If you’re looking to start your first vegetable garden this year, you’re in luck. There has never been an easier time to dig. For starters, there is a wide variety of raised bed kits; just choose your size, add a good quality container mix, plant seeds and grow. No need to dig! Second, there are more varieties of vegetables than ever before. Of course, it is both a plus and a minus; it can be difficult to sort through so many options. But you can look to the winners of the All-America selections, which have proven to be reliable in testing gardens across the county. (Information on : all-americaselections.org) Or, find out from friends and neighbors: what varieties do they like?
Finally, if you don’t know how many plants to grow and at what density (or not) to plant them, there’s help out there as well. For example, try the online planning tool on the Gardener’s Supply Company website. Select the appropriate size raised or buried plot that you are going to maintain, then drag and drop the vegetables into the squares. The tool shows you exactly how many plants per square foot is optimal. (https://www.gardeners.com/… / Kitchen-garden-pl… / kgp_home.html)
This planning tool is based on Mel Bartholomew’s classic “Square Foot Gardening”. I remember how this book made waves in the gardening world when it was published in 1981 by Rodale Press. (Second printing, 2005)
Bartholomew advocated for intensive home growing of vegetables, providing step-by-step instructions on how to get the most food from a small garden. He began by analyzing why so many home gardens fail, noting that the commonly recommended methods were those practiced by commercial farmers. Seeds planted in long, widely spaced rows made sense on a farm where you had to drive material between the rows. In the vegetable garden, however, this approach meant a lot of empty space to avoid weeds and a lot of trash.
As Bartholomew points out, “… home growers are not farmers, and we don’t have tractors … most of us only have a little garden to walk around and do. some harvests. “
Gardeners were traditionally encouraged to sprinkle the seeds right out of the package. As a result, many more seeds were planted than needed, forcing row thinning, a time-consuming and daunting practice. Bartholomew notes that “most gardeners I’ve known hate thinning; it goes against the grain to pull up and destroy hundreds of young plants. “
The solution: plant only the number of seeds you need to grow the number of plants you want, and space them as close to each other as possible for optimal growth, while leaving little free space. for the weeds to take hold.
Here’s an example Bartholomew gives of how much you can harvest from a 4×4 plot:
12 lettuce plants
24 bunches of green beets
6 pounds of beans
Along with that, you’ll have a continuous crop of tomatoes and cucumbers throughout the season (over 8 pounds each), along with a continuous crop of Swiss chard, chives, marigolds, and nasturtiums.
It’s a nice little harvest. But it does not stop there. Bartholomew points out that when the lettuce – a cool season crop – is finished, you can plant other vegetables in these squares. For example, more beans or carrots. Parsley can be planted where you just harvested radishes, another cool season crop.
And so on, throughout the season, maintain your garden square by square. Instead of trying to keep pace with a large, loosely landscaped garden, with plenty of room for paths between the rows, you grow and care for only what you need.
Of course, this is just one example. If you don’t like beets or Swiss chard, or prefer growing basil over parsley, adjust your garden plan accordingly.
Question: Are you doing anything in particular this week / year in honor of Earth Day? If so, I would love to hear from you.
Pam Baxter is a passionate organic vegetable gardener who lives in Kimberton. Send an email to [email protected], or send a mail to PO Box 80, Kimberton, PA 19442. Share your gardening stories on Facebook at “Chester County Roots”.