Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Garden Plan for 2016

No plan survives contact with reality for very long, but I still love to make my garden plans.  Some things grow, some don't, I fill in the holes, the final garden doesn't always looks a lot like the plan. Usually I do my garden plans up in PowerPoint or Google Slides.  This year I also took advantage of the free square foot garden planner at Gardeners.Com.  I don't necessarily agree with all of their spacing advice-- a square foot for zucchini or tomatoes?!  I filled in multiple squares with those to allocate the space.

One thing I really like to do is add flowers to the garden.  They attract pollinators, add prettiness, and in some cases repel pests.  My favorite flowers to sprinkle into a garden plan are conveniently sold in 6-packs throughout most of the growing season, and usually stay fairly small if planted from a 6-pack instead of from seed:

  • Alyssum
  • Cosmos
  • Calendula
  • Marigold (French, African, or Mexican!)
  • Petunias (avoid spreading petunias like The Wave)
  • Pinks (Dianthus)
  • Violas (Johnny Jump Ups)
  • Zinnia

Without further ado, here are the plans!  I have three main veggie beds, with a small corner fence bed that I didn't need to diagram (two big squashes is all that will fit) and an herb bed ditto.  Next year I'll have to mix these all up, and do crop rotation and all that good stuff, so I'm keeping records of what went where.

The Short Bed: Peppers and Eggplants

I'm returning to my classic favorites, Marconi Red and Marconi Gold peppers, as well as the sweet frying pepper Jimmy Nardello.  I don't have a lot of faith in bell peppers, but I want to try a yellow or orange bell, as I really like them.  For my fifth pepper, I'll choose one of the small upright peppers, like Lipstick or Tulip.  In past years I've grown paprika peppers and mole peppers-- if I see a mole pepper seedling that looks good, I may grow that instead of the Lipstick.

For eggplants, I'm growing mostly the more productive Asian types-- my all-around go-to eggplant, Ping Tung Long, plus the small-but-prolific Fairy Tale with its attractive purple-white variegated fruit.  For that good old fashioned Italian eggplant flavor, I'll grow Rosa Bianca, with softball sized pinkish white round or oval fruit.  The final eggplant will probably be one of the generic "Japanese eggplant" seedlings that appear at OSH every spring.  Worth trying!  Or I'll go up to YamiGami's and find something exotically heirloom to grow in that spot.

It's worth mentioning that the depiction of the short bed is misleading-- it's actually a 4x4 bed, not a 3x3 bed.  The bed it's replacing was a 3x3 bed, and when I grew 9 pepper and eggplant plants in there, they were a bit crowded.  So I'm giving them more room and only growing 9 plants in the short bed instead of the 16 that square foot gardening principles say I could theoretically have. 

The Medium Bed: Tomatoes, Basil, and Small Stuff

I allocate about two square feet for a tomato in a cage, and I prune the foliage to keep them roughly that size.  I make sure to leave plenty of branches and leaves to prevent sunscald on the fruit-- I just pinch off or cut the huge suckers going sideways and heading for the next yard over!

Every year I grow an Early Girl, despite it being an F1 hybrid, and my preference being for open pollinated and heirloom varieties.  It's early, the tomatoes are a handy smaller size, and the particular taste of Early Girl is one of my favorite tomato tastes, not too acidic and very rich.   I have more favorites than I do tomato space, so I have to compromise.  I usually grow some kind of chocolate tomato, and I haven't picked which one this year.  Black Krim has done well for me in the past, but I'll see what's available this year.  I absolutely ADORE the low acid, tropical-note taste of Hawaiian Pineapple, so if I can find it I will grow it.  I have seeds, but I'm not sure if I'm starting from seed this year-- better decide quick, I know.  If I weren't growing a full-size chocolate tomato, I'd grow Chocolate Cherry as my cherry tomato, but instead I'll go with old reliable yummy Sungold.  If I had made room for a fifth tomato, it would be the delicious (also low-acid) Aunt Ruby's German Green.

I'll put in a big patch of generic six-pack basil from the garden store, but will also raise the giant-leaf basil (whose proper name I'm forgetting) and my best buddy Cinnamon Basil.  The giant-leaf basil is super for wrapping around delectables like summer figs or fresh tomatoes, with perhaps a bit of fresh mozarella or some goat cheese inside.  Nom!  

The space between the tomatoes can get a little shady and crowded, so it's kind of a toss-up what will work there.  I'm going to try carrots, companion planting favorite of tomatoes.  One of the classic companion planting books is called Carrots Love Tomatoes, in fact.  In addition to the Nantes carrots, some scallions for salads and kung pao garnish, and for the first time, some fennel.  And what's that in the hopefully-sunny corner? Yes, a few poles and some pole beans, probably a purple variety for appearance and ease of picking.

The Long Bed: Salads and Squashes and Peas, Oh My!

On the side nearest the big fig tree, which might throw some afternoon shade, we have salad-y things that like or at least tolerate some shade.  Kuroda is a nice red carrot I picked up on my visit to the Seed Bank in Petaluma.  I'll sow a square or two of lettuce, and while leaf and head lettuces are depicted in the diagram, I'm still unclear on what lettuces I'm sowing.  Favorites are Cimarron romaine and Forellenschluss leaf lettuce.  I also like some of the "salad bowl" mixes that are to be cut and will grow back.  We'll see!

Dill on the sunny corner, and some chiogga beets and golden beets, a square of baby bok choi, some slow-bolt cilantro scattered around (we'll see if it lasts long enough for salsa making, or if I'll have to freeze it again).  In the back, some cute Peppermint chard, with striped red and white stalks, and my old favorite Bright Lights rainbow chard.  I'm growing peas along a section of the back, with poles and some netting for them to climb, and will put more chard in front of the peas so it keeps going after the peas die back.  I'll also try a Beit Alpha cuke on the netting.  It's supposed to be prolific, so presumably one will keep us happy.  I might try a Mediterranean style cuke next to it, partly in the squash space-- lots of little cukes for eating fresh from the garden.

I've got some Roma beans and some yellow wax beans tucked in there, and might expand them by a square or so on each side.  They might get taken over and shaded by the squashes, but will probably get one or two crops out of them before they're encroached upon.   There are three squashes, and I'm giving them room to sprawl-- ignore the multiple icons and just think of them as squash zones.  

For summer squash, I'm growing this year a Rampicante type long curling Italian squash.  They have a great flavor and are very productive.  On the far side of the garden from it, Kamo Kamo, a Maori heirloom that supposedly can be picked small for summer squash and left to develop for a kabocha-like winter squash.  We'll see!  In the middle, my second attempt at Georgia Candy Roaster, a delicious squash that won first or second place in the Santa Clara County Master Gardeners' taste tests a few years ago (a close second to Sibley).  It's a huge banana type squash, and when I grew it last I got a stunted squash that was barely butternut sized.  This time for sure! 

What are YOU growing this year?!  Send links in your comments!


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