Vegetable Planning Tips

If you were wondering what Wellfield’s horticulture staff has been doing this fine, cold winter week (and I am sure you were not), we’ve been keeping busy ordering/planning our vegetable crops for 2020, with an emphasis on Japanese cuisine. Not surprising, given it is Kistetsu: The year of the Island Garden at Wellfield!

But I digress. Back to horticulture! Here are a few tips when planning your vegetable garden for 2020. There are three main concepts I consider when planning: layout, schedule and rotation.

First, I look at the space available for vegetables. Do I have enough space available or too much? Do I really NEED enough space for 50 varieties of tomato and zucchini? Vegetable garden layouts are tricky because you are designing in four dimensions: three of space and one of time. Most people really only plan in terms of two: length and width, but do not forget to maximize the vertical plane. We trellis as many crops as possible, which in turn creates some unique niche spaces we can utilize for growing crops perhaps a little outside their normal growing period.

Of course, time is an important fourth dimension to consider as well. The same piece of ground may play host to several different plants in the same season. Therefore, scheduling is the next important piece to planning. I divide my wish list of crops into three categories: main season crops, spring and fall crops (and maybe winter). The main season crops are the vegetables that take the longest to mature and/or require the most space. I plot my main crops on a piece of paper first, to ensure I have used the space effectively, and then fit spring and fall crops around the main varieties. If I just filled my garden in the spring with crops, their harvest time might push past the planting window for a main season crop. Thus, start with the biggest and longest stuff first.

Lastly, a word on crop rotation. Some people get really complicated in their crop rotations. The main principle is to not plant the same plant type in the same location year after year. I also diversify what I plant. I lay off certain crop types for a year or two; maybe consider giving those tomatoes or cabbage a break for a year or two to help your soil.

The biggest tip I can pass on is to have fun with your vegetable garden. The whole seasonal process is a joy I never want to miss.

Josh Steffen, Horticulture and Facilities Manager

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