Having carefully picked the plot for your vegetable garden, your next job is to consider what to plant in it. You could order some seeds based on a selection of vegetables you want to grow and, when the time comes, plant them all and wait for your garden to grow. But, there is a better way to produce maximum yield. All you have to do is carefully plan what you want to grow and make sure there is synergy in your planting. In addition to planning you should also keep a record of what you plant and how certain crops have done.
In most small gardens, there is a lot of waste - for example, two weeks of more beans than you can shake a stick at followed by a month or so of nothing at all. You should plan in advance how much of each vegetable you are likely to be able to eat (or give to your friends and neighbours) and aim to grow that amount and no more.
To make a basic plan of what you will plant, draw out the shape of your garden on a piece of paper. If your vegetable plot is fairly big, you can use rows of around 50 feet long. In smaller gardens, smaller rows can be used. Always try to keep your rows as single units and have as few broken rows as possible. When assigning space for various crops, you should bear in mind several things to make planting, replanting and cultivating the garden as easy as possible. At one end of your garden should be crops that persist for many years (e.g. asparagus and rhubarb). Next should come crops that will remain for the whole season (e.g. carrots, parsnips, onions etc). Lastly, you should keep space for crops that will be planted in succession over the course of a season (e.g. lettuce and spinach). In addition, tall crops (e.g. beans) should be kept to the north of the shorter ones. Obviously, a large part of what you plant will depend on personal preference but if you can keep these rules in mind you won't go far wrong. A rough order of plants could be:
- asparagus; pole beans
- tomatoes; cabbage
- brocolli; sprouts; peppers
- celery; onions
- beetroot; turnips; parsnips
- peas; lettuce
- pumpkins; squashes
If you can plan your planting well in advance that will be a great help. Try to order your seeds in January to give yourself time to plan this year's crops and to study last years records too. Every hour spent planning will save you many hours in the garden. Depending on what you choose to plant, you should also plan out how much space each crop will need - overloading your vegetable plot will not do you any favours.
Rough guide to timing:
January 1: order seeds; plan out garden; look over last year's record.
February 1: (inside) cabbage, cauliflower, first sowing.
February 15: (inside) lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, beetroot.
March 1: (inside) lettuce, celery, early tomatoes.
March 15: (inside) lettuce, tomato (main), pepper, lima beans, cucumber, squash.
April 1: (outside) celery, cabbage, lettuce, onions, carrots, spinach, beets, chard, parsnip, turnip, radish, lettuce, cabbage
May 1: beans, corn, spinach, lettuce, radish
May 15: beans, peas, potatoes, lettuce, radish, tomato (early), corn, cucumber and squash.
June 1: beans, carrots, corn, cucumber, peas, summer spinach, summer lettuce, radish, egg-plant, pepper, tomato (main plants).
June 15: beans, corn, peas, turnip, radish, late cabbage, and tomato plants.
July 1: beans, endive, kale, lettuce, radish, winter cabbage, cauliflower, sprouts and celery plants.
July 15: beans, early corn, early peas, lettuce, radish.
August: lettuce, radish.
September 1: lettuce, radish, spinach
Throughout the year you should keep a record of how your garden is doing. You can do this in a few minutes each week in a notebook set aside for this purpose. If you keep a good record, it will help you greatly with next season's efforts.