by Leigh Mills 

Whether you have all of your garden seeds or not, now is a good time to plan your garden.  I sat down the other day and planned out the Heyokah garden spaces and I thought I’d share my method.  First I made a list of what of we’ve grown in the past and then picked our favorite eating choices.  I took inventory of my current seed stock and then acquired anything I needed, either by trading with someone or buying seed from other trusted sources. I made a diagram of my garden, labeling what’s already in the ground, such as perennials and biennial seed stock.  If you kept a garden journal, it’s good to get it out and consult what grew where last year in order to rotate your plants.  There are many good resources in your local library and on the web about companion planting to learn how to fine-tune your garden plans.

Then I thought about how much time I might have to dedicate to the garden this year and separated my list into high, medium and low maintenance categories.  Some examples of what I consider high maintenance plants in the Heyokah garden include strawberries, cilantro, our various greens, and asparagus.  Our happy medium plants are ones like peas, green beans, basil, cucumbers and our cayenne peppers.  Low maintenance plants are ones such as dry beans, radishes, beets, onions, squash, tomatoes, carrots (after they’ve been thinned), garlic and broccoli.

If you’re going to save seed, preserve the harvest,  or are considering growing for a market, figuring out how much you’ll need and planning the space is very important.  Learning about the plants’ size at different stages of their growth will allow adequate space in the garden for a healthy, productive plant.  I’m always an advocate of Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening, whose book is available through our county’s library system.  I keep in mind the harvest schedule for the various produce so I can plan my processing, (and eating), schedule.  I practice succession planting to ensure a steady harvest of lettuce, spinach, cilantro and other cool crops all summer long, which I protect from the sun’s harsh rays with trees or shade cloth.

I also took some time to plan our wish-list drip irrigation system.  Our garden has grown over the years and it’s taking quite a bit of time to hand-water the garden, especially during drought cycles.  I worked in another garden with a timer hooked up to a drip system and it was a wonderful feeling that makes it worth the installation time and financial investment.  I’ve scanned the drawing of my garden plans which include the new water lines.  It’s not to scale, and I will probably change a bit of the arrangement once I actually start planting the seeds or starts.  Spring is here and it’s time to get outside, play in your garden, or start your new one.  Enjoy!