Simple, humble, or elegant and intricate, gardens definitely say a lot about the Gardener! Just be you! Plant in rows, circles, squares, diagonal rays, or have no plan at all, jungle style! That’s a plan too, right?! Make your space plant accessible, with safely wide enough pathways, or stepping stones. Straw in pathways will compost in place. It may be a bit slippery until it settles in. Keep replenishing it.
Choose what you would like to eat! Think about nutrition. Some think that most corn isn’t really food, and it takes up a lot of space per square foot per production. Kale is super nutritious, but will you eat it, or do you need a different recipe? Are you growing something because your Mum did? It’s ok if you have the room and it makes you happy.
Right along with what you would eat, comes how much will you eat or can you eat?!
- Over planting zucchini is the classic example! You better have a lot of hungry zucchini loving friends if you over plant it! You probably would rather freeze tomatoes or ferment pickles for probiotics, than take up space with zucchini, though you can ferment it too. But what claim to fame does it have? Not a big taste. Only one to two zuke plants is likely plenty! If you over plant, in self defense, harvest when they are small. Fresh slices in salads give a crunch and color. It comes in greens and brilliant yellow! Plant both!
- Pole beans are another commonly over planted veggie. They produce tons throughout the season, and are time intensive to harvest. At the end, you may just burned-out-on-beans stop picking. Canning them is easy; freezing even easier if you have freezer space.
Stored vs Fresh In SoCal, if you want to take a winter break, you can store your veggies and live off them. But if you prefer fresh, we can grow table veggies here year ’round! I do very little storing of veggies, just some for emergency contingencies, so I plant only what I can eat. Having more space lets me grow more varieties, experiment, let that volunteer grow and see what it becomes! For me it puts Magic in the Garden!
How much space do you have? What is the footprint of a mature thriving plant? You especially need to know that if you are planting alternately. For example, peppers thrive with a tad of shade between tall tomato plants in cages. Will you need to be using upright space-saving cages and trellises? Almost all your summer plants can go upright – pole beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, even zucchini can go up and over structures so you can plant summer semi shade-needing lettuces underneath. Winter squash (grown in summer) just needs space on the ground, LOTS of space. It’s leaves are huge, and the thriving vine will go 45, 50′!
How long does your plant choice take to grow?
- Bush beans produce faster. You can plant bush and pole beans at the same time, and remove the bush beans when they finish, leaving your pole beans to continue producing throughout the season.
- Determinate tomatoes jump up quickly, take up less space, produce intensely then quit. Indeterminate tomatoes are vines that can easily grow healthily up to 12’+ and they produce all season long! Plant the determinate little guys for first and fast fruit. Plant several at once if you are canning. The indeterminates give you a summer long fresh table supply.
- Patio and container varieties often produce quicker and wonderfully, and take up a smaller space. If you want more different kinds of plants, they are the way to go. To keep a steady supply, just keep planting them successively.
- Some crops take a long time, like jicama. You plant them in late March if it’s quite warm, April 1 is the usual time, May if you miss April. If you remove the flowers, the roots enlarge in fall as days begin to grow shorter. A warm fall helps. Harvest will be in Sep/Oct depending on when you planted, how hot it has been. That’s 5/6 months. Many other plants will produce in 2 months from transplant. Let one plant flower for seed harvest. Jicama seeds can be hard to come by.
- Cukes and dill. Dill needs a bit of room! Plant WHITE radishes with cucumbers to repel cucumber beetles.
- Tomatoes – DANDELIONS FOR WILT. Dandelions produce cichoric (or chicoric) acid that ties up soil-bound iron needed by the disease called fusarium. Plant them first, let them grow up, then put your tomatoes in amongst them. Chives enhance flavor and growth of your toms, and basil repels pests. Chamomile has been used to increase production of wheat, tomatoes and other herbs. It helps them to grow better and releases fungal inhibitors.
- Beans – The Mexican beetle avoids bean rows that have Marigold, Calendula, or Petunia growing among them. Planting dill deters the Mexican bean beetle, which feeds on the foliage of bush and pole beans.
Direction to plant Tall in the north or the most shaded area, gradually working to less and less tall plants to the South and least shaded areas.
Where can you plant?! Are you using fences as trellises, have movable containers on wheels, a narrow pathway that is in a summer sunlight corridor all day?! Be clever! Is your soil funky? Ha! Put in a raised bed with perfect soil. Keep laying on sheets of compost in areas you would like to revive and increase friability and water holding capacity. Plant green manures there. To get more sun, raise plants up on top of barrels, hang them high, up on the fence, install hydroponic towers!
Plant your roof! Plant in lightweight canvas containers or cover the entire roof with soil if it is strong enough! Energy-efficient rooftop gardens are great insulation from heat, give a 26% reduction in winter heat losses! They cool the environment between 6.5 and 20.3° F. It is common for the soil of a roof garden, built on a heated structure (home), to be at least 5C warmer than a conventional landscape. With home rooftops, you can plant sooner, the elevated temperature of the soil brings the plants into growth earlier in Spring and sustains their growth in the Autumn. The Philadelphia Water Dept says green roofs extend the lifetime of the roof by 100-200%! And we haven’t even talked about rainwater catchment! Have a greenhouse up there, do beekeeping, have chickies! Above all, pun intended, it’s your food, your organic food!
Successful summer garden design is complemented by choosing summer successful seeds/plants that have heat/drought tolerance, resistance/tolerance to summer diseases/pests. Heat tolerant, bolt and tip burn resistant lettuce varieties are good choices – Jericho, Sierra, Nevada, Black Seeded Simpson. Mildew resistant beans. Choosing the right plants keeps your design working and you get optimum production!
See February, March, April, May SoCal Veggie Garden Planning! for perspective on what exactly to plant when in the months to come! May you have happy dirty hands!