Thursday, February 20, 2014

How My Garden Came To Be

**please note, I am not an expert and the below was my first garden and how it came to be, if you have tips for improving, let me know!**
**also note, this is a long post, sorry!**

The thought of a garden was intimidating to me.  Kind of like shooting in the dark. I didn't know anything about plants and how to take care of them. How much food do they need, how much light, etc? Is there a rhyme or reason to how to plant or do I just throw my seeds out there and hope for the best? But sometimes, you just can't let the unknown stop you.
My first step was to get on my local agriculture website and see what veggies grew best in New Orleans climate.  Once I saw all the options, I had to whittle it down as I was only going to have a 4' x 8' raised bed (and maybe a few pots depending on how it went). Let me tell you, its hard once you see all the possibilities, you can get really excited. But, I did it. Painfully. We ended up going with: Lima beans, bell peppers, okra, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cauliflower, basil, lettuce, rosemary, and thyme. Once I got what I wanted, I dug a little more. I took a piece of paper, wrote each item and then listed the following for each one I needed to plant (I used google and my local agriculture center website for this info)
  • When to Start Planting
  • Space between each plant/seed
  • Days to Harvest
  • How much Sun
  • How much water
  • *and any other info I thought I would need (like you should stake tomatoes and pole beans, etc)
In my research I came across what is called "companion planting," Do you know what companion planting is? I certainly didn't. I didn't know some plants can hurt each other while others can help.  But, they can. So I wrote down what I wanted to grow and went one by one down my list until I had each item with a list of what would harm it and what would hurt it. Kind of like this:
  • Lima beans
    • No -Onion, tomatoes
    • Helps-Carrots, cucumbers lettuce, rosemary
  • Carrots
    • No-None in my garden
    • Helps-Tomatoes, onion, lettuce

 And so forth.

Once I did that I wrote on tiny pieces of paper each item and moved them into a column accordingly.  Moving them up and down as I went down my companion list. For my garden, I ended up with the following layout scheme: 

Lima Beans
*Tomatoes-in pots
*Basil-in pots
*Rosemary-in pots
*Parsley-in pots
**I realized these things required a lot of space that I just didn't have and knew they would do well in their own pots.
Next step was to see how many seeds per row I should do. Each plant requires so much space between each one.  On a piece of paper I drew a big box and vertically listed my items down (just like above). Knowing I had around 48 inches (minus some since you can't plant right up to the raised bed) for each row, I took 48 and divided it by the amount of space each plant needed. This gave me a rough number of how many to plant per row.  I went with the largest space needed, just to be on the safe side. I didn't want anything to be squished and not get the right nourishment. 

So for an example (Lettuce  4-12 inches apart): 48 in / 12 in spacing = 4 plants.  I knew I also had to leave some room from the edges, and this is what I came up with:

 6 IN --> LETT --> 12 IN --> LETT --> 12 IN --> LETT --> 12 IN -->  LETT --> 6 IN

 I did this the whole way down on my page.  Since I only had 8 ft in length to work with, I went with 12 inches between each row, just to be on the safe side. 96 in total / 12 plants (not including potted ones = 12 in. spacing. I thought 12 inches was a good number to keep between each row. So, this would give me one row of each item I wanted.

 On the left side of each row, outside the box, I wrote down the days I could plant. Ex: 3/1-3/15. And on the right side of each row, outside the box, I wrote if it had to be trellised. Here is a copy of my example.
(This is not to scale obviously. Each item is only one row in reality and each row should be evenly spaced)

After all this Josh built my bed and we started our process based on my final page. So far we can only plant lettuce, cauliflower, carrots, onions, and herbs. Come 3/1 we can plant everything else.

It's a little time consuming on the front end, but much easier once you go to plant everything because you have all the information you need at hand. No guess work! Ours is slowly, but surely showing some signs of progress.

Guess my thumb isn't as black as I thought. But it's probably still a little to early to tell.

Hope you plant a garden of your own and enjoy it as much as we do!


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