Sunday, January 31, 2010

How I do when I do what I do

Various garden bloggers are posting beautiful images of their high-tech garden plans made with sophisticated software. Ribbit and I seem to fall on the other end of the spectrum. To be honest, I stink at record-keeping (hence the blog) and I also stink at planting things where I say I will. It's as though the heady scent of topsoil goes straight to my head and whoosh -- I'm high as a kite, sticking transplants and seeds into garden beds willy-nilly, trusting in whatever earth deities run the vegetable world to make it all work out okay. They don't always watch, so I have "Tom Thumb" lettuce marching right through my napkin-glued carrots, but it usually works out okay.

The thing is, though, I love plans. I love planning, I love imagining me remembering to succession-plant, I think crop rotation is a fine, fine thing, and I like paper. How does that work out? Well, on the days when I don't have a whole class and a half's worth of papers to grade (what's your thesis statement for "The Overcoat"?), and I don't feel like doing battle with the Bad, Bad Weeds, I go downstairs and get my secret stash of optimism:


Doesn't look like much, huh? Well, lookie here:


That's, roughly speaking, my yard. Sorry it's difficult to see. All the beds are laid out and the major fruit trees depicted. They're just outlines. To fill them in, I go to the tracing paper and drafting tape:


This is the current planting. In general, I try to put dates down but I'm not completely on top of that. The little stakes in the garden have plant dates, transplant dates, and pull dates (ideally) written on them. Sharpie fades; pencil doesn't. Go figure.

Then I make another tracing paper copy for the next season. This is for the spring.


Laid over the current planting, I can see what is in the beds to be followed. Heavy feeders follow light, and vice versa. Tomatoes and cole crops seem to be the key players -- I want to be sure they don't get planted right where they were.


Theoretically, this will work. At our house, computers sometimes die or fail, but if I don't forget where the tube is, this sort of system should last and last. I like peeling the layers off, traveling in time as I see the progression of crops. If planting follows the plan, everything should work out just fine. It does, for me at least, lead to thinking of single-crop beds. We'll see. My desires for different vegetables seems to be waning, while I want more of single things (there is, for example, no such thing as "too much" butternut squash).

Plus, there's the magic of an eraser. The way my eldest is eating pickles lately, I may remove a potato bed and put in more pickling cucumbers. Easier done on paper than outside!

18 comments:

Annie's Granny said...

Looks good to me! I, too, am leaning toward single crop beds. It's too difficult to do crop rotation with the square-foot method, or even with the wide row method I basically use. Of course, my beds aren't all the same size, so single crops become a problem there, too. I'd figure it out, but it makes my brain hurt ;-)

Stefaneener said...

AG, I also count things like "greens" as one crop, but the summer crops which are generally physically larger than winter ones just ask for more. I'm not averse to sticking things in (I just dropped a couple of dill volunteers in with the keeping onions, for example) and I'll put marigolds all around the tomatoes. Simple plans for simple minds over here.

kitsapFG said...

I do single cropping by family of plants. It works pretty well and allows me to rotate beds (and plant familys) much more easily.

I used graph paper for years for my planning process and it worked wonderfully. The key is finding what works for you and then just do it!

Daphne said...

My planning is simple. I have three beds (really four but two are counted together) and know how they get rotated very year. I just have to figure out where to put what. 90% of the time it never hits paper. I keep thinking I have to do a plan to put on the blog, but still haven't done it even though it is in my head.

Ribbit said...

It's perfect, perfect, perfect!!! The tracing paper fulfils what's been missing in my world. MAN, how I love it. The sound, the feel of it in your fingers.

*sigh* I love it.

Stefaneener said...

kitsapFG, that's what I think I'm going to end up doing. It makes the most sense.

Daphne, I don't see any reason for you to plan more than you have to. Sounds as though your system is working well.

Ribbit, you and I are clearly sympatico. It's the element of time that it adds. And I feel indulged when I get neato art supplies. A cheap date, I tell you!

GrafixMuse said...

I love seeing everyone's different methods of planning and to know that it all works out in the end no matter what the method.

Dan said...

Nice system and it certainly is photogenic. I use the laptop for planning as it is attached to my hip. I have horrible penmanship, probably could blame the computer for that... :-)

Heiko said...

I too am absolutely useless at planning. We have the additional difficulty that square tracing paper would be totally useless as we have 18 different sized terraces and no neat squares anywhere. I just assign whole terrases to the bulk crops, potatoes, tomatoes and corn and roughly rotate them and the rest goes wherever there's room at the time and where I haven't had that particular crop last year. But then there are all sorts of tomato and melon seedlings coming out of our home-made compost, not to mention stray potatoes on last year's potato patch, fennel and Swiss chard which is refusing to die year after year...etc.

臉蛋 said...

要照顧身體歐~保重.........................

Erin said...

Paper & Colored pencils for me too!

allisonmariecat said...

Oh, I adore planning! I'm planning my garden plot right now! (Raised beds this year. Yup.) By the time the actual planting comes around, I will no doubt have lost the plans or changed my mind, but ah, the planning is delightful :)

Engineeredgarden said...

Hey, there's nothing wrong with using graph paper and pencil. If you'd like, I can make a template for you with autocad, and you can fill in the rest.

Zach said...

Wow, You are so talented, when I get my plans for the garden up, you will probably be shaking you head at it. Yous looks so professional with the different papers that show different years! mine is just plain old graph paper and pen... Oh well!

Jan said...

Thanks for your comment. Luckily we don't have to pressurise our cube as the veg beds are three terraces downhill and gravity does it for us!

This year I'm thinking that maybe I shouldn't bother with the things that just don't do well here, so my crop rotation plans (like you I love the planning side) are a bit out of the window! Doh!

Mr. H. said...

What a great system you have, I really should do something similar one of these days...just to see.

Stefaneener said...

Grafixmuse, it is nice. All of us pursuing the same goal with different methods. . .

Dan, I have an inner drafter who likes to come out and play. It's the tactile stuff, too. Love it.

Heiko, any plan that works for you (or none at all) sounds just great. I couldn't go elsewhere to garden, I'd get too lazy.

Erin, we ought to form a club.

Allisonmariecat, hey there. I can't wait to see your results!

EG, no thank you (but I appreciate the offer). While I love, love, love, straight lines, I also like to draw them. I think this system should keep working.

Zach, welcome back. You've got nothing to worry about.

Jan, I'm leaning that way too.

Mr. H., your garden seems to be doing just fine without planning, no?

Jackie said...

I find that the timing part of planning is the most difficult. The fact is that we can have veggies growing year round here in coastal CA and thinking about all those varieties and how long they take to mature...uggh. It's too much!