summer and it worked out pretty well. I didn't plant them as early, though, so we will see how that works out.

      I will be rolling up some Pot Maker pots to start most of my seedlings in and will show you how I do that in about a week or so. There is a post showing the pot maker titled: Seedlings for the Fall Garden. I plant my beet and carrots individually in the pots.

      I'm glad you found something useful here. Thank you for the comment.


  3. Since I am really really bad at drawing out my garden plan (I have to use containers) I've found that taking photos once a month works best for me. I will have to remember to number the containers as I have 10 of one kind, 5 of another etc and tend to move them around

    1. Taking pictures is a great idea, Bellen. I have a lot from last year, but not the year before, so I'm glad I have my map. I just have to be able to sit down and put it all down in writing while I am looking at all my notes - notes about companion plants, previous plant locations, when to start seedlings and when to plant....Otherwise it gets too complicated to keep track of it all.

      Take care,


  4. Great post, this is something I really need to do. Followed you here from the HomeAcre Hop.

    1. Thank you, Joyce. I'm glad you found us and hope you enjoy your stay.


  5. My wife and I really enjoy your blog. largely because you are doing what we would like to be doing. Thanks for the encouragement.
    P.S.- I have to chuckle to myself each time I see your blog because it occurred to me that FrankenFern sounds like a friendlier version of the scarier Frankenstein.

    1. Well, at least we sound like friendly monsters!

      We're glad you enjoy the blog. Thank you for the comment.


  6. Thanks so much for all these great tips! I've always wanted to have a garden, but I grew up in New York City, and there was never space for our garden in our tiny apartment! After I graduated from college, I got married, and my Husband and I just bought our first home a couple of months ago. With Spring coming up, I've been thinking about giving gardening a try for the first time in my life! Even if it doesn't turn out very well, there's always next year! I'm really excited, but I really need to start looking into the planning stages and everything else in between to help the plants stay nourished. When we were looking for a home, our Real Estate agent helped us make a list of everything that we would want in a house: appliances, porch, yard, expansion space, and so on, and one of the things that managed to stay on the list is a garden space. I might as well make use of the opportunity I have, right!?

    Team Dave Vallee

    1. Experience is the best teacher, Sophia. Give it a shot and see how it turns out. If you start out small and learn about some of your favorite plants, it makes it easier to add more to your list without getting overwhelmed. Best of luck! Let us know how it goes.