A garden is the best alternative therapy.

Posts tagged ‘planning’

Planning The Garden

There are a number of factors I consider when I am planning my garden for the season.

The first thing I consider is, “What do I want to grow?”  That usually gets me looking online or in seed catalogs for seeds.  If you have ever looked at a seed catalog, then you understand what a difficult task it is looking through the catalog to find the variety you want to grow.  Not all varieties are created equal, however, and a prolific variety on the East Coast won’t necessarily be prolific in the Deep South.  That brings me to the next consideration.

What cultivar/variety is right for my area?”  Luckily, one is not without resources.  A simple internet search for recommended cultivars for your area will most likely provide most of the information you need.   When I type in, “recommended cultivars for Central Texas”, I find a helpful article in the Examiner with a long list of varieties growers in our area have particular success with.   I discover that, for best results, if I want to grow broccoli, I should obtain seeds of the following cultivars: Packman, Premium Crop, and Green Magic.

After determining what crops I want to grow and what varieties are best, it is usually a matter of shopping around to find those specific cultivars.   “Where can I obtain seed of the varieties I have chosen?”  Because the big seed companies are not located in my area, I did a search for “seed companies in Texas”.   I found that Willhite seeds carries many cultivars recommended for my area because it is a local seed company.

The next consideration is, “When is the recommended planting time for this crop?” along with the related question, “How long until harvest?”  Sometimes this makes a big difference on what ends up growing in my garden.  I may want to grow okra this fall, for example, but it isn’t the right time of year to plant them.  Or, I may want to grow bell peppers this fall, but it is now too late to start them from seed and I will have to transplant instead.   To determine the right times of the year to plant certain crops, I rely on the Travis County Aggie Planting Chart, which is the most local I can find.  I use this to determine the window of opportunity I have to get seeds or transplants in the ground.  If you do an internet search, you should be able to find something similar for your area.

Once I have chosen my crops, selected the variety for my area, and determined the correct planting time, it is next a consideration of, “Do I have room, and where will I put them?”  For me, this usually entails drawing an illustration of my yard and planting area.  I garden out of raised growing boxes, and I am limited to nine separate areas to grow in.  By drawing out the plan, I can visualize how the crops will be arranged in the garden.

Fall/Winter garden diagram

Another equally important factor is, “What have I grown in those locations before?”  It’s important to rotate most crops, planting them in one location once every three seasons or so.  By keeping record of what you have grown when and where, you can most accurately maintain a good crop rotation schedule to keep your garden plants and soil healthy.

Since I have several different boxes located in varying exposures to full sun, I also have to think about, “What crops do best in the longest amount of full sun and what crops do okay with a little more shade?”

Finally, it is important for me to think even one more season ahead and ask, “What will I want to plant the next season?”.  If I am planning a fall garden, I am also planning my winter garden.   This is because the fall garden will roll right into the winter garden, as I stagger in new crops after harvesting the old.   This is important so as to effectively use as many boxes I can at any given time.  For example, I am growing tomatoes and peppers this fall.  I already have them transplanted and have figured a max of sixty days until those plants have produced and will be done for the season.  According to my calculations, that means I will be ripping them out of the ground at the end of September, leaving that box open for winter planting.  If I plan my garden right, I’ll be able to use that box immediately to start a new crop.

Time to Think About A Fall Garden

It seems just a bit strange in the middle of the summer to think about fall planting and what my family will be eating fresh from the garden this October and even Thanksgiving.  Yet, if I want to be ahead of the ball, I really should begin my fall garden now and go ahead and send off for those seeds.

Another thing to think about is that some fall crops will not have time to mature before winter sets in, so to have a harvest, I will need transplants.  (I already have my tomato and pepper transplants in the ground for harvest later in the fall.)   Also, keep in mind that if you are growing from seed for later transplanting, it can take 4-6 weeks until the plant is ready to transplant.  So, if you have a transplant date of 9/1, for example, it’s time to get those seeds started now!

As July winds down, here are some important vegetable planting dates for Central Texas to keep in mind:

Start Now:

Broccoli from seed for transplanting 9/1
Cauliflower from seed for transplanting 9/1
Spinach from seed for transplanting 9/1

Now Through the First Week of August:

Plant your winter squash, you don’t have much time left
Plant another round of cucumbers

Now Through the Second Week of August:

Transplant those pepper plants (it’s too late to start from seed)
Transplant those tomato plants (it’s too late to start from seed)
Plant another round of sweet corn if you’ve got the space

By End of August:

Plant summer squash varieties (zucchini, yellow, etc.)

By Beginning of September:

Plant another round of snap or lima beans

Also on the horizon:

Carrots can be started September 1st

Snap and snow peas in Mid-September

Garlic, cool weather greens, lettuce, spinach , shallots and turnips all on horizon the last week of September.

What are your plans for a fall garden?

Indoor Sowing Dates for Veggies

It’s less than six weeks until the average last frost date here in the Austin area.   If you haven’t started your seeds yet, it may be time to do so if you plan to get a head start on the growing season.  Because Spring typically is short-lived before temperatures reach the nineties here in Austin, it is a good idea to start plants indoors and transplant them later.  Doing so will ensure a healthier plant and faster/longer harvest.

As a general guide, here are recommendations I found online regarding more popular types of veggies.  Below is the number of weeks seeds should be sown inside prior to transplanting into the garden.   As always, don’t forget to account for a few days of hardening off, and remember that plants cannot go out until all danger of frost has passed.  Some plants cannot go outside until the soil warms to 70 degrees.

Beans: direct sow, they grow too quickly

Broccoli/Cabbage/Cauliflower: 4-6 weeks

Carrots: direct sow, the taproot grows the most in first few weeks

Cucumbers: 4-5 weeks, no more than 5

Lettuce: direct sow or start 4 weeks before transplanting

Melons: 4 weeks at most

Peppers:  8 weeks – not until soil is 70 degrees (plan on April 1st)

Pumpkins/squash:  no more than 3-4 weeks.

Spinach:  6-8 weeks

Tomato: 5-6 weeks

The planting window closes for some of the cooler crops like carrots, spinach and lettuce within the month, so those should be started right away.  Spinach and lettuce transplants can probably still go into the ground through mid-March.

I’ve started broccoli, which I should be transplanting in two more weeks.  I also have one spinach (1 out of 6 germinated!) that I’ll transplant the first week of March.  I have more carrot seeds that I will direct sow this weekend in the space left behind by the carrots I harvested.  I have eighteen lettuce plants going and I’ll transplant them in the next two weeks as well.  I have also started a couple dozen pepper plants (habanero, jalapeno, cayenne and bell).  I’ll have to transplant them one or two times before they are permanently placed in the garden.

All of these times can be a somewhat daunting task to remember and keep straight.  This is why I record my sowing times and plan out the sowing schedule for the season ahead of time.  This is also one of the major reasons why I keep this blog, as a reference tool/chronicle of what I’ve done in the garden.