Newbie: Can I have some feedback on plan?

erin4July 23, 2011

Hi! My name is Erin, and I've only posted twice, but thought I should introduce myself and take advantage of the immense wisdom here. I have a tricky situation with a narrow (50') yard dominated by a huge sycamore (that I adore and would never cut down). I have placed my beds on the only area that gets a chunk of sun, which is on the east side of the yard. I'm afraid I may need to reorient the beds next year to get more sun, but with their current placement, can I get some feedback on my plan for next year? I'd really appreciate it!

4x8 bed: top row is north with trellises; west end of bed gets more shade

cucumber==cucumber==cucumber==cucumber==melon(2 squares)==pole beans==pole beans




4x6 bed: top row on north side; "bb" is bush beans; peas on 3 teepees - one teepee for every four squares





4x4 bed: top row on north side






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Just realized I forgot to add that I'm growing tomatoes, potatoes, and long carrots in half-barrels.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 9:59PM
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Your beds look well planned out. Do you plan to plant them all at once or plant some in spring & others in summer? You might be planting some of the things you listed earlier than others and I realize this forum doesn't show colors which is helpful for indicating planting month.

I know the book doesn't state, but I interplant within the squares to give shade to lettuce in summer or squeeze in a few more salad plants like onions or kale around larger slow to mature plants like cabbages. As long as I am careful to not disturb the rootball to harvest it works okay.

In my climate I can plant in spring for summer & fall harvests, in early summer for late summer harvest, in mid-summer for fall & winter harvest, and sometimes in early fall for winter & spring harvests.

It all depends on the weather when the soil can be worked in spring, but usually between Feb. - April are our 1st plantings. Then every few weeks through June & once spring crops (lettuce, spinach, peas) are harvested I can replace with summer crops (beans, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers). Radishes are planted with carrots & pulled before leaving more space for carrots. Beets & onions stay in longer. Chard can be cut & come again grown until it bolts which might be a year or more for us.

In summer I try to tuck the cool season plants in the shade of the others, so you might want to move your spinach & lettuce behind some of your larger plants you might have better growth. Also, peas for a fall harvest do better started partially shaded from summer heat.

I am able to keep some cabbage family crops (broccoli & cabbage) cropping all summer due to our cool climate, but others like kale & kohlrabi go to seed quickly. I don't know how the cabbage family does in your area, but some gardeners in your area know.

By mid-summer it's time to plant for fall & winter harvests, but my beds are still pretty full if I've not set aside squares vacated by spring planted crops, so it doesn't always work out like I plan. The good thing is that the garden grows & we're keeping it productive!

We also grow potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini & cucumbers rotate around in permanent beds in the ground with large stakes & trellis as the soil in the SFG beds just didn't support my tomatoes so well when we tried it a few years ago. Plus, we only have 4 boxes & not enough room for all the veggies.

Hope that helps!

    Bookmark   July 24, 2011 at 10:01PM
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Thank you sooo much, Corinne! I was a little afraid no one would respond. There was info I left out because I was afraid the post was getting too long. I plan on planting the carrots, spinach, lettuce and radish, and onions in succession, while the taller plants are still small, hoping to finish them up and put in something else that can grow with those taller plants in our hot and humid summer. This is my spring/early summer plan. I haven't worked out all the details on what will go in their places, yet. Any suggestions?

I like the idea of interplanting within a square to maximize space/output, but I think next spring I'll leave each square to one crop to see which ones will have room for a close neighbor.

As far as shading the spinach and lettuce, I'm kind of counting on the shade from the sycamore to help them last longer - of course that means the more sun-loving plants may not perform as well. This is why I may have to reorient the beds and start over. If I leave the beds as they are, I'm thinking my spring and early summer crops should be good because it takes awhile for my sycamore to leaf out, and there's lots of sun on the garden then. I'm also hoping my fall plants will be ok because the sycamore will lose all its leaves and provide lots of sun again. It's the dead of summer that worries me. I think I'm getting maybe 4 hours of sun on the majority of the beds right now.

I am planning a fall/winter garden and am anxious to try it out in a couple weeks. It looks like I'm supposed to wait until early/mid August into September to plant for that. Since I got such a late start this year, I'm looking forward to getting *something* from the garden (I've only harvested radish so far). I'm waiting on some tomatoes, pumpkin, melon, cantaloupe to produce. Haven't been able to get carrots to grow, was too late for the pepper plants, and have yet to see my bush beans produce. So, this summer is just kind of a "let's just throw this in and see what it does" time. Fall and next spring are what I'm really planning for. I don't even have the 4x4 built yet!

I have to say, I've been trying to cover all the bases: shade, height, companion planting, etc., and my head hurts! I'm probably making this more complicated than it needs to be, but I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I don't do things halfway! Thanks so much for your input. Anything else you think of would be greatly appreciated!


    Bookmark   July 24, 2011 at 11:42PM
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Good plan to use the shade you have to your advantage as it will keep crops longer in the garden. I'm glad that my suggestions were helpful. Gardening is learn as you go thing, wait & see, try & try again... that can test your patience.

What I like about SFG is that it simplifies gardening and since you plant by squares you're not planting huge long rows of things you won't have time to harvest & eat up. It's handy to carry a basket & scissor out to go "get dinner". A lot of things that aren't mature enough can be put in a stir fry if you just want to thin out your plantings a bit. I don't want my garden to be harvested at once, so that's an easy way to eat it up.

Starting late is no big deal. You're working the soil & figuring out your gardening habits as well as conditions with lighting, moisture needs, etc.

Working on your soil is also a good thing because hungry plants don't grow no matter how much sunshine you have.

The book says you won't need to add anything except compost to SFG beds, but I find that adding a complete organic fertilizer (COF) in spring for the heavy feeders is important to get fast growth for my limited sun site especially as the sun position lowers mid-August onward & tall trees give more shade. Just follow the directions on the bag & keep it in a closed container to keep dry as it won't expire.

I do add compost after harvest before planting again. My soil needs lime yearly, so we add that with manure in the fall with used coffee grounds from St*rbucks as a mulch to protect from the pelting winter rains. Then in spring we add the COF & if needed to top up the beds more cured compost. We mulch with dried grass clippings, so that also feeds the soil.

Maybe you can limb up the Sycramore tree a bit to get more sunlight. Then as it grows taller those lower limbs will be higher up, right?

In part sun conditions the harvests are a bit longer in coming. Teaches patience & can be frustrating when you read 66 days to harvest. I find bush beans more successful than pole beans and runner beans better than both because of the shade & my cooler climate.

The crops you're waiting on are longer to harvest & warm weather ones. Growing lettuce, spinach, & other greens quickly is rewarding because it fills space & you have a harvest to "prove" you're a gardener.

You might want to try planting chives because they are a well behaved perennial edger & you have multiple cuttings from each clump. I have onion chives in one bed & garlic chives in 2 other beds. I let them flower away & don't worry about them seeding around because I mulch. The bees love it & pollinate my other things, too.

Here's a pic from early last summer with chives, pansies, calendula & bedding dahlia in front. Cabbages, broccoli, bok choi, etc. in the back. The green buckets are leftover from a self watering container experiment the year before, but got blight, so I have left them vacant. The other buckets collect rainwater & the big black thing is a composter. Burlap bags are on the paths to keep the weeds down. Notice the large douglas fir trunk in the back on the north side of my garden We've limbed it up as far as we can reach & that helped a lot, but it still sucks the moisture out from the bottom.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 3:12PM
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erin4 the plan needs a lot work is bit crude.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 3:04PM
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Corinne - thanks again for your thoughts. The sycamore is already "limbed up" far higher than we could reach. Some of the branches hang low - we could work on those some. There are also large trees in neighboring yards that contribute to the shade problem. Still watching and waiting!

homeend - Could you elaborate a little? How do you think it should change? Any and all feedback is helpful!

    Bookmark   July 30, 2011 at 7:06PM
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first off teepee are not used in square foot planning.
second peas die off in summer thus leaving you with 12 empty square feet.
third radish are usaully not grown in summer thus leaving you with 6 more empty square feet.
forth spinach and lettuce usaully bolt by June
thus leaving 10 more empty feet

by June more then 44 square feet- 39% of you beds will be empty.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 7:36PM
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homeend - thank you for your input. I'm using teepee because I don't have room on the trellis, and I like the look of them. As I indicated in my second looong post (sorry I got so wordy!), I am planning on replacing items such as the peas, radish, spinach, lettuce as they finish off in the heat of summer. I'm looking for suggestions as to what I could put in their place, if you have any. However, with the intense heat we've had this year (usu. only about a week of 100+ degree temps have been 3 weeks of it this year), I'm not sure anything is going to do very well in the dead of summer. I'm wondering if I'm going to end up with full spring and fall gardens, and just have to live with a number of empty squares through June and July until it cools off enough to start the fall garden. What zone are you in, and how do you plant/replant your squares?

    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 12:20AM
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erin zone is meaning less in veg garden since it only tell you how cold winter is.
season length and frost dates are more important when comes to vegetable gardens.
you have plenty of room for trellises or netting for climbing crops.
how plant my squares is very complicated and would hard to explain. you can always put late planting of warm weather crop in empty squares.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 3:01AM
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Green beans may do well in the heat. I planted some where I pulled out peas, so they are getting a little later start than usual, but they are doing well. Okra is also a good summer crop. My garden is in So. California, where we are having a cooler than normal summer.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 9:35PM
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erin4 - As the photo showed I use teepees in our SFG. Keep at it despite the difficulties with shade. There's still plenty to eat out there in my gardens with the shade. A bonus is my lettuce, broccoli, & cabbage is still producing in mid summer!


    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 3:26PM
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chudak(10 San Diego)

Just a few comments about plant placements..

Broccoli and cauliflowers gets huge. I wouldn't plant radishes between broccoli or cauliflower because they will be overwhelmed and shaded by their neighbors

Chard also gets really big, especially if you plan it dense.

Personally, I'd put the lettuce and radishes next to each other and let the broccoli, chard and cauliflowers duke it out.

Here is a picture of my rainbow chard this year in a 4x4 box planted in two adjacent squares. This is in the late spring when I had pulled everything else up to plant my summer squash but the chard was still producing so I let it be for awhile.

Here is another 4x4 bed with my green chard, again in 2 adjacent spaces. I've pulled all the other winter crops out (carrots, peas, beats) and planted some beans, eggplants and cucumbers for the summer.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 10:42AM
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Thanks for the additional info/support. Wow, I had no idea chard got so big! I was kinda hoping the radishes would be done before the broccoli got too big, but I'll rethink that.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 1:34AM
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