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Garden planning starts by asking questions.

How did last year's gardening season go? Were there gaps in the production of vegetables you count on? Did you manage to have lettuce early and late? And how about the tomatoes that go with it? What insects and diseases gave you problems, and what biological controls will you need to order now to be ready when their cycles comes around again? Did you plant succession crops?

This year draw three garden plans showing the early, mid-season and late (fall) planting patterns. You'll see at a glance what room you'll have in August for all the winter kale and leeks. Did you over-plant zucchini, and under-plant the good keepers in the squash family? Did you have enough mulch? The soil itself, did you manage to sneak in cover crop of buckwheat, oats, or winter rye? Can you manage an extra compost spreading for that patch of heavy clay? Where did you find soil tilth improving, earthworms proliferating?

If you keep a garden/record notebook, and you should, you'll head for it now. It aids your planning--you'll have records of planting dates, periods when certain insects appeared, blossom and harvest elates, amounts stored, reminders of tasks that need doing next growing season.

After jotting it all down, a pattern begins to take shape. You can see where you want to make changes in this year's garden: grow pole beans for their greater productivity in limited space (vertical gardening), put in more beets and turnips for winter use, grow more of the long-keeping winter squash, find more soil-building materials to till into your garden. (Compost, fish meal, greensand, bone meal, kelp meal, and feather meal are some organic soil-amendments you can use to build better soil.)

Now go over those juicy new seed catalogs. What new varieties seem irresistible to try? Have you overlooked some high-vitamin, or insect/disease resistant strain? In choosing seed look for flavor, food value, good yield, and resistance to pests and disease. To keep your garden producing all season, select crops especially for spring, summer and fall.

With this list in hand, decide what to plant in each garden row or bed. Shuffle through many versions of your plan, taking into consideration companion planting, succession crops, and rotation of heavy feeders.

Getting plans down on paper helps you group early crops, crops that remain in place all season, and crops that finish with the first frost, so that you can plant a whole area of the garden to a cover crop in early fall, rather than just a row or bed at a time. Your plan may change as the season wears on, but it remains a helpful guide.

Remember that radishes, garlic and aromatic herbs are used for garden insect control as well as for food. Now is the time to line up baskets, bottomless jugs, coffee cans and other seedling protectors, and to make or repair flats as needed.

Planning your garden on paper is not a fussy thing to do. It is the key to gardening success and abundant vegetables when you want them. You don't really want all the corn, beans and tomatoes ready to can, or freeze at the same time, now do you?


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Title Annotation:The garden
Author:Miller, Elizabeth; Miller, Crow
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Mar 1, 2005
Previous Article:Grapes in the north.
Next Article:Just what are "exotic" fruits and vegetables?

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