Today I did the unthinkable and made good on one of my many New Years resolutions: I planned our 128 square foot vegetable garden a year in advance. Here’s how I did it:
Using an Ecology Action pamphlet as my guide, Learning to Grow All Your Own Food: A One-Bed Model For Compost, Diet and Income Crops, I divided the year into three seasons. Most of you reading this blog probably have two: a cool season and a warm season. Here in Los Angeles we have:
- warm: April-July
- hot and dry: July-October
- cool: October-March
Picking Planting Dates
Using the handy Digital Gardener’s Southern California Vegetable Planting Schedule I chose planting dates (in April, mid-summer and Septmber/October) for each season and marked them down on my Stella Natura calendar. I identified the vegetables I’d like to grow choosing only those veggies that have done well in the past and that we like to eat.
|A planning form from Ecology Action|
Deciding How Much to Plant
To decide how much to plant I rely on the charts in John Jeavons’ book How to Grow More Vegetables. I took his three day Biointensive gardening class early last year and recommend it highly, especially for learning how to use the, at first, intimidating charts in the book. Jeavons handed out a handy planning form during the class that works with the tables in the book to help organize your garden. With experience, I also now have an idea about how many square feet of, say, lettuce it takes to keep me and Kelly in salad for a season. While not everyone likes Jeavons, I can say that my best years in our vegetable garden have been when I follow his methods (minus frequent double digging).
Planting Compost Crops
Jeavons stresses the importance of learning how to grow your own compost and fertilizer. I adapted the food/compost ratios suggested in the Ecology Action pamphlet to match our climate. Instead of growing a big winter compost crop (Ecology Action is in cooler Northern California) I decided to treat the late summer/early fall as our “winter”. Growing vegetables in the hot, dry late summer here in Southern California is, frankly, a pain in the ass and water intensive. It’s a time when I’d rather just take a break from vegetable gardening and just grow a bunch of drought tolerant sunflowers, amaranth, cowpeas etc. On the other hand, winter here is the best time to grow all those cool season crops like lettuce and arugula. Using Ecology Action’s suggestions I came up with a compost/food growing ratio:
- spring/summer – 33.3% food, 66.7% compost
- summer/fall 100% compost
- fall/winter 66.7% food, 33.3% compost
The compost crops will reduce my gardening workload, build fertility and assure that there’s always something growing and no sun-baked bare soil.
Apologies for a Southern Californiacentric post, but you can use the same process to identify dates and how much seed you need for any climate. In fact, if you know of a good vegetable planting schedule for your climate please leave a link in the comments.
Update: Scott left a link for readers in Texas. The Texas A&M Extension Service has a vegetable planting guide here.
And meansoybean left a link for vegetable gardeners in Montreal which you can see here.
Thanks to Hak, here’s Southern Nevada.
Kristen sent one for all of the US based on your USDA zone here.