My 2018 Garden Plan: 400 Pounds of Produce in the City
Last weekend, I gave a presentation to the Mill City Grows Garden Coordinator Institute on planning your garden to maximize your yields. The Community Programs Manager introduced me as "a community gardener who grew 180 pounds from her 4 x 10 raised bed last year."
Well, that lit a fire under my butt to actually get started planning my own garden for the upcoming season. I've been so busy with business related stuff that I didn't do my own plan yet, and planting season is coming up fast! Last year I harvested at least as much produce from my driveway as I did from the community garden plot, and I'd like to do the same this year. I have a rough goal of 400 pounds of produce this year between the two locations.
Here is my family's garden plan for 2018. This is also an example of what a custom garden plan from Happy Belly Gardening might look like.
Family of 3.
I am the main gardener and I have 10 years of growing experience, and I enjoy experimenting and trying new varieties and techniques in the garden. I have flexibility in scheduling. Favorite crop to grow: tomatoes.
My spouse works full time but is often willing to help with building, infrastructure, and some maintenance as his schedule allows. Favorite crop to grow: eggplant.
Child - age 5. Last year he helped inconsistently, and enjoyed being part of the process. Favorite crops to grow: carrots and strawberries
Community Garden Bed: 40 square feet. 3rd year. Full sun. Very few rodent pest issues (surrounded by an urban area and a fence). About half a mile away from our family's home.
Cinder block raised bed in yard outside condo (around 7 square feet in the main bed, plus 24 8x8 squares around the perimeter). Partial sun. 4 - 7 hours? Potential pest issues - groundhogs.
Cinder block raised bed adjacent to neighbor’s porch (around 18 square feet in the main bed, plus 22 8x8 squares around the perimeter). Partial sun - 4 - 7 hours? Potential pest issues - groundhogs.
Minimal space for container gardening (due to driveway repaving this year, we don’t want to rely heavily on driveway containers as we did in the past, even though the driveway has easiest access to the water source).
Goals for growing:
My family’s main goals are to reduce our need to purchase produce in the grocery store, to spend more time outdoors, and to relieve stress. We also love watching a variety of plants and pollinators work together as an ecosystem. We do not have any experience with canning, but we are quite comfortable with freezing as a means of preservation (and we do not own a chest freezer). We also have some experience with fermentation (making kim chi).
The 2 beds on condo property are in common areas, so they must be kept neat. Also, there is no easy hose access since our house is on the opposite side of the house. Since we will be relying on water that has to be carried, these beds should be heavily mulched. These are experimental beds for us this year, so part of the experiment is seeing whether they are worth the work to grow in not-quite-full-sun with not-very-easy access to a water source.
We will use community tools for the community bed. We have our own garden tools for the home beds.
We will be starting our own seeds indoors, as we have a grow light set up.
Since one of my family’s goals is to reduce the amount of produce we need to purchase at the store, this plan prioritizes:
Growing varieties we already know we like to cook, eat, and freeze
Growing varieties that produce over a long season (fruiting crops such as tomatoes, eggplant and peppers)
Focusing on crops we enjoy that are expensive to purchase (or unavailable in stores) such as heirloom tomatoes.
Filling in the early spring and late fall season with high value crops such as salad greens and peas
The Community Garden Bed:
This bed will follow a square-foot gardening approach to spacing, in order to grow a lot of food in a small space. The plan will make use vertical growing, using signposts and hoops that are already installed in the bed.
When planting the warm weather crops, some pole beans, long beans, or runner beans can be direct-seeded around the hoops that are already installed in the bed. This bed will also use an understory scatter mix for the warm weather crops. This scatter mix will contain various types of basil, cilantro, and calendula seeds.
The Bed Adjacent to the Porch:
This bed will also follow a square foot gardening approach, and will prioritize shorter crops, so as not to block visibility from the porch. Since this bed does not have a convenient water source nearby, it will be mulched to conserve water. Once danger of frost has passed, the main bed will be planted in eggplants, peppers, and shorter determinate varieties of tomatoes. The cinder block squares around the main bed will be planted with leeks, scallions and pansies.
In the early spring, the bed will be planted in Asian greens, lettuces, and peas. These can be cut off at the root level when transplanting the warm weather crops in mid-May.
In the late fall, once the warm weather crops are harvested and removed, this bed will be planted with garlic to overwinter for the 2019 season.
The Bed in the Yard:
This bed will contain winter squashes and melons, as an experiment to see whether they can be grown productively in this space.
In the main bed, we will plant hybrid varieties of squash and melon, prioritizing disease resistance and drought tolerance, since the water source is not convenient to this bed. The bed will be heavily mulched. We will allow the vines to spill out of the bed onto the grass, since the grassy area isn’t heavily used.
In the 8x8 cinder block squares surrounding the bed, we will plant companion plants for visual appeal, pollinators, and food: a bush variety of Thai long beans, dwarf sunflower varieties, dwarf sweet corn, and nasturtiums. We will train the squash and melon vines around these plants so they can spill out over the grass.
We may be in the middle of a nor'easter, but with a little luck and sunshine, it will be time to start growing outside in just two short weeks! I'll be starting my spring greens indoors today, in fact!
Ready to get growing? Download your free guide to four crops anyone can grow in a small space (yes, even you!). I also have three openings this month for custom growing plans like this one - book yours now to get growing ASAP! You can also purchase spring gardening seed collections.
© Happy Belly Gardening, 2018. All rights reserved.
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