Planning the Summer Garden

We are this close to harvesting winter greens out of the garden, and rain is in the forecast for this coming week, which means things will warm up and get extra-hydrated and that should help. Meanwhile, like gardeners everywhere, I'm longing for spring and the planting that will be done then. I don't get many seed catalogs here as I prefer not to use the paper, but I'm just as guilty as anyone at lusting over the selection offered by some of my favorite seed houses.

I'm very excited to start ordering seeds and vegetable crowns, but before I do, I had to figure out my space and what I have room for. I'm going to grow a lot of the same things I grew last year, though I'll try different varieties of many of them. Plus, we have a new garden to build and plan! But more on that later.

First, I dealt with the regular planning of the North and South Gardens. I used to make these all colorful, but now I'm all about just getting it done, sorry.

North Garden
The North Garden will again have corn, sweet potatoes, sweet and hot peppers, all kinds of tomatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, and delicata squash.

A couple of notes on the tomatoes: I'm going to grow less cherry and more paste tomatoes, plus I'm going to give them more room; i.e. last year I grew four plants per 4x4 bed, this year I'll plant 4 plants per 4x8 bed. I'm reading Epic Tomatoes by Craig LeHoullier of Seed Saver Exchange fame, and he recommends this. Also, we have two very large pots by the chicken coop, in which I've tried many different flowers, none of which are terribly happy there. It's a very sunny and dry spot. So I've ordered two small Arbequina Olive trees to put in those pots and I'll get those started there as soon as they arrive.

South Garden
The South Garden will have potatoes, pole beans, both slicing and pickling cucumbers, shelling peas with an underplanting of summer greens such as collards and orach, acorn squash, and butternut squash.

That's all pretty standard fare, though I'm going to trench and hill the potatoes rather than grow them in a tower, and we'll probably do more pickling cucumbers than slicing. Having just read The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz, I'm keen to do more pickling using a fermentation method rather than vinegar. One new vegetable that I'll be growing is orach, which was recommended to me by Michael at Dissident Potato. He says it does well in summer heat, and I'd be glad to have more greens during that time. I may also try New Zealand Spinach if I have room in the Understory Garden.

But hey! I haven't mentioned that yet. The Understory Garden will be in our new sheet-mulched space, which is bordered by a large chitalpa tree and a large magnolia tree. Hence, it's dappled with regards to light, except early morning and late afternoon, in the summer, when it will get direct sun for an hour or so.

Understory Garden
This garden will be planted with mostly perennial edibles. The large square in the middle will be 6x6, and the triangles at the sides will be 4x4x4. The triangles will be planted with both annual and perennial herbs. My big 'herb spiral/hugelkulture' has become flat and overrun with mostly mint. I decided to let that go to mint (although there are still many other herbs which I'll let live as well). We use a lot of mint so that is an ok thing. Also, I think now that it's flat, it's getting peed on quite a bit by passing dogs, as it's right at the edge of our driveway. So! The less we use that area for edibles, the better. (Though - side note - it's extra nitrogen and it's sterile, so no big deal - just have to wash everything carefully.)

The center square of the Understory garden will have some stepping stone paths to prevent compaction in other areas, and the center will be planted with citrus. I'm going to plant one each of a mandarin, lime, and lemon, probably all in the same hole. I've been reading a lot about this method and I think it makes sense for this area. The trees will have to remain small, and of course I'll have to do regular pruning, but planting them this way will naturally help keep them a reasonable size.

Under the citrus and next to the paths I will plant many varieties of lavender, for both beauty, scent, and their long-lived forage for pollinators.

On the edges of the 6x6, I intend to plant perennial edibles that we use a lot, but haven't grown before. I'm going to try rhubarb, horseradish, ginger, and lemon balm. I think all will grow well, but the one wild card is the ginger, which is a tropical plant. I'm hoping the close plantings of everything in this area will provide enough humidity, but I may need to spritz over there once in a while in the hottest summer days. It also won't like frost, but I'll have to protect the citrus during frost anyway, so I'll cover the ginger as well.

We'll probably start building this new area fairly soon, as the rhubarb will need to be planted in late winter/early spring. Maybe over President's Day weekend. Meanwhile we'll let the mulch and cardboard start to settle and kill the grass and weeds.

The mulch pile is very small now, I still have one area of the garden to cover, and likely just as I get that pile moved, we'll have a pile of good composty dirt delivered to fill the new beds and top off the old beds. There's always a pile of something to be moved around here.

If any of you has grown ginger or horseradish before, or tried the permaculture method of planting many orchard trees in one hole, I'd love to hear from you.