Know Thy Land: Planning the Kitchen Garden
Seed starting time is nearly upon us, yet this year I have promised not to devolve into my usual mania and plant more than I can grow and maintain. As I continue with the theme of the garden commandments and Know Thy Land, I also need to touch on Know Thyself; I will admit to my compulsion to grow way too much from seed too soon. This year, I have less outdoor growing space and more deer to contend with, so I need a plan before I sow my first seed. This brings me back to Know thy Land.
You will recall that last week, I mapped out all of my growing spaces and permaculture zones. I am going to start by planning my potager, or kitchen garden, just off the back patio in my first zone 1. These beds are on the north side of the house and are partially shaded all day due to the large Siberian elms and location due north of our two-story dwelling. This area is also the closest growing space to the kitchen where I would use most of the produce we grow.
To begin, I will "turn off" the elms to show the three beds that I am planning first, 1) a potted deck garden, 2) a northeast, morning sun garden, and 3) a northwest, afternoon sun garden. Last July I facilitated a small experiment and grew a small number of greens, herbs, radishes, and tomatoes in various pots. I learned four critical lessons without much effort:
the deer will not venture up onto our deck, especially since there are so many other tasty things to eat in the yard.
tomatoes do not get enough heat and sun in this space to mature and ripen.
greens, herbs and radishes do quite well on the deck in pots.
a deluge of water comes off of our corrugated roof when it rains and, without gutters, any pot caught in this torrent will be washed out and the plants beaten down.
These learnings and knowledge of the sun's position in mid-summer and fall have led to the following plan for each bed.
The Potted Deck Garden
In this 122.5 square foot space, I am hoping to accommodate a comfortable space to sit and drink coffee in the morning while contemplating a day in the garden, a small kitchen herb and greens garden, a rain barrel, and a space for the indoor plants needing a home outside for the summer. Some of this may be a pipe dream as the reality of my budget may interfere with what I can actually do; however, by planning so early and knowing what I need like a rain barrel, I just might be able to scope one out on Facebook or Craig's List. Getting gutters to solve our water problem may be the truly expensive investment. Again, having a plan and a vision can only help.
Hardscape Needs: Gutter, Rain Barrel, Two Comfortable chairs, and a small end table.
Indoor Plants Moving Outdoors: Cold-Hearty Avocado Tree, Haas Avocado Tree, Meyer Lemon Tree, Key Lime Tree, Black Mission Fig Tree
Select Kitchen Garden Plants: Basil, Parsley, Thyme, Cilantro, Dill, Chervil, Marjoram, Chives, Various Lettuces, and Radishes.
The Northeast-Facing Morning Sun Garden
This next bed is not even closely drawn to scale, illustrating one of the pitfalls of using a satellite image as a base rather than actual measurements. For my purposes, this still works and it's free! The red measurement lines here more closely mirror the shape of this bed, narrow near the house, partially covered by the eve, wider along the walkway. The entire bed slopes away from the house. In the fall, I laid down cardboard, followed by a deep layer of mulch, followed by a layer of good Colorado compost, followed by another sheet of mulch.
In this roughly 120 square foot space, I plan to have a mix of perennials and garden plants. Due to its location in the partial shade and being protected from the hot afternoon sun, this is where I plant to sow my cool-season annual crops that bolt too soon in the full sun. This will protect the flavors of arugula, chard, endive, escarole, lettuce, leeks, mustard, peas, radishes, scallions, sorrel, spinach, pak choi, radicchio, and watercress. I will also have some perennial herbs growing here, horseradish, thyme, chives, oregano, winter savory, summer savory, and tarragon. Between these edibles, I plan to intersperse partial shade-loving, flowering perennials: tulips, hyacinths, crocus, daffodils, asters, bluebells, columbines, delphinium, and other western native wildflowers still to be researched. I am particularly excited to try delphinium and columbine as it was way too hot in my last garden to have much success with these.
If the gutter and rain barrel projects do happen in the spring, I am considering running an overflow from the rain barrel under the deck and to this bed. This would require digging some shallow trenches to distribute the water evenly in this bed, so I will keep you posted on this process.
Select Edible Plants: arugula, chard, endive, escarole, lettuce, leeks, mustard, peas, radishes, scallions, sorrel, spinach, pak choi, radicchio, watercress, horseradish, thyme, chives, oregano, winter savory, summer savory, and tarragon.
Select Flowering Plants: tulips, hyacinths, crocus, daffodils, asters, bluebells, columbines, delphinium, and other western native wildflowers
The Northwest-Facing Afternoon Sun Garden
This is a very narrow strip of land between the deck, the neighbor's driveway, and under the big Siberian Elm. I am contemplating what to plant here still and will give this one more season of study. In the meantime, I have collected plenty of cardboard and will continue with the sheet mulching here in the spring until I really know what I want to grow. This area gets a narrow but intense slice of afternoon sun in the summer. Since this is adjacent to a space under the deck, I have considered putting an asparagus bed here; however access and headspace may be an issue, which make this a good location for a short-season veggie, but I am not sure if the space will meet other growing requirements.
In the meantime, this map gives me a starting place for planting my starter seeds in February. There will be more to come on this as I plan the garden on the yurt deck next, which will allow me to plan how many tomatoes, peppers, and other heat and sun-loving plants to get started next month. In the meantime, I would love to hear how your garden planning is going.