Getting Smart with a Garden Plan

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We are almost one month in since we planted our garden, and our plants are doing well. No, you didn’t miss a post. I’m just behind on chronicling the project. At any rate, this is the projected planting plan (say THAT 5 times fast) for the first ever Kinky Hose Garden.

We decided to go with three raised beds that were approximately 3’x6’x15”, located on the north end of the back yard, running east to west. The 15” height allowed for a good foot of garden soil and a few inches of mulch. Technically, this garden is located in Zone 2 (refer to More than Just a Garden: An Introduction to Geek-Levels of Garden Planning for information on zones), but we placed them here to benefit from full sun.

Why Raised Beds?

We decided to try raised beds for our inaugural year for a few reasons:

  • We moved into a new home in February 2015 and had little time to prepare the yard (which is mostly Bermuda grass at this point) for gardening before the growing season started. Have you tried to successfully kill Bermuda grass? It is no picnic. To do it properly is definitely not something you can accomplish without preparation and planning. We didn’t have much time to do it properly before the growing season was upon us, so raised beds it was.
  • We wanted better soil and better drainage than what the clay soil of the site could provide.
  • We like the idea of a raised bed’s (relative) portability. No, we don’t expect to move these beds about; however, in future years, we can relocated these beds to accommodate different goals. If and when we build an in-ground garden, these raised beds may prove useful for supplemental planting.
  • We enjoy “Do It Yourself” projects and free materials. We built our beds using reclaimed pallet wood.

Photo Apr 12, 6 08 10 PM

The Tools

Yes, gardeners need tools. But we are not talking about spades, hoses, and rakes here. We’re talking about planning tools. We at the Kinky Hose Garden Project are lucky enough to have access to some pretty swanky illustration software, which we used to develop our site plan and ultimately map out our crops. But, you don’t need expensive software to plan your garden. We used Microsoft Excel for most of the planning.

We started by creating a spreadsheet with the following tabs:

Crops

This tab listed the crops we intended to purchase (whether each crop was to be purchased as seeds or plants), the number of plants we could plant per square foot, the number of square feet available per crop, the information on sowing, and growth habit. We also listed the provider of the seeds or plants and the estimated cost (click image to enlarge).

crops tab

Garden Plot

This tab was a rough map of each garden bed (approximately 3×6 ft each), divided into square feet. On this map, we listed which crops and how many we intended to plant for each area. Below is a partial image of that initial map. For the end result, keep reading (click image to enlarge).

plot

Tools and Materials

This tab listed the tools and materials we needed to purchase to make this plan come to life. As this is our initial foray into gardening, we needed to included items like spades, garden hose, wheelbarrow, etc. The materials section listed the materials needed to build the beds (click image to enlarge).

tools

Calculators

We also included a tab with some handy calculators we developed using tools built with Microsoft Excel (click image to enlarge).

calculators

We have shared this Excel file HERE, if you’re interested. Feel free to use this to your own purposes and make any alterations necessary.

 

The Crops

We consulted a few sites on Square foot Gardening and ended up liking this one from arcadiafarms.net. Now, we have not completely embarked on building a “square foot garden,” but we at the Kinky Hose Garden Project enjoy rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty. At the very least, we like rules of thumb, and square foot gardening offers some nifty rules of thumb regarding how many plants to include in one square foot of garden space. Since we had three 3×6 ft beds and no clue what we’re doing, sowing seeds in a conceptual grid was a pretty easy leap to take. Let’s just say we used the plants-per-square-foot guideline as a starting point and ran with it.

We placed the salad greens and the carrots in the eastern bed because that bed is partially shaded, and those crops can withstand partial shade. We planted green ice lettuce in the back, spinach in the middle, and carrots in the front, with a little arugula on the side. In the middle bed, we planted green bush beans of several varieties along the back. We also included some kale, peppers, and a few herbs for a little scent confusion to (we hope) keep pests bewildered. In the third and most western bed are our tomatoes. We also added a few herbs here, plus some cucumbers along the back. These cucumbers are our only vining plants, so we will need to build some sort of support for these soon. Tomatoes, peppers, herbs, marigolds, and lavender are all planted from purchased plants. The rest are all from seeds.

Below is the final map of our garden as planted (click image to enlarge). As you can see, we deviated from the original plan a little bit and added some extra containers. We decided to grow a few extra tomatoes (we love tomatoes). Besides, they came in 6-packs at our local nursery, so we ended up with a few more than planned; what else were we to do? So, we bought some 5-gallon buckets from a local hardware/farm store for $2 apiece and used some garden soil left over from our garden bed preparation.

GARDEN-PLOT

The Benefit

As we said before in earlier posts, the Kinky Hose Garden is not about watching plants grow. The project, the garden, any garden is more than that. When you take a holistic approach, you realize that a garden is much more than the sum of its parts. It become part of your culture. To us at the Kinky Hose Garden Project, it is also about sustainable living. We are not throwing money at the dirt for no reason. The total cost for our garden’s ground breaking came in at #300. This is a little over our budget of $250. Bear in mind that this includes materials for building the raised beds (which was mostly subsidized with free wood from recycled pallets), plants/seeds, 2 cubic yards of garden soil, and a few essential gardening tools we needed to get things started. That being said, we went over budget only because we got greedy and wanted more tomatoes. We feel that $300 is not bad for 54 square feet of raised garden.

Don’t believe us? Think of it this way… $300 divided by 54 square feet of garden comes to $5.55 per square foot of garden. If all goes well, we expect to yield food per square foot worth more than that. If we can yield 3-5 bell peppers from one plant, then we justify the cost for that square foot of garden. Of course, we need to pay for water  and other various sundries. Don’t forget that a lot of money can go into your water bill when cultivating a garden. We have not yet estimated our water bill increase, but we can expect that price per square foot to rise. That being said, we hope to still come out on top.

Now look at the savings amortized over time. Next year, we will not need to purchase tools or dirt. We also have leftover seeds from this year’s purchase. Don’t forget that Phase II of the Kinky Hose Garden Project is to build a rainwater containment system. In other words, we expect to spend a fraction of 2015’s budget in 2016 (perhaps as little as $30-$40) to pay for seeds and plants. Stay with me now because this is the cool part: $30 divided by 54 sq ft equals $0.55 per sq ft. Fifty-five cents! That’s less than the price of one tomato — one measly, not-even-ripe, tasteless, mystery, WalMart tomato for an entire, organic tomato plant. Getting it yet? Even with a little watering from the hose in summer’s peak, you can see that the benefits far outweigh the investment, and it only gets better with time. Dirt becomes nutrient-rich soil, plant refuse becomes compost, people close to us eat healthier, our children get off the couch, and our gardens become permanent parts of the culture we cultivate around us.

So that’s it. That’s our plan. We are pleased with it. Things are growing, and we hope to eventually make this entire garden profitable. We are now settling into that very difficult time of waiting! We at the Kinky Hose Garden Project are getting very hungry, so we are trying to be patient (not our strong suit). We will keep you informed about our progress and cultivation in future posts. Feel free to comment and give any tips or ideas you might have. This blog involves you too, after all. The idea here is to get a toe hold in our new yard, make the most of the 2015 growing season, and consider the future. Things are likely to change (we’re counting on it), and we are bound to learn a lot from this, our first ever garden.  It is going to take time to realize the full potential of our plan, but the best things often do, don’t they?

Cheers!

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4 responses to “Getting Smart with a Garden Plan

  1. Pingback: Getting Smart with a Garden Plan | The Kinky Hose Garden Project | WORLD ORGANIC NEWS·

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