As you may remember, my 2016 garden was pretty much a failure. (You can read about it here.) I only managed to harvest one small meal’s worth of okra. There were a lot of factors that played into my failure, not the least of which was my own lack of attention to my garden’s needs. But! I do not feel discouraged. In fact, I believe I learned some valuable lessons from my gardening failure last year. Lessons that I think I can apply to a garden this year and reap much more success. I have also been taking some time to read a variety of books, articles, and posts that have given me some great tips and ideas to make 2017 a much more successful year.
It takes a lot of planning to make the most of your garden, especially when you’re just starting out. More weathered gardeners and farmers probably plan a lot less because they already have experience to show them what to do. My garden still needs a lot of set up to be its most sustainable and I can’t set up what I don’t plan for. Plus, if you know me at all by now making lists, researching, and planning is really my favorite part. I lack a bit in the execution area.
So for 2017 my plan is as follows:
- Pull last year’s plant skeletons to clear boxes. – I’ve read that these skeletons can be great for my compost so I will probably add them to the compost pile but right now they are just sitting in the boxes like a garden graveyard.
- Paint/stain boxes. – The husband told me to do this last year, but we were so late in getting the boxes made and the plants planted that I didn’t listen to him. This year I want to go ahead and take the time while I have it to get the boxes painted or stained so they will be a little more weather-proof and will last us a little longer. While maybe not a top priority, I also really want my garden to look good.
- Build trellises for my climbing plants. – This was one thing that I believe really hurt my garden production of several of my plants including the beans and cucumbers. I went to my friend Jess’s house and her garden was… well, phenomenal, but also she had these really nice trellises made of chicken wire and pvc that made archways between plant beds. Not only were they visually-appealing, but they served the greater purposes of saving ground space and getting those climbing plants up off the ground.
- Build a rain barrel with a hose attachment. – We had a lot of trouble with the watering of the garden. I think a big part of the problem was that we kept having to attach and unattach the hose that reached the garden. Not only will it be a water saver to use rain water, but we can put the water source directly in the middle of the garden with its own hose and never have to worry about it. My friend Kelly does some major aquaponics which I’m very intrigued with, and I would love to apply some of her watering techniques to my garden for a more continuous flow of water. I think a central rain barrel or two will be good for that.
- Build a composting bin/box. – This past year The Husband kept moving my composting pile. Well, not exactly. he didn’t move the stuff I had composted, just told me I couldn’t put compost where I’d been putting it so I had to start over. At this point, my pile is just a big pile in the back right corner of the yard. I would really like to get it more contained. I’ve even thought of having several bins for a rotation of compost. It’s also important to flip the compost so I would like to build something that can rotate, but they may be way out of my engineering ability.
- Get plant supports. – This may go in the category of building trellises, but one thing I really regret about last year is that some of my plants didn’t have the support they needed, in particular the tomato plants. I had tied the plants to wooden posts that The Husband had bought for me to use when I was staking out my garden plan last year. The stakes just weren’t really tall enough, I didn’t have enough, and they didn’t provide support all around the plant, just to the main trunk of the plant. I think those round wire supports will be a good investment for our tomato growing. (ooooh… AND Lowe’s has them in some fun, bright colors.)
- Get a recording notebook. – This is a huge DUH! for me. I should have gotten one last year, but I just never did pick one up. Good gardeners keep records from year to year so they can remember what works and what doesn’t. Of course I have this blog to look back at, but I really need more detailed records. With that being said, I am not the best record-keeper. Despite my shortcoming, I know that it is in the best interest of the garden to keep records so I will start somewhere this year and hopefully improve my record-keeping skills in the years to come.
- Get some Large Decorative pots. – This is actually easy because we already have two that The Husband picked up for some potted plants. As of to date they have remained empty other than the rain water, leaves, and branches they have collected so I am going to confiscate them and use them to grow some of my potted produce like potatoes. Not only will these pots help the visual appeal of my garden, but they will serve a very practical purpose as well. Shhhh… don’t tell The Husband.
- Get dirt/compost & layering peat moss. – One thing I really, really regret last year is our lasagna layering choice. I ended up doing just as much manual labor to do the work and I think our plants missed out on a lot of the nutrient rich soil because our soil layer was really quite small. The benefit is that a lot of the layers I laid down last year are now better soil so I won’t have as much to get to fill my boxes. I would like to add a layer of peat moss or I’ve heard coconut coir is less expensive but just as effective. I have read that it’s not a renewable source, however so it will just be a one time deal to get our garden going this year and encourage us for future years.
- Finally, plant seedlings. – I’ve been doing some research about planting schedules and it looks like a lot of my plants can start to go in the ground as early as March so I’d like to have my seeds started. Using the Aero Garden for my starter plants makes quick work of getting the seeds to sprout so I really don’t need much time, but I want to make sure that this is still on my to do list.
I still intend to try Intensive Gardening because I believe it is the most bang for my buck. I continue to refer back to Mini Farming: Self Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre by Brett Marham, and after reading a great article from Mother Earth News comparing the two primary forms of intensive gardening I remembered that my grandma had given me a copy of Mel Bartholomew’s book All New Square Foot Gardening II: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More in Less Space. Bartholomew is one of the leaders in the intensive gardening movement and one that Marham refers to often so I figured I might as well work my way through that book.
The Husband is not excited at all about the garden. I feel his pain. A lot of money and energy spent last year with nothing to show for it, but I can’t help feeling like this year will be better. I’m much more prepared ahead of the game and not trying to scramble around at the last minute like I felt like I did last year. I already have a good handle on what to plant where and how. The chickens remain in their chicken jail so they won’t be picking at our plants and eating up all of our fruit which, to be fair is kinda huge! We already have a good compost mix just from last year’s lasagna layering plus what I’ve thrown into the most recent compost pile. AND! I’m enlisting help this year from my garden-successful friends. If they can do it at their house, they can help me do it at mine. Right? (Hint, hint, wink, wink.)
So… What’s your plan?