2014 Master Plan: The Swingset Quadrant
Break out the graph paper! It's that time of year again:
With all of the crazy weather we had at the end of our holiday vacation, we didn't get to our garden planning as close to the turn of the new year as we had hoped. But this past weekend we banged out the location of everything we plan to plant in 2014, and in the coming days we will add all the seed starting and planting dates to iCal to help us keep on schedule. We'll also come up with a master list of seeds and plants that we need to order (something we should get to ASAP, because our first seed starting this year is the all-time early date of January 18!).
This year we changed our process a bit to (hopefully) ensure a better crop of fall and winter veggies. In the past, we saved those for last in our plans — and this would seem to make sense, since these items are typically the last things planted in July or August. But what has happened in practice is that we end up just sticking fall veggies where ever we can find a spot left open after harvesting earlier crops like peas, onions, or garlic.
This ended up being kind of chaotic this year, and if you check out the latest aerial view, you'll notice that there are tunnels and cold frames scattered about the garden at random. This makes cold-weather harvesting kind of a pain, and forces us to do a lot more path-shoveling than we'd like in order to reach everything.
So this year we decided to start the planning process with the fall plantings, working to keep it in a compact area and making sure that cold frames face the best winter sun and tunnels are oriented the best way against the winter wind. This means that several of these planting areas will lie fallow for the spring and summer, but it turns out we have plenty of room for everything we like to eat despite that less-intensive use of the available land.
For 2014, our winter garden will be grouped along the center path from the kitchen, out in the rear quadrants. This is where we get the best sun in the winter months, since it's an area that's never shaded by the house. The only drawback is that it's far from the kitchen — but on the bright side, we'll only need to shovel one path to get to it. Here you can see part of the winter garden on the right side of the swing set quadrant:
On the right hand side of the swing set quadrant are two fall crops: late cabbage and leeks. These are sown very early in the spring but take a long time to grow, so they will be in place throughout the growing season, but will be easily tunneled to last throughout the fall and winter.
On the bottom of the quadrant are our potato boxes, surrounded a bit by bell peppers and okra. All of these veggies need lots of sun, and this is our very sunniest quadrant, so we hope they'll be happy. Twenty okra plants should be the right amount, but we have more than just these ten bell peppers planned. We have another handful planned for another plot, because we are hoping to roast and freeze many more to last through the winter next year.
The remaining two sides, as always, are filled with our perennial asparagus, grapes, and herbs. I may be moving around some of the herbs that are squeezed into a too-tight spot between the asparagus and grapes, and we also got rid of some mint in favor of saffron crocus bulbs, which will come up some time next summer.
In the center "C"we have over twenty Roma tomatoes, which are planted in cages. We really liked the Paisano ones we grew last year, and plan also to give Amish Paste a try. Clearly, this is the sauce section. In the corners we have devoted space for just one tomatillo plant and one cherry tomato (Sungold!) — down from two or three of each in years past. A person can only eat so much salsa verde, and last summer we gave away supermarket-esque quantities of cherry tomatoes. For 2014, we're comfortable giving up some planting space for these super-bountiful varieties in order to make room for other things.