My friend Fruit Lady is brand new to veggie growing. This spring she put in several good-sized raised beds, but doesn’t care how much she harvests. She grows vegetables so that she and her kids can learn about the process. Really, it’s mostly for the kids, and anything picked is bonus.
That’s not how it works in my garden.
No, my goal is to squeeze the maximum possible yield from the space I have, in order to minimize how much off-site produce we buy. I’m one of those “go big or go home” types, so this goal works for me. My garden is a place to learn, and my kids are always welcome and do a lot with me, but my 10 month old “learns” that we do not pull mommy’s favorite kale out of the ground 5 minutes after she has transplanted it through a swift reprimand from me.
This ain’t no discovery garden.
|Rutabaga: a serious winter food for serious gardens
When I visit Fruit Lady’s garden, I have to take deep breaths and switch over to Veggie Camp mode. I have to remind myself that she has different goals in her garden. I start to get twitchy, telling her to thin her chard, or pointing out that her lettuce has bolted and she should replant the space with some fall crops asap.
Really, I must be quite obnoxious, and it’s a miracle she has me over at all. But Fruit Lady is a good friend, and she knows my quirks and rolls her eyes and tells me, “The garden is doing great! The girls picked some carrots and raspberries and had fun. Besides, my family doesn’t eat as much as yours does – if I picked as many vegetables as you do, they’d go to waste.”
Where she sees an experiment and a living classroom that benefits her children, I see under-utilized space. Conversely, when she visits my garden, I know she sees work…and a lot of it. Fair enough, we have different goals.
When you plan your garden, it is good to know what your goals are.
Do you want a peaceful place to pick a head of lettuce every now and then, or maybe a tomato for a salad? Go with a small container garden! Do you want something fun for kids? Bean teepee and giant sunflowers! Do you want something that will require minimal work over time? No problem – herbs! berries! permaculture! Do you want total urban self-sufficiency on 1/4 acre? Hope you like rabbit, potatoes and kale, my friend.
My goal is not better than my friend’s. But it is different, and it requires different different planning, action and commitment.
Because maximum production year-round from the space I have is my goal, I focus on succession planting, intercropping and season extension. I put extra effort into getting 3 more weeks of zucchini (a folly I usually regret by September but always repeat the next year) and grow a lot of crops most people never even buy: rutabaga, kale, savoy cabbage. I experiment with ways to jump start beans and peas. I overwinter hardy greens and cover crop with spinach.
If my goal were to grow a garden that would allow my to preserve enough to feed my family from the pantry through winter, my planning and planting would look different. If my goal was to maximize the financial value of the crops I harvested, my planning would look different still.
There’s a lot of ways to get where you wanna go, but having some idea where exactly that is always helps. What is your garden goal?5