Are you ready for the garden? Here in the Midwest, it may be too early to actually plant anything, but the cold months of winter are the perfect time to plan the garden. Consider what you will plant, when it will be planted and where each herb, vegetable and flower will be located. Make out a map of the garden before heading out to dig in the dirt and keep three important gardening techniques in mind: rotation, companion and successive planting.
Rotation means simply to rotate your crops – do not plant the same thing in the same spot as last year. This discourages insect infestations. Little critters may be just waiting for more of the same delicacies that were served up last year in the same area. While some plants will rob the soil of certain nutrients, other plants will add those, and other, nutrients back into the soil. So, by rotating crops you will also be helping to keep the soil in good condition.
Companion planting is another method used to help prevent insect damage by planting mutually beneficial plants near each other. Likewise, some plants should never be placed in close proximity to one another. More specific information on neighborly plants is easily obtained on the Internet. By mixing herbs, vegetables and flowers together as companions you can make an interesting, beautiful and organically functional garden.
Successive planting is the method whereby a second crop is planted in the same soil after a first crop has been harvested. This second crop may be a repeat of the first crop, or an entirely different one altogether. Cool weather crops, such as carrots, chard, lettuce, onions, potatoes and spinach, are planted early in the spring, mature early in the summer and may be planted again, some even multiple times, during the growing season. Some vegetables, such as kale, green beans or turnips, do better when planted in the middle of the summer, maturing in the cool of the autumn. With this in mind, I will plant turnips in the same spot formerly occupied by my harvested beets or green beans in the area where the squash had thrived. By planting crops in succession, you can produce more in less garden space, almost doubling your harvest.
Following is a rough schedule of when to plant here in Mid- Missouri, or Climate Zone 5. This list is by no means exhaustive or definitive and you can customize it to fit your own personal choices and timetable.
Very early (mid-March to early-April) – chard, lettuce, peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach
Early (April) – beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, onions
Mid (May) – corn, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, okra, parsnips, peppers, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, herbs, flowers
Late (mid-July) – beans, cabbage, carrots, chard, lettuce, onions, potatoes, radishes, spinach, turnips
Keep in mind that not everything in the garden will do well every year. Some growing seasons can be downright heartbreaking, while the abundance of others can be almost overwhelming. Despite good soil, special techniques and constant vigilance to weed and insect problems, the weather is always the determining factor in production. So, whether the garden thrives this year or not, enjoy the outdoors, the exercise and the visual and culinary delights that Yahweh provides.
by: Debbie Reed