The Almost-Complete Idiot’s Guide to Texas Gardening: Lesson 2

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Year Round Gardening: What to plant where

Hi future gardening soil stars!  Before I tell you how to avoid the “what the heck do I plant where” barrier to awesome gardening, don’t forget to SIGN UP HERE for notifications and a FREE PLANTING CALENDAR to make sure you don’t miss Lesson 3 (you can find Lesson 1 here)!  You really don’t want to miss the next email notification…I will have a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT for everyone, and a HUGE FREEBIE but ONLY FOR MY SUBSCRIBERS! SUBSCRIBE HERE!

So, back to the answer to all of your “what to plant where” problems!  My very first garden was a cinder block raised bed made with cinder blocks I got from Craig’s List. I was so proud of myself! We used fabric weed protector (never again), compost that was full of ants and termites from a local box store (never again), and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen! When it was time to plant the seeds, however, I had no idea what to plant where! The seed packets all had instructions for rows, but I didn’t have rows. I had a 5×2 ft. raised bed. So I just threw some seeds in (including tomato seeds-it was April-this is a huge no no! CLICK HERE TO GET THE FREE MONTHLY PLANTING PLAN for the proper tomato planting recommendations) and hoped for the best. I grew enough lettuce for one bowl for one person (ME!) once a month, and I was THRILLED!!!! (My disappointed husband, however, had hoped to get a little something from the garden, too!)

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Later that year one of my then-current biology students, impassioned by a movie I showed in class (Dirt!), signed up for a local Citizen Gardener training and I decided to join her. This class, thanks to this student’s invite, was the birth of all my future garden success. In it, I learned the proper way to install a raised bed garden (no more expensive, damaging weed fabric! another post for another time) and how to plant in raised beds via a fairly new method in the garden world: Square Foot Gardening! It was the answer to all of my “what-to-plant-where” road-blocks. Remember that one bowl of lettuce for one person once a month? Well right now I have so much lettuce in my garden that I can’t harvest it fast enough, and square foot gardening is the technique that made that possible! How is this for a before and after?!

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So square foot gardening was invented by a guy named Mel who revolutionized small backyard urban gardening. Instead of planting in monoculture rows (long rows of one single plant, just asking for bug infestations, disease, and nutrient loss from the soil), Mel invented a system of planting in polyculture squares (multiple types of plants next to each other in 1 foot squares) that allowed back-yard gardeners the ability to plant many plants in a small area as well as the perhaps unintended benefit of reducing the bug infestations, high disease rates, and nutrient depletion inherent in monoculture practices. Mel’s system has you first divide your planting area into 1×1 foot squares, and then he tells you how many seeds of your particular plant to plant into that square. Combined with some companion plant information, designing your bed becomes a piece of dirt-cake!

To figure out how many seeds of each plant to put in each square, and which plants to put next to each other in those squares, I use some very highly sophisticated technology: Google Images. I type in “square foot gardening chart” into google images, and there I find the correct number of seeds per square of each type of plant that I have. I then type in “companion planting chart” into google images and get wonderful animated pictures, extremely organized excel charts, and everything in between on which plants love each other (either because they use different nutrients, have different root lengths and types, attract beneficial insects, repel the pests of the other, secrete chemicals the other one likes, and reasons unknown) and which plants hate each other (usually because they have the same root type, nutrient needs, attract the same pests, or secrete a chemical the other one hates). I then combine these two images to design a very professional napkin sketch of what this season’s garden will look like, something similar to this masterpiece:

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I then follow the depth-to-plant-seed instructions on the seed packet, the seasonal planting guidelines IN THIS FREE DOWNLOADABLE PLANTING CHART, and viola! I have my garden!

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Taken 5 minutes ago, in winter!

Post your pictures of your equally professional garden plans for spring in the comments below! A little hint: try not to let your perfectionism get in the way. The garden plan is a rough draft that doesn’t take into account the whims of nature, She-Who-Disrespects-All-Perfectionists (and thank goodness for that!). As long as you are putting seeds into the soil, you are doing the right thing! Even failed seeds are learning lessons!

Don’t forget to SIGN UP HERE for notifications and a FREE PLANTING CALENDAR to make sure you don’t miss Lesson 3!  You really don’t want to miss the next email notification…I will have a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT for everyone, and a HUGE FREEBIE but ONLY FOR MY SUBSCRIBERS! SUBSCRIBE HERE!

Related posts:

Click here for Urban Farm’s podcast interview of me and my school garden program.

Click here for Urban Farm’s follow-up interview of me as the Featured Farmer on their blog.

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