Friday, March 25, 2011

Back in the Backyard Garden: Planning

I have a backyard again. My old backyard where my Dad and I built a raised wooden bed around the perimeter of the concrete patio, and assembled a curving continuous brick wall bed around the perimeter of the yard, against the fence. I used to grow some vegetables and flowers here. Mainly tomatoes, and many perennial flowers, which still remain: lupines, brown eyed susans, columbine, a white bleeding heart, some hosta lilies.

He built a large trellis on the west side of the fence, where he grew morning glories. I plan on growing them there again this year. I also plan on building more trellises for my climbing scarlet runner beans and winter squash on the north end of the yard.

I learned lupines are nitrogen fixers and am glad about their presence in the perimeter beds. Not only are they beautiful but they have another function in the garden by fixing atmospheric nitrogen into the soil and turning it into plant available form via bacterial nodules on the roots.

I am going to experiment with interplanting vegetables and herbs among the beds which have held only flowers up until now. Why not yield the benefits of the nitrogen rich soil the lupines have been creating for years now?

I have been planning my vegetable bed since February. I bought seeds at the Guelph Organic Conference and will be getting a few more varieties at Seedy Sunday. The brands of the organic seeds I have bought are Urban Harvest and The Cottage Gardener.

An initial garden plan (draft). Bed drawn to scale to allow spacing of plants according to their mature size. Square feet = 48.
Jeavons' "How to Grow More Vegetables" informs of useful companion plantings included in my design: strawberries with onions and spinach, kale with beets, carrots with peas, carrots with leeks and chives, basil with peppers and tomatoes

I have many projects I want to do and techniques I want to implement in my backyard garden. Among these are:

  • The hugelkultur bed - a raised bed and vertical garden space
  • Trellises - to cover the fence in dense foliage of beans
  • Polyculture vs. Row culture - a comparison in methods of planting
  • Interplanting & Companion planting - to make best use of space, availability of light and soil nutrients and to create symbiotic relationships between plants to enhance growth and health of plants
  • Mulching - heavily on all beds, likely using fallen leaves. Retains moisture, reduces weed pressure, provides a great environment for soil organisms to create healthy soil
  • Composters - actively using and maintaining the 2 in my yard.
  • Flowers - planting more to attract beneficial insects. Cosmos, nasturtium, echinacea, milkweed, sunflowers
  • Mapping and identifying all plants in the garden
  • Seed saving
I have already started some seedlings and will be starting some more in the next couple of weeks. Although I have a fairly good idea of where I want to plant things in my beds, I know my plan will evolve and change as it manifests. I am interested to see what succeeds, what fails, and how techniques I have learned about work in reality. I will document my evolving backyard garden on this blog, so if you enjoy it please read and share your thoughts and experiences!

Broccoli seedlings thrive under florescent light, with New Zealand spinach and chives behind

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