Monday, December 29, 2014

Garden Plans and Explanations - Part 2

I mentioned we were working on seed orders. That is hard to do when you don't know where you will be living, what zone you will be living in, how the land lays, what kind of soil will you have, and a thousand other variables. What we did was to get a two year subscription to the Garden Planner from Mother Earth News last year. This is a cloud program. You don't have the program, you just access it online. No internet, no access. With this program, you can draw out your garden plot and populate it with your vegetables and fruits (yes, it has fruit and nut trees), It has a listing across the top of most vegetables and fruit and nut trees. You select what you want and place it where you want it in your garden. You don't place words on your garden. You place a drawing of the plant onto your garden. It looks somewhat like what you will be planting and is of a size of what your mature plant will be. You can draw out the planting to form a row. And you can draw down to have multiple rows – like a wide bed. Or draw that plant into a new row to form multiple stand alone rows. So, you can have wide beds or multiple rows – your choice. You have to decide what you want planted where. You can have your rows perpendicular to each other or at angles to each other or parallel to each other. And, you determine your row spacing. A row could have 5 tomato plants or, in the same amount of space, 700 radishes. The drawings are sized according to the plants real size. As you add plants to your garden, it will place the name of the plants onto the drawing of that plant. This way, you don't have to guess at the name of the plant. It does not deal with varieties of a plant, only the family name. It only gives you “tomato”, not “Better Boy” or “Orange Oxheart”. And it generates a plant list. This tells you how many of what you have. It doesn't tell you that your 700 radishes are in a single row 250 feet long or in a wide bed 30 feet long. Your drawing on the garden plot does that.

Stock Photo of Easter Egg radishes

I don't know where we will be living. So, I chose a location in central Kentucky and looked up its zip code. I entered this zip code into the program for our location. If and when we do sell and move, I will go into the program and change the location to our real location. The purpose of this location thing is so they can send you a “newsletter” designed for you and your location. About every two weeks, I received an email telling me what seeds to start indoors, what seeds to direct seed outdoors, what plants to transplant out to the garden, etc. Hence, the need for your zip code. This gave them your frost dates, etc. (I forgot – The program has herbs and some flowers, also.) Also, the email is tailored to what you told them you are planting. If you only have tomatoes and radishes in your garden, that is all your email will mention. You will receive nothing about beans or corn or squash or... Therefore, put into your “garden” everything you intend to plant. Otherwise, it won't be mentioned in the emails. The program is somewhat general in nature, it doesn't cover everything. So it has general categories. Like flowers. It has four “flowers” listings. That is all. Just “flowers”. But, they are different colors. There was “large fruit trees” and “small fruit trees” along with “Chinese chestnut”, “pecan”, “walnut”, about five apples (like cordon, espalier, dwarf, etc.), cherries, figs, pears, oranges, limes, etc. It is a “general use” program, but it still does a pretty good job. It will provide us the general information to get started in a new location. We will tailor the information to our specific needs. The emails will be printed out by us for future reference. We will be able to make notes and changes to suit us. It is a starting point of reference material.

 There are LOTS of good gardening books out there.

Now to the embarrassing admissions and revelations. They have just under 200 plants and categories listed. I know. I selected almost everyone of them. Including oranges, limes, and cranberries! We will not be planting all of them, but I will be getting the info for future reference. Some of them, I had no idea what it was – like phacella or phacelia (I'm not sure of which spelling). Or calendula. I am hoping to have a large email with all of these listed. We'll see. Also, where the plants are listed across the top, there is a small “i”, for info, listed on each plant. This gives soil, moisture, sunlight, etc. requirements for that plant. A simple, quick reference. Just not too detailed or in depth.


I didn't know what I would need or want, so I went to the extreme. I put my garden size at 1000 feet by 1000 feet. I started at the top left corner and put two 30 foot rows across the top. I then dropped down and did two more rows. So I had sixty feet across. I ended up down at almost 900 feet. The 940 feet to the right was never used. The 100 plus feet at the bottom was never used. I found out two Chinese chestnuts will not fit together in 60 feet of space. Their limbs are overlapping. Like I said, the drawings are proportional to mature size. Pomegranates aren't as big as I had expected. What I am trying to get across is the fact that this exercise was to get information. It didn't really have anything to do with reality. This plot is not intended for us to use, just to get them to send the planting information for where we intend to live. I believe it is five gardens that you can have per subscription. I have four real life gardens left to do. For the real world where we will be living.

Now, to step back toward the real world, I opened up a spreadsheet in LibreOffice Calc. (This is a free program for Linux systems.) (Also, this is being written in LibreOffice Writer, another free Linux program in the LibreOffice Suite.) I listed the plants down the left side of the spreadsheet. I broke it out into vegetables, fruit and nut trees, flowers, and herbs. My spreadsheet is 227 rows running across. Then I went to a printout I had from Granny Miller that lists how much of what to grow for a family of four and other info. I am also using other sources. For my columns across the top, I have: Number of row feet for us to plant in 2015, Row feet needed for a family of 4, Approximate vegetable yield for a 100' row, Total amount of seed or number of plants needed, Total price of each crop, Approximate seeds or plants per 100' row, Pounds to raise for a family of 4, Quarts/pints to preserve for a family of 4, Foot row per person for fresh seasonal consumption, Companies and varieties and order number to order, and cultivation techniques and notes.

With this, we can look at the new property and determine how much land we need for crop land – not including crops for the animals or space for the animals. This chart is working off of a family of 4. There are only two of us. The first two or three years, we want to double or triple crop what we need in order to do extra canning to get an excess built up in storage. Then we can drop back to just replacement canning. This tells us how many row feet we will need and how much seed or how many plants we will need and where they will come from. The rest of the spreadsheet tells us how much we need to plant in order to can so much and to have fresh eating. I can go on across the spreadsheet adding what ever info I want, like gardening tips or reminders. Whatever the mind can conceive of can go into it. Over time, we will learn what we like to eat more of or less of, and we will change the garden accordingly. And the canning.

I have to finish flushing out the spreadsheet with how much of what we want to grow. Some items, we will try a few feet of to see how it tastes, how well it will grow, and decide if it is something to consider for the future. We DO like to experiment and try new things. And that phacella thing is still there. We may just have to try it and find out what the heck that thing is. I still have to finish the spreadsheet. (Fiona tries to keep me on the straight and narrow with a “We don't need to grow that much of that, we can't use that much!” and then my very frustrating to her “But if we don't like it or there is too much, we can always feed it to the chickens and hogs” - I do like to live dangerously, it seems.) Once we finish the spreadsheet, we will have a total feet needed, amount of seed needed and the sources of those seeds, number of plants needed, and the total price to pay. Building a greenhouse may create a problem for starting our own plants. There just may not be time. Maybe a sunroom would work!!! Uh-oh! I think I just cross her line in the sand. The smarter me should go find a place to hide.

The seed catalogs have been coming in. With the spreadsheet, I can go down the list and look at the catalogs to determine what we get from whom. And then we will have to pay for all those new seeds. But we can't place the orders until we have the land and adjust the lists for the land. And then we are back to waiting. And then waiting for the seeds to arrive! Oh! And we HAVE to let all the seed companies have our new address so we get all those new wish books, I mean catalogs.

Is it too early to say “Happy Gardening” to everyone?

Ralph and Fiona


  1. It's never too early to say happy gardening! I just got 50 blackberry plants to put in the ground, and we're still harvesting turnips and carrots. This is a great, comprehensive look at how to plan a new garden spot or extend and existing one. Thank you for the sharing the resources you use.


    1. Ohhh Blackberry plants, are you going to build a trellis for them? Our top three properties all have a patch of wild blackberries on them..we will have to manage them to get the best out of them without them taking over.