Sunday, January 26, 2014


     Today I'll talk a bit about my veggie garden -- not so much to discuss vegetables, but to point out some of the planning involved. Similar efforts need to be made for any annual garden. My garden now is 22' x 28'. But over the years its size has varied enormously. In New York my "garden" consisted of three large pots on the back fire escape. Even it benefited from some advance thought.

     The fun part is coming up with ideas of what to plant. But immediately related questions clamor for our attention. Probably the first is how much sun do our chosen plants need. Many Beverly yards are blessed with trees, but that means they are less blessed with sun. We need to identify the sunnier spots -- and remember that what is sunny when we head off to work is not necessarily sunny at 2PM. A little observation is in order. And sometimes this means that your entire scheme has to be re-thought.

     The size of your bed will be determined in part by the size of your yard and how it is structured. Within all these constraints you should start small. It is better to end the season eager to do more next year than to end up with a sore back and a patch of weeds. This is gardening's equivalent to a 5k run. You have to work up to it. 

     Once you lay out the size and shape, you should take measurements and then draw a simple map and make several copies. You can do much of your initial work while it is still below freezing outdoors.

2013 Blank Garden Map
     This blank map shows only my raised beds and paths. I made several copies last spring. Then Wan and I filled in the blanks before planting. This way we had a record of what exactly was planted and how much.

2014 Blank Garden Map

     We will use this map for the coming season. I try to rotate my crops a bit each year by tearing down my raised beds and rebuilding them going perpendicular to the beds from the year before. This guarantees that most of my veggies don't get re-planted in the same spot year after year.

     More on planning next time.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


     Thomas Jefferson was one of many prominent Americans who kept garden diaries. For some time I have been eager to urge my readers to "be like him." Unfortunately, I have not been able to get it together to start one myself. So it hardly seems fair to urge one on you.

     I can, though, suggest something more modest. At the end of the season, when there is no more we can do outdoors, we should be able to find a day or even half a day during which we can review the previous year in the garden (before we forget it) and make some modest plans for the season ahead. We can put our notes in a notebook or type something on our computer, or simply throw our notes in a file folder. So long as we can can find them again in March.

     At our house much of the planning centers on our 22' x 28' vegetable garden, but it could just as easily center on an annual flower garden. Annuals start from scratch each year. So, if you let them, they can make you re-think parts of your garden every spring. Do we really want impatiens again this year? Were they too much work, or did we wish we had more? Should we try a new spot?

     Any spring planting requires making decisions. The absolute easiest decision is to do exactly what we did last year. Nothing wrong with that if it works. But we will have more fun if we escape the clutches of habit and consider alternatives. And once we actually try something new, we are engaged in an experiment and we will be tempted to take a note or two on the results so we can do better the next year. Voila! Jefferson would be proud.

     Our next post will discuss the sometimes haphazard planning that went into our vegetable patch over several years. We might follow that up with an account of the evolution of our plans for perennials.

     Now that we have finally broken 0 Degrees once more I can relish how many nasty bugs this freeze has killed off and look forward to implementing this year's plans.