So we got our seedlings planted, now it’s time to plan our garden!
Planning a garden properly is super important. You have a limited amount of resources (space, light, growing season, etc.), and you need a good plan to make the most of it!
In my space, I have a 20×6′ garden that only gets sun from the west, with a medium-length growing season, and a fair bit of rain (go West coast!) and sun.
Here’s my plan:
All of my tallest plants — corn, beans, and cucumbers — are on the right side, because all of the sun is on the left. I don’t want the short guys stuck in the shade of the tall guys. Also, the top gets the most sun, so all of the sun whores (tomatoes and corn) go there to soak it all in.
Keep in mind the space things need to grow. Some plants grow very high and narrow (pole beans, corn), some grow very low and deep (potatoes, carrots), and some grow wide and bushy (tomatoes, cucumbers). Keep enough room for everything to grow. Some also need a structure to grow on (pole beans and tomatoes), so give them something to grab on to.
I KNOW how tempting it is to cram more veggies in to your space to try to get a bigger harvest. I’ve done it myself. It totes doesn’t work. You can’t outsmart the plants. They will just grow wimpily, and you will have sad little veggies. Vegetables are introverts, and they need their alone space.
Companion planting means planting several different vegetables in the same space, because each vegetable is doing something the other needs. In this case, corn, beans, and squash are grown together in a grouping known as The Three Sisters, a traditional growing method of the Iroquois. Each of the three plants provides nutrients the others need: the beans grow on the corn stalks, which helps support the corn, and the squash provides shade and keeps away pests.
If you want to give companion planting a try, I recommend doing some reading first:
Make sure you have a chunk of land or pots with good soil (see this post for soil conditioning). Make sure the soil is very well tilled if it’s earth and pretty loose if it’s potting soil.
Make sure any seedlings have three to four leaves on them before you transplant them. That’s in addition to the first two leaves that they sprouted with. For example, this plant is not ready to go:
But this guy is:
If you have more seedlings than you need, select the best, fullest ones.Transplant those to the final growing area (yard, pot, or planter). Dig a hole deep enough for all the roots and add a little bone meal for fertilizer. Take the seedling out of its pot, gently loosen its root ball, put it in the hole, and add soil up to the stalk. Don’t bury the stalk (except for tomatoes, they’re totally cool with that), and gently pack the soil over the roots.
Seed potatoes are the easiest things to grow. Bury a seed potato in some well-tilled soil under a big mound of dirt. When the plants pop up, bury them again in a bigger mound (this forces the potatoes to grow down, into more potatoes, instead of wasting resources on the plant). We’ll talk about “hilling” later.
It’s also not too late to grow from seed, unless you have a really tiny growing season, or you can buy seedlings from your garden centre.