I think some people would say that our family likes to grow things…my dad especially! So When I said, “hey we’re going to move to a large property and start growing and making our own food”. You can just imagine the excitement of getting to plan the garden. As these winter months will seem to drag on my garden plan seems to get more and more complicated. So this post will act as a starting point to see how much of this actually gets done when spring comes around, as we will be getting married and be going away right in the middle of it all we may be a little crunched for time at the beginning of the growing season here in the true north.
Our frost-free growing season in our area is from May 6th – Oct 5th, which is roughly 152 days… if we are lucky. I am hoping to have my outdoor garden set up with sprouts ready to go into the ground by May 3rd. When I plan something for around our new homestead I like to do it backwards. I pick the date that I would like it done by so that I can plan out when things need to be built, sketched out and researched. This was I don’t have to worry about the next steps, in the process and I can leave myself extra time in case something happens, or we will be more prepared if conditions change.
How to pick a design for the garden?
This will depend a lot on your personal situation, but there are a few pointers that I like to keep in mind when trying to determine my layout. First and one of the most important is your soil and its condition. Where we moved to, unfortunately, doesn’t have very much topsoil. In some areas of the property we are at a 0 depth until we hit bedrock, however at the rear of the property you can visibly see a dramatic change in the trees, the variety and the hight which tells us that there is a lot more space for growth there, but this is a ways away from the house. So what is the plan to keep the garden closer to the house and still have a good amount of soil? Introducing the reason Kevin has had amazon delivering a table saw, compressor, and other tools to our house…raised planter boxes!!
The second thing to consider is of course pests. These may be the local insects of course or if you’re in a location like us, larger garden lovers like deer. Deer is my main concern as we will have to deal with the unwanted bugs no matter what but the deer are the only real pests that will require substantial infrastructure. We plan to handle the deer by surrounding our raised garden beds at the property with tall fencing to keep these agile plant eaters out!
The third is how can you design your garden so that it can be scaled up or down depending on your available time and needs. For us, this is an important consideration because we need to be able to fence in the area, and build planter boxes, if we don’t design a scalable solution it can end up costing us extra money that didn’t need to spent and on a homestead the whole point is to help reduce costs and waste. We did this by making simple squared sections that can be added as our garden grows to meet our needs. Take a look!
How big do we make the garden beds?
This is where the fun begins! This is where you take a close look at your favourite recipes, family eating habits and the things you have been waiting to try! This is where the rabbit hole begins and you find yourself searching and taking notes after oohing and awwing at a Pinterest page seed catalogue or other gardening sources. I had to take a deep breath here! I want to eventually grow everything we will need that comes from plants…and just for fun one day I would like to grow a coconut in the Canadian winter, because why not? For our first year, we have narrowed our growing needs to what us personally our family members and even our pets will use, with 2 added fun plants for us to try.
The first step is to identify what you will use, second is to determine how much each plant will yield. This is important because no one will ever use 10 tomato plants worth of tomatoes each year unless you own a small ketchup business. I would check the average yield of the varieties you intend to grow because cabinet and freezer space are precious! After you have determined types and how many, its time to look at how much room each plant needs to grow. For an example, pumpkins need approximately 10 feet of space depending on the variety, where carrots only need about 2 inches of space, these distances are the same for row and plant spacing. I should also probably mention that I will not be growing a pumpkin in a planter box, some spiralling plants can be used with archways to allow for more growing space but pumpkins is one of those that truly just need space. So we will be using an alternative location with more soil for plants like the pumpkins that need more space.
So you’ve got your plants, your spacing, your design, and your passion for growig…what are you waiting for!! Start building if you need to, and check those seed days to see when you should start each plant type indoors to get the most out of your growing season. The way I organize my seed planting times is on my calendar, I give myself a 3-day window for each plant so that I have time to make sure they are ready when I want them. For example, honeydew melon is one of my favourite fruits that we will be growing this year. However, it takes almost the entire growing season for them to be ripe. I’m not going to want melon as much in the fall as I will in the summer so this plant I will be starting earlier so we can enjoy fresh honeydew melon from our garden when the weather is hot.