Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Gardening by the book...

Over the last few weeks I have been compiling lots of data in hopes of planning the perfect garden. I will show the final plan at the end of this post, and will go through the steps I took. That way if you want to plan yours along the same lines you will have all the plans and schedule I started with. Along the way, I will also be annotating and tracking how things really end up going for me.

In a perfect world, with exact frost dates (and no cheating), all of the normal temperatures staying normal, and rain fall like the doctor ordered, in fact if we took out nature altogether and did this in a lab, the plan would be right on. However, due to the fickle fancies of the forces of nature, I am expecting longer times than the manufacturer says it will take from seed to harvest. Also, I am trying to work out the plantings so that it will be a sustainable harvest rather than one large harvest. It will sure be lots of fun! Let’s throw caution to the wind and forge ahead.

Using the seeds I purchased from Johnny’s Seed Company (as recommended in the Winter Harvest Handbook) I made a graph of what the optimal planting times would be. I also included how to plant them (spacing, etc) so that I can refer to that next year. I then made a calendar based on the frost dates for my area, which are April 20th and October 25th. (This can be obtained by simply asking on Google search engine “What are the frost dates for Tacoma, Washington”. You will need to substitute your location) Then, (I’ve always been good at this kind of math) subtracting or adding weeks to make the schedule. If this sounds confusing, just nod your head and follow along. It will become clearer as we progress…maybe.

If you don’t want to do the math, you can also go to your Farmer’s almanac online and get a planting schedule of your area. http://www.almanac.com/gardening/planting-dates/NH/Dublin (Yes, I found this out after I did all of the math) The almanac will give a week or so of time to plant. The other thing to remember is that this is all based on the date of the last frost. Last year the last frost came late. If that happens again, I’ll have to redo my excel file.

So, April 21st according to the Farmer’s Almanac is zero hour (yes, this is a military operation). There is a 50% chance that that will be the last frost. From there, every week before is -1, -2 etc. and after is 1,2,3. This probably can be done another way, but I used Microsoft Excel. I can email you the file and you can tweak to your plot if you want, or you can make your own. I am hoping to use this to track future gardens as well to get a good system.

I also read up on each plant in the Square Foot Gardening. It explains how far apart to plant, how much water, pH level of soil, common problems, what to direct sow and what to grow indoors, etc. Pretty much everything you should know and some stuff you many not need to know - such as "the stronger the sunlight on green leafy plants, the more vitamin C they will have."

If I haven’t confused you yet, then you may look at the pictures. If you have any obvious thoughts or ideas that all of my calculations have not considered, please let me know…this is for posterity. And when it fails, we will have no other option but to go to safeway and eat the less nutritious substitutes they offer.

Lots of paperwork...

Master Gardener's Notes:
I showed this to my mom, and she had a couple comments I'd like to pass on here at the end. 
1) Broccoli is a cool weather crop, so as the temperatures warm up into the hot July/August temps, you may want a warm weather variety. Johnny's seeds are good about telling you which these are. Green Goliath is a good variety.
2) Peas are another cool weather crop, so once the plants are 8" high, you should put 3-4" of straw around them to keep them cool. Also, they love manure so mixing in some extra in the dirt where you are going to plant them will help. 

1 comment:

  1. I swear I was organised once upon a time when I lived in a warmer summer climate - I also swear gardening was easier there. Here in the PNW I struggle to garden successfully - is summer going to be hot or cold this year - according to Farmers Almanac it's going to be a cooler summer. The cool weather crops will be happy!