It has been an incredible two weeks. Julie and I moved all of our gear out of a storage locker and into this little house in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I am glad to be back on track with a Tuesday Gardening Show, and I think I have a good show for you today. After a couple weeks of short posts and podcasts, including the introduction of a new regular show called Midweek Motivation by the Coastal Cosmopolitan Tommy Cakes, we are gearing up for Garden Season 2018!
In this post and podcast episode, I am going to discuss How to Develop A 2018 Garden Plan: what I am going to grow and how I am going to grow it. I am making some adjustments to my planting strategy based on conversations with Michael Bell, Scott Hebert, Doneil Freeman, Drew Sample, Greg Burns and other market farmers. While I am not going to grow commercially, I am going to adopt some of their concepts and principles to make my garden very productive in 2018. That is the plan, anyway!
In case you are new to our podcast, blog and social media platforms, Small Scale Life is all about removing stress from our lives by living simply through:
- Healthy living, and
- Having adventures along the way
We are thrilled you are here and listening to our show or reading our blog. That means a lot to us, and frankly we wouldn’t do this if you weren’t part of our Small Scale Life.
Before we begin, I want to go through some news items.
First off, I am working on things behind the scenes to improve the Small Scale Life experience. It feels like we are getting momentum and starting to focus in on the message and direction of the blog and podcast. As part of that, we are going to start digging into Wicking Beds and launching Wicking Bed Nation, so stay tuned for that.
Next, I get excited when I can connect groups of people. A great example of this was connecting Michael Bell with Michael Hingston from Aussie Flame Weeders, and I think these connections are happening in our Small Scale Life Community (on the blog, Instagram,Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest). To help connect people through Small Scale Life, a number of us are running or starting small businesses, and it is great to connect with folks and get your name out there. To help with that, I am working on developing a business directory on smallscalelife.com. We want to connect people. We want to connect our audience to your quality businesses and products. If you want to be included in our business directory, let me know. If you want to be included, contact us at realsmallscalelife at gmail dot com or use the “Contact Us” page on smallscalelife.com.
Finally, I do have some exciting news! A company that makes the Coir product for Burpee heard the Potting Soil Challenge Podcast from last year, and they have reached out to me. This company would like to donate some Coir product for the school outreach I do each spring. I tried Coir bricks for the first time last year in the classroom, and the kids loved watching this brick of material turn into a growing medium. I really appreciate their interest, and I am really excited to work with this company and report on this in the future.
Wow…that was a lot, but it good stuff to talk about with you. Enough of all that; let’s get back to the show!
The Super Bowl is over, and we are almost to the middle of February. For gardeners, homesteaders and farmers in the northland, people are in high-gear planning and plotting for this year’s Growing Campaign. I know folks down in Texas, other southern states and our friends on the other side of the world in Australia and New Zealand are already in high gear, and I always need to keep that in mind!
I am no exception. I have been planning what plants I want to grow this year and how I am going to fit everything in these limited gardens! For those of you who are new to the show, I moved last June to a relatively small urban lot in Minneapolis, Minnesota. At this new house, I inherited two four-foot by six-foot square foot gardens. These raised beds do need some love and attention because the wood is rotting, and I have a plan to replace them with Wicking Beds in the near future.
Developing a Garden Plan
Planning what vegetables and plants you grow feeds right into your overall gardening strategy and seed purchase. It is almost time to get those seeds ordered and started!
If you are here, you fit into one of three categories:
- New gardeners who have never grown anything before.
- Somewhat experienced gardeners and really didn’t get the results we were hoping for.
- Seasoned veterans who have had literally tasted the success of gardening.
No matter where you fall in the Gardening Spectrum, we all start at the same place at the beginning of the season: The Garden Plan.
The Garden Plan is the foundation for your season’s success. It helps guide you through the seed catalogs, websites, seed kiosks and tables of live plants at the local greenhouse or big box store.
Your Garden Plan is all about you. What do you want to grow? Where do you want to start?
This can be overwhelming, and I have acted like a therapist talking with people who are overwhelmed by choices and options or talked with people who want to plant it all. The fact is: we can’t plant it all. We can’t grow it all. After all, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, there are 25,000 tomato varieties. Other sources say 10-15,000 varieties being actively cultivated worldwide. That is a lot of tomatoes!
We can’t grow it all, so you might be asking, where do you start?
Grow What You Eat
When you start your 2018 Garden Plan, you really need to think about what you and your family will eat. It doesn’t make sense to grow a ton of tomatoes, eggplant or squash if no one in your family likes to eat them!
Focus on what you eat and grow those things. For example:
- If you like salsa, you should look to grow tomatoes, peppers, onions, and cilantro.
- If you like dill pickles, you should look at growing cucumbers, dill, onions and maybe some jalapeno peppers (to spice it up a bit).
- If you like pesto, you should grow basil and maybe some parsley.
Think about what goes into your favorite dishes and recipes. Grow the things that you use often or can preserve for that long march in the winter between December and April.
If you have trouble thinking about vegetables and herbs you use, take a notebook and keep a food log for a couple weeks. Write down the key vegetables and herbs you use on a daily basis. That can be a starting point for not only your Garden Plan but also your plan to prepare for tough times (some folks call it prepping or modern day survival).
Write Out Your Garden Plan
Once you have thought about those dishes, recipes and preserved foods, you can start to write down a list of vegetables and herbs that you want to grow this year.
Start big; write them all down.
I am serious: write all those vegetables and herbs down on a piece of paper. We will start with a “Pie in the Sky” Garden Plan and then start to hone it down to a manageable, realistic plan.
How do you do that?
Look at your available space in your growing area. Remember: your space in the garden might be very limited. Some of these plants can get pretty large (i.e., squash, zucchini, pumpkins and tomato varieties). You will need to balance your “Pie in the Sky List” with spatial realities (i.e., you want to grow pumpkins but are limited to a north-facing condominium balcony).
Grow what you eat. I cannot emphasize this enough: do not waste your time and very valuable space for growing things that you and your family don’t like or won’t eat. Grow what you eat; otherwise, you will be making compost out of plants, herbs and vegetables that you do not eat.
If you are tight on space or want to experiment with new vegetables and herbs, I recommend buying those items at the local Farmer’s Market, buying from a local farmer or finding a local gardener or friend who will trade with you. If you like those items, maybe you will expand your garden or work those items into your plan next year.
If you have an opportunity to expand your growing area and grow more, there are a lot of options. We will discuss that in future posts and podcasts as well.
My 2018 Garden Plan
I started planning my garden in late January 2018. I sat down with my secret Small Scale Life Notebook (it has nuclear codes in it, trust me) and started roughing out my “Pie in the Sky” Garden Plan.
As I wrote everything out, I started to think about how the gardening season has gone for me over the past few years. I plant everything in one shot in mid to late May, and certain plants just don’t fare well in the hot days in late June and July. Some plants, like spinach, lettuce, sugar snap peas and other greens, actually prefer cooler weather.
I decided to develop a two stage approach to my Spring Garden Plan. As you can see in the image, I am going to plant greens, green onions and sugar snap peas in the early spring (i.e., April). These plants tend to grow quickly, and I can get a harvest before the Late Spring Stage kicks off.
In the Late Spring Stage, I am going to plant the bulk of the other vegetables and herbs after the first frost date (May 10 in Zone 4B – Twin Cities). To find your frost dates, see the Old Farmers Almanac. I will intercrop the Late Spring Stage Plants with the Early Spring Stage Plants. That means I will plant tomato starts next to sugar snap peas, and I will use companion guides to intercrop the peppers, onions, and greens.
The other thing you might notice is that I don’t have enough room for all of the Late Spring Stage Plants. I have two four by six foot raised garden beds, and while they can handle a lot of plants, I am going to need more capacity. It is time to show you my plans for constructing and operating wicking beds. It is time to launch Wicking Bed Nation!
Putting It All Together
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Haha you learn this one the hard way in your first couple of seasons! 😥🤣 + #chilliwack #abbotsford #fraservalley #marketgarden #marketgardening #organicfarming #organicfarm #sustainablefarming #sustainablegardening #smallfarm #urbanfarm #growfoodnotlawns #knowyourfarmer #locallygrown #homestead #homesteading #realfood
Newbie or experienced gardener, we all start at the same place in the Long March of Winter. Before you get overwhelmed with the seed catalogs, websites, seed stands or plants available at the local greenhouse or big box store, do some planning! Develop that basic foundation that will set you up for success this year by following these steps:
- Develop your “Pie in the Sky” List
- Narrow the Pie in the Sky List down by visualizing your available growing space and what you and your family actually will eat
- If you want to experiment with new vegetables and herbs, plan to purchase them at the store, farmers market, local gardener or trade with someone
- If you can expand your growing area, go for it! We will discuss some ideas that you might want to try this year!
Update: Developing Your 2018 Garden Plan
After I posted this episode, I discussed these points with some other homesteaders and gardeners, and I did get some feedback from folks about that show. After the fact, I added two points for narrowing down your “Pie in the Sky Plan” to a feasible, realistic plan:
- Climate – Consider your climate and what grows there. If you live in Minnesota like me, you do not want oranges, avocados and lemons in your plan if you don’t have special climate controlled facilities to grow them.
- Actual Layout – To help with planning your garden, it might help to actually plan out where everything will go using a piece of graph paper, wipe board or computer. The key is to get realistic sizes for plants and your garden (to scale). I will have another post on how to do that in the near future.
I hope this helps you further refine your Garden Plan and develop something realistic for your growing area.
I am curious about your 2018 Garden Plan.
- How do you plan your garden?
- Have you completed this process yet?
- Have you purchased your seeds yet?
In our next Gardening Podcast, I will be walking us through some seed catalogs and purchasing seed. It is time to move ahead with my 2018 Garden Plan and take it to the next level. I will also start discussing my Wicking Bed plans, so stay tuned for that.
In addition, we are lining up some more guests for the podcast. I am going to talk about Minimalism with my wife Julie, Homesteading with Greg Burns and the Urban Farming on the February Bellcast with Michael Bell. Stay tuned, I feel that we are off to a strong start to the year and really starting to get some great momentum!
Thank you again for listening to the Small Scale Life Podcast and visiting smallscalelife.com. We appreciate you and your time. Our wish for you is that you remove some of that stress in your life and live simply this week. This is Tom from Small Scale Life, and we’ll see you next time! Take care, everyone!