When I originally built my first set of garden beds in 2008, I had a brilliant idea. Every web site and book I could find was telling me that I wanted my garden beds to be 4 feet wide, for the convenience of reaching the crops easily and the benefit of never having to set foot into my soil. I promptly built each bed 6 feet wide because I knew better and I’ve been kicking myself for my arrogance ever since. I figured that 50% more growing area per bed plus much less wood needed would save me a ton of money by using a 6×8 foot layout. Well, it’s just been a pain in the ass.
This first drawing illustrates this year’s idea to help take advantage of these oddly-wide square foot garden beds. I plan to build a two-foot-wide middle section that has a trellis on each of these beds. I’ll grow climbing crops up the trellis in the middle and use the two-foot section on each side for crops with shorter growth habits.
So with this idea in mind, I got out my handy-dandy graph paper and planned out my 2011 garden. You can click the image to enlarge the photo. Each of the 5 beds I have numbered 2 through 6 will be getting a trellis topper with it’s own double-raised bed section (6 inches higher) beneath.
I have rotated every crop to an area of the garden that it hasn’t been grown for at least a year. Ideally I would use a 4 or 5 year rotation, but that isn’t possible in this amount of space unless I grow less tomatoes.
Because I have 12 growing beds, I plan to have several beds entirely dedicated to single crops, including sweet potatoes, potatoes, beans and tomatoes.
I also have planned some succession sowing with early spring crops, spring crops and fall crops. Carrots will follow the radishes and lettuce, Beets will follow Kale, and the green bean bed will be planted multiple times.
I found a place online where I could download a nice spreadsheet to help me with my seed-sowing dates. I entered my (average) last spring frost date into the spreadsheet, and it adjusted itself to display a range of dates where I should probably start my indoor seeds for best success in my garden. I moved these recommendations to the calendar on my computer and printed out a copy for easy reference. I have two trays of seeds started so far. Pictures coming at a later date!
The boys have been big helpers with the seed starting. They get a little bit of cabin fever when they are snowed in.