Anecdotes and how-to's from the Urban Homestead. Commentary on green and sustainable practices. A community-building resource for forward-thinking people.
A Little About Me
I am an Urban Farmer and garden designer / consultant who specializes in maximizing small spaces, while keeping a livable aesthetic.
Monday, April 12, 2010
The Grand Garden Theater
Amongst the multitude of “how to garden” posts that have been flitting about the interwebs in the last few weeks, I have become quite enamored of the concept of “four-dimensional garden design,” or designing in time as well as space, that has been a favored sub-subject in many of the articles. Those seasoned growers who may or may not be as much of a quantum physics geek as I am, have referred to the same concept as seasonal-rotation planning, or getting 3-4 different harvests out of the same space each year.
Goodness, you might think… three different crops out of the same space? This is where some serious planning comes in, and not just the “I wonder what kind of tomatoes I’m gonna try to not kill this year” type planning. There is a reason that the seed companies start sending catalogs out right after Christmas – because those gardeners/growers/farmers plan the entire year’s garden sometimes a whole year in advance. Some crops, like garlic, for example, you need to plant in the fall for harvest the following summer. Other crops, like radishes, have a fairly short lifespan, so you can plant them really early in the spring, for a late spring/early summer harvest, and then again in mid-summer for a fall harvest. Some crops only like it in summer, like tomatoes and peppers. So, if you like puzzles, with a little bit of forethought, you can orchestrate an edible play in three or four acts.
Act One, the Spring Garden: the garlic I planted last fall is eight to ten inches tall; the sugar snap and snow peas are about five inches tall and are starting to find their support structures, and their companion carrots are just showing their first set of true leaves; the hardy herbs (oregano, thyme, sage, chocolate mint and hops) are going like gangbusters – note to self – tie up those hops before they take over; savoy cabbage and broccoli starts are ready to go in the ground; purple kohlrabi, red beets, more carrots, mesclun mix, spinach and French breakfast radishes have just been planted. Most of these vegetables will be mature in forty-five to sixty days, so they will be vacating their space just in time for the summer vegetables (Act Two) to take the stage.
Here is a little diagram of how I have fit all of these spring varieties into a few beds. Please note, I am not planting a large volume of these at a time, since I am trying to produce only what my family can eat.
Act Two, the Summer Garden: the garlic will be sending up flower heads, or scapes, that I will promptly remove and make into a fabulous pesto, forcing the plants to use their energy on producing bigger bulbs for harvest later in the season; the peas, carrots, leafy greens, beets, kohlrabi and radishes will be harvested to make room for the incoming tomatoes and eggplants with their companion basil plants; I may sneak in some green onions and some more carrots if there is any spare room; cucumbers and summer squashes will be put in with companion radishes (to help keep insect pests away from the vines); green beans will be put in as the garlic comes out to re-charge the soil with nitrogen; savoy cabbage and broccoli will be ready for harvesting; winter squash, potatoes and a “storage” variety of cabbage will be planted for harvest later in the fall (Act Three); I might plant some more salad greens for a fall crop.
Act Three, the Fall Garden: garlic has been harvested, and is curing for storage; tomato and eggplant production will slow as the days get shorter; summer squash is done for the season (thank goodness!); winter squash, potatoes, salad greens and the late season cabbage will be harvested prior to real frost; garlic and onions will be planted for harvest next year.
The curtain will go down for a few months, until the days start to lengthen, somewhere in February, and the grand cycle begins again. I love this show!