Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Big plans. Big. Huge, in fact.

How does 46 beds, each measuring 4'x8', filled to capacity with garden goodness? Yummy? Of course. But, boy is it going to be a lot of work as well.

Our garden measures about 70'x 66', with one corner being cut off. That is where the pigs are now, digging to their hearts content. Don's folks will be coming in a couple of weeks and the plan is, weather permitting, to use Don's dad to help build a new fence to enclose a new paddock out on the pasture for them, about 2 acres in size. Then, we can move all those little piggies over to their new home and get to work in the garden.

We will need to level out the ground a bit (pigs aren't that particular about that), build all 46 beds (with 15 of them having an attached trellis), add compost and make sure the ground is sufficiently loosened. Then, we will be putting weed block down in the paths and covering that with mulch. Our first seeds go into the ground on April 4th, so time will be ticking.

Garden planning this year was not for the faint-of-heart. Of course, I fully recognize that this is, in part, due to my inexperience. But, it was several days of plotting, drawing, calculating, and listing. And this is what is on the back of my kitchen door...The long list is my full list of what needs to be started indoors and transplanted and of what needs to be direct-seeded outside, and when. It also lists how many plants are needed and which bed they'll go into. The other is a map of the garden, each bed being numbered. Can you see the 16'x16' greenhouse to the north? The building of that will fit in somewhere between having a baby, weeding and harvesting, and adding onto the house for Don's folks.

Then, I also have a notebook with one page for each bed and a full list of what goes in each bed and a drawing of where things will go. Color-coded, of course. I showed Caleb and all he could stammer out was, "I'm terrified."

That's how I like to keep it.


Thomas Supercinski said...

Way to Go!

I'm curious about the choice of multiple raised beds (I assume they are raised). My understanding is that raised beds will cut down on weeding, give better control of soil conditions, a little more planting density and to make irrigation a bit more efficient. Is there some other reason(s) you didn't just go with a large row garden? It seems like at that scale, a row garden would be easier (even with the 'increased' weeding required), what am I missing? Thanks.

OurCrazyFarm said...

You guys are a good month or more ahead of us, so I will be jealously watching your progress from up North! I was just talking to a friend the other day about starting plants, and he was saying that to start healthy plants your soil temperature is very important, you actually have to have some type of heat for the soil. As it is soon time to start some plants, I am curious about your experience with it. Mine is next to none! What a treasure to have a greenhouse! Wish we lived closer, I'd come help you plant! Terri

Gina said...

There are a couple of reasons we went this route:

First, defined raised beds will allow our soil to remain light and fluffy within the bed. When you have row crops, you end up walking so close to the crops that it packs down the soil and you lose that airiness. The goal is to get to where we just need to barely loosen it in the spring. This will allow the topsoil and worm holes to remain intact, which is much healthier for the soil.

Second, we are planting over 50 different things. There will be 4 types of tomatoes, 2 types of peppers, 4 winter squashes, 3 carrots, 2 radishes, etc. That variety just doesn't seem to lend itself to long rows of monotony. Beds also seem to lend themselves more easily to experimenting with companion planting.

Third, I just like beds. I like have a very defined border on things. As you can probably see just by my method for planning, I like having all my ducks in a row. A place for everything and everything in its place. It's an illness.

I have a book that shows the temperature range required for the germination of most plants. Some definitely like it warm, but for the most part, I think our 68 degree house will work. I do have some little "greenhouse" covers for some of my flats, which will help raise the temp on some. And, I do plan on warming the soil outside with black plastic for some of the more heat-loving plants. Someday, when my greenhouse is up and running, I hope to look into trying to set up a system for warming all the trays better because, yes, most of them have an optimum temperature that is higher than our house temp. But for now, this will have to do. I'm lucky that I'm going to be able to give them grow-lights this year! And, hey, I'd love to have you help plant!!!

Missus Wookie said...

huge plans - hope they go well.

TeamBettendorf said...

Intense, man! Are you planning to sell some of that food? How did you calculate how many beds? Jeff says if you make 16 ft beds you could make your walk ways bigger and that might be nice to get a wheelbarrow or wagon down more easily.

I'm totally envious of your big garden spot. :)

Mrs. Trixi said...

I feel your pain with all of this gardening, as we too are disking, planning and Lord willing, will soon be planting. Ofcourse, we are not having a baby in the midst of all of this but I sure wish we were.LOL I can't wait to see what all you do.

Gina said...

At this point, our plan is to just try to feed our family for the year. It is going to mean a lot of canning and freezing. Any extras will most likely go to animals. But frankly, since I'm not that experienced of a gardener, I'm not expecting the production that I may get years down the road with tip-top soil and expert know-how.

We chose the number of beds based on what would fit in the monstrous garden we fenced off. And the garden is based on leaving room for apple trees to the north, having some space between the garden and the driveway to the south, where the road (and the ditch before the road) is to the east, and where our addition will be on the house to the west. We made it as absolutely big as we dared. And then started figuring out the bed layout inside.

The drawing of the garden is actually not to scale--at least the paths are not to scale. Each group of 9 beds (or those groups of 6 on the north edge) is surrounded by 4' wide paths. That should be plenty big to get our garden cart close to where it is least within about 8 feet of the bed. There is also a 4' path surrounding the greenhouse. In between the beds in each grouping, the paths are 2' wide...big enough for my cumbersome pregnant self to get down in there for weeding and planting.