Feb 17, 2013

It's Time to Plan Your Garden

Illustration by Katherine Jacobs
Author: Katherine Jacobs

As many Seattleites have discovered, growing your own food is a fun and delicious way to reduce your carbon footprint. A little bit of planning can save you a lot of wasted time down the road, and this is the perfect time of year to start thinking. Here are some good things to consider.

What’s up with my soil?
The King Conservation District will evaluate the nutrients in your soil for free!
With this information you can add exactly the right amount of supplements to create ideal growing conditions for your plants. Having nutritionally balanced soil will make your plants bigger, healthier, and more resistant to pests.

How much sun do I have?
If your garden is in shade all or part of the day, choose plants that don’t need as much sun. Try mint, strawberries, raspberries, or leafy greens in your shady spots.

How much space do I have?
People with limited space might avoid crops like tomatoes and broccoli, which take the entire season to mature. In the space it takes to grow one head of broccoli, you can grow 2-3 heads of lettuce! As a guide, you can look for “days to maturity” on the back of seed packets. This will tell you about how long it takes for the plant to go from a seed to something you can eat, but it varies a lot depending on temperature, soil, and water availability.

Check out this handy planting calendar put together by Seattle's P-Patch Trust.

How much time do I have?
If you’re busy, try perennial herbs that are well suited to our climate, like rosemary and thyme. You don’t need to replant them year after year, and once they get established, they develop deeper root systems than annual vegetables do. This means you don’t need to water them unless there is a severe drought.  

How many varieties should I plant?
Think about how much food each plant will make, and compare that to how much you and your family will eat at once. It can be stressful to harvest 50 pounds of beets at once and try to figure out what to do with them all. If you do find yourself with an overabundance, a food bank near you would be happy to take it off your hands- just give them a call to find out when they are open for donations.

These are just a few things to think about when planning your garden. For inspiration head to The Northwest Flower and Garden Show coming this week. The show, held February 20- 24th at the Washington State Convention Center, has tons of exhibitors and seminars to help you grow the garden of your dreams. Happy planting, harvesting and eating!

Please share your gardening tips in the comments below.

About the Author
Katherine Jacobs is engaged in graduate landscape architecture studies at The University of Washington. She is currently working on her thesis, which focuses on increasing the carbon-efficiency of Seattle’s food system by connecting the urban agriculture community with high quality information. 

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