Now that the new year has officially come, I like to reflect on the last garden season and plan for the next! I’ve been paging through seed catalogs, drawing countless garden plans, and dreaming of spring.
I’m especially looking forward to building on the successes of last year along with my mistakes. Since I began gardening, we haven’t lived in one location for longer than one year. We’ve often moved in April or May, which has further complicated the start to each year’s garden as we adapt to a new space, preparing new beds or containers, and trying to coddle starter plants going into the ground on strange timelines. This upcoming season I am especially excited to build on the work from last year instead!
Last season, I was happy to have a real raised garden bed after a few years of sporadic container gardening. Even though our beds are small, I managed to put in a lot of plants! I was so excited to get going that I put in probably too many plants too close together, but I’m glad to have that insight into how to plant next year with more spacing, even between companion plants. As we moved into the house in April, I took a shot in the dark at how different plants might react best to different areas of the garden. A rather inexact drawing of my 2016 summer and fall garden layout is below:
The drawn L-shaped box is an outline of my garden overall, which is a raised bed of about 24-30 inches deep. Along the top, left, and right lines, there is a cinder block wall about 4 1/2 feet high, topped by a (junky) wooden fence that extends upwards to about 6 1/2 feet tall. The top wall here is facing east, with the left facing north and right facing south. Our house would be at the bottom of this page, ten feet west of the garden.
Since we live in an end unit, we are lucky to have increased light exposure on our row house yard as there is not a house and additional fencing next door to the left (if only we had open southern exposure!). However, the wall and additional fencing do limit the light available to the garden, in addition to the light limits from our house and those across the alley to the east. The highest light exposure comes from the north east, and so the lower right portion of the garden tends to receive the best and most prolonged light.
Last season, I primarily utilized this section to grow peppers, okra, beans, and eggplant in high summer, which worked relatively well other than I could have given each of these plants more spacing. While I didn’t shoot for a particularly extended growing season this year, I think this area would also be the best candidate for cold frame late fall crops in the future. Even as the days grow shorter, this corner receives the most light!
In 2016 I also tried to use the junky wooden fence for trellis supports, as there were ways that I was able to tie plants to this fence, including my tomatoes, tomatillos, and some squash. Well it worked reasonably well for the tomatillos and squash, I think the tomatoes could really benefit from an overhead trellising system where they can climb straight up, rather than branching out all over the place. For 2017, I realized that I can use an old clothesline rack installed along our yard to run trellis line for tomatoes (see purple):
I’ll probably also try to grow hops in containers, trellised onto the same metal rack support system. I’m planning to shift the tomatillos, beans, and squash slightly around the outer fencing, but they seemed to like this fine last year! I do need to repair the wooden fence – sections of it were broken when we moved in, but it has degraded even further in the past few months. I’ve thought about taking this fence out altogether for more light, but I do enjoy the minor privacy and trellis support it provides.
As for a spring plan, I am mostly looking to grow peas and beans to enrich the soil, along with some scattered roots and greens to enjoy as early crops. Jake also got me an awesome combined cold frame/storage rack for Christmas, and I’m looking forward to incorporating this as part of my seed starting and spring herb and green production strategy. Until seed starting begins in late February and early March, I’ll be finishing a few maintenance tasks, reading, and day dreaming about plants!
Plants Stored to Overwinter:
- Thai Lime Tree
- Mystery apple tree sprout
- Aloe Vera
- Fig trees (4)
- Persimmon trees (2)
- Elderberry trees (2)
To Do List:
- Expand garden footprint
- Mend rodent fence
- Add leaf compost and turn over wet compost on garden beds biweekly
- Research pollinator friendly perennial flowers fig tree care, and hop cultivation
- Repair and reinforce wooden fence
Garden Reading List:
- The Hop Grower’s Handbook
- Modern Farmer: Choosing Vegetable Seeds
- Southern Exposure Seed Exchange Catalog
- Baker Creek Seeds Catalog
- Homegrown Whole Grains
- Modern Farmer: How to Grow Your Own Tomatoes