I’m currently in the middle of Summer gardening season. Plants are growing and so are the weeds. I’ve got some produce to show for my efforts, yet I can’t seem to keep my mind off of next year’s garden! I’m not unappreciative of my current garden (love you little garden kiss kiss* please grow!) I just look forward to correcting the mistakes of it. It’s much easier to see, as I’m in the thick of it, where I need to focus my efforts to improve the garden for next year. I’ve got 5 goals for a vegetable garden plan that I’m using to take next year’s garden to the next level!
You might ask why not wait until the season is over to make plans and changes? Surely there is more to gain by gathering more info? 2 simple reasons: Reason number 1 is We forget – the old out of sight out of mind principle. Realistically, most days I do good to remember I have a garden and water it let alone analyze it. I need to make notes now while it’s fresh in my mind. And…. I’ve got plenty of mistakes with just the first half of the season to occupy my time!
The number 2 reason is as the fall approaches days shorten, school starts, holidays pile up and life, at least at my house, becomes very busy. If you don’t get projects on the schedule now they will get put off and either rushed or not finished.
Mid-season assessment and planning allows you to look around and consider what do you wish had gone better? Do you like the plants you’ve chosen? Did you choose the right garden location? Do you need a watering system? Considering raised beds? Too many of one type of plant? Not enough of another?
So many questions!!! This is the time you will notice what’s wrong and what needs improvement. Taking stock now also allows you to plan out when you can accomplish any gardening projects and to actually make necessary changes in your routine if you want to plant at a different time.
My 5 main areas of improvement are Improve the Prep, Expand the Garden, Start Earlier, Start My Own Seeds, and Add Bigger Trellises
Improve the prep
Last fall I covered the garden aka hot weedy mess with cardboard and covered with old hay left over from the neighbor’s house. It was about the weakest attempt at lasagna gardening EVER, but you know what? It worked pretty well!
When I cleared back the hay, large portions of cardboard had broken down and the dirt looked great. For the first time in 3 years I actually found earthworms all throughout it as I pulled back dirt. Seriously, it goes to show that lots of times half ass gardening is better than no garden.
My goal for this fall is to get it covered with more than 2 layers to help improve the soil and further kill off the Bermuda grass that is my nemesis.
As part of this plan I’m also eliminating any kind of fall garden this year. It became painfully obvious last year that fall gardening is not something I currently have time for in my life. Fall gardening sounds so good in theory but I would rather spend the fall enjoying other autumn pursuits.
Maybe if I’m ever full time working from home I will be able to consider it. It’s just hard to garden in the dark after work.
Expand the garden
This year during a particularly frustrating garden episode I had a week or two where I told the garden it could go deal with itself. Tough love apparently works sometimes and my garden decided to behave and start looking like it wanted to live. I probably shouldn’t encourage benign neglect of your garden but it’s quite refreshing when you get frustrated.
The worst part was even as I was lecturing my garden about how stupid it was I was thinking I needed a bigger garden and grow lights to start seeds. Gardening is obviously a drug to hold this power over me.
I want to extend out the edges of the garden and determine better places for vining plants such as watermelons and cantaloupes. I realized as I was planting and documenting my planting this year that I just didn’t have the room I needed for all the plants I wanted. In fact, some of my seeds ended up not being planted due to lack of time and space.
Key to this is planning out exactly what I want to grow and where to grow it this fall rather than waiting until the spring. Crop rotation needs to be considered and placement of trellises.
Expanding the plant-able garden area and having a realistic idea of how many plants I need of each type will hopefully produce better results. I also want to make sure that our fruit trees go in this fall and that fruits like blackberries and blueberries get incorporated into the area.
Due to a combination of a colder than normal March and my own sickness at the time plants did not go in until late April. This year I watched other local gardeners harvest and cook with their produce while I was still shoving seeds in the ground. I won’t lie I was green with green squash envy. Soooo, while I can’t control the weather I can definitely start planting earlier.
Start My Own Seeds
This will be my first time starting seeds so I expect some challenges. In Texas this means starting seeds in early January. I intend to ring in the New Year and rapidly start putting seeds in pots. Seed starting has its own challenges and hardening off plants to deal with the extremes of outdoor life can be a challenge but the lure of having my own plants ready to go as soon as the frost danger is over is to great!
Starting your own seeds lets you have unique and different varieties than can always be found in the local big box or gardening store. I have several pepper varieties left over to try from this year that I didn’t get started soon enough.
I’ve also got to plan out an area to house my grow lights for these seeds and plan for the cost of this set-up.
Install Bigger Trellises
First let’s all pretend there isn’t as much grass invading between my garden rows as we can see in this picture. (Fighting the Bermuda Grass is always a goal! A futile one but a goal nonetheless) As I’m watching some of my plants grow I’m realizing that I may need some bigger trellises for the trombocinos. The trellises I put in this year are both simple and effective but I think I may arch an even larger cattle panel to give the trombocinos more room. If you want some other trellis ideas for your garden including some prettier varieties check out my DIY Trellis Post.
I would love to have rows of iron head and foot boards from beds but I just can’t justify this expense for my garden when cattle panels work so nicely.
Additional trellises will be needed for pole beans next year. I planted beans as one of my last veggies in the ground this year and my desire to plant was dwindling so I didn’t manage to get them in the ground. I basically gave up after the bush beans.
Now grab a glass of pinot grigio while you survey your growing garden and make plans for next year. Your future garden will thank you! If you’ve just recently caught the gardening bug check out my 10 Easy to Grow Veggies to get started gardening today! Even if that just means planning for next year!