I was recently told that there's no real need to plan your garden, and "wasn't most gardening trial and error?", to this I respond that with a good plan, there will be a lot less error with your garden. Feel free to disagree, but when you plant plants that work well together you will have good results instead of having one choke out the other. With how much heart goes into my garden, it honestly makes me sad when a crop fails, so I try to plan my garden so that there will be as little loss as possible.
You are probably wondering...what plants do you start indoors and which ones can be put right in the ground? I can tell you! (Well, maybe not a complete list, but if you don't see what you want to grow, ask and I will find out for you if I don't know it off the top of my head!
Direct Sow (plants that do best when seeds are planted straight out into the garden and not started indoors.)
Beans (push and pole)
Sugar Snap Peas
Watermelon (any melons really.)
Start these indoors (they tend to be weaker at first and more susceptible to the elements, etc.)
Peppers (Hot and sweet)
That said, there are some things that it is worth letting the experts get started for you in their greenhouses. It might not be as cheap, but can certainly be less stressful in the long run! For me, those include Kale, mint and peppers.
Given the time of year, all of the direct sow plants that I mentioned are all still fine to plant, it might be a touch late to start any of the indoor plants and would probably be easier to get from the farmers market or a reliable nursery unless you have a designated greenhouse. I got my broccoli and Kale starts from the Farmer's Market and they came with 6 less mature plants for $2-3 or $3-5 for more mature single plants. This weekend I plant to pick up my pepper starts, those I spend the extra money to get the more mature versions.
If you want to start your plants indoors yourself still you absolutely can, they just tend to mature a little later (but they still have plenty of time to mature and produce fruit, it will just be a little later in the season than if you were to buy starts.) On that note...how do you start plants? It's really quite simple. You can start in egg cartons (granted I don't like that method because the egg carton can get moldy...) or if you have small containers left over, or you can buy a start try from any local store. All you have to do is fill it with the same good soil that you will use in your garden and plant according to the directions on the seed packet. (example: tomatoes you plant 1/4" into the soil, so not very far where cucumbers you place 1/2" in the soil.) Once the seeds are in there, I usually use 3 per start so that I have guaranteed germination, then I cover loosely with soil and water evenly. If you don't have a greenhouse (which lets face it, you probably don't unless you inherited one on your propery...even I don't have one yet!) then place the starts in a sunny window. Keep the soil moist but don't soak it and within 7-10 days you will see the start of germination making its appearance.
|These are the cucumbers as they were making their appearance.|
|No, that is not a maggot...those little white spots are some tomato plants that are making their way to the surface.|
|This was the very next day for these little Tomatoes!|
|Pardon the messy kitchen, but this is where my starts are, in my kitchen window!|
Once those little guys make their appearance, it doesn't take long to bring about massive change! The next pictures were taken over the course of about a week....and they continue to grow and change more every day!
|This is that same cucumber plant, look at it go!|
|The tomatoes sure had started growing fast at this point!|
|You'll notice that the center is sprouting new leaves, this is where tomatoes will really start to look more like tomato plants as they grow.|
|The same is happening with the cucumber plants, new leaves are coming out to show it's true self.|
|This is the fun part of starting seeds yourself, you get to watch the progression from a tiny little seed all the way to a massive plant that will produce food to feed your families.|
The plan...we need a plan! Ok, well, lets talk about the plan! I have 3 raised beds that are 3'x6' and then I have another that is 4'x4'. I also have several large planters (which are all currently full and I will need to buy more....anyways). My first planter that is closest to my house gets the most shade of the entire area, so it wouldn't be very wise to plant my corn in that bed, so what do I plant? I plant my herbs on one side, carrots next to the herbs (closest to the chives because they grow well together) and then I have a little bit of space (and by little I mean under 6") before I start my spinach and lettuce rows. I also have my Kale in that planter in the far corner opposite the herbs. Now if I grew beets I could easily plant them next to the lettuce since they grow well together, we are not big beet people though, so that's why I don't grow them.
In my second box I have it mostly designated for tomatoes, however this year I am considering doing a row of Onions in between each tomato plant. In that planter I can fit 4 plants if I don't use onions, however so that it isn't too crowded I will plant just 3 plants. The other tomato plants that I have started will go into barrel planters and around those if I chose I could plant garlic, or onions, or carrots as those all work well with tomatoes and are beneficial to one another. Tomatoes like to grow in the same spot year after year, so keep that in mind when planning your garden.
In my third box, the one closest to the street I have the most sun, I also have my trellis in this planter so this is where I plant my climbing plants. Specifically, this is where my sugar snap peas go, and this year I am planing cucumbers next to the sugar snap peas as they grow well together and I can tie the cucumbers up to allow for straight cucumbers! I also plant 2 zucchini plants opposite the peas and cucumber. To plant those I built up 2 mounds and plant at least 3 seeds in each mound. This all takes place in the 4 feet on the right hand side of the bed, the remaining 2 feet are used for corn and this year, pumpkins! Corn likes pumpkins because it vines through their base and protects it from rodents such as racoons.
In my 4x4 box I have my broccoli and cauliflower. It takes up the entire box because those plants get pretty big, so I have 1'x1' designated for each plant.
I will be planting peppers in their own planters (with the exception of sweet peppers, those I can fit 4 plants in 1 of the 25" barrel planters that I love so much.) This year I will also be trying my hand at watermelons in one of those barrel planters, I will let you know how that goes! I also plant my bush beans (green beans) in a planter because they only really grow well with cucumbers, celery and strawberries. If you have a lot of space they can be beneficial to corn, but they have to be in alternating rows and takes up too much space for smaller gardens.
Hopefully this helps some of you, and as always if you have any questions, please ask! This is something that I love and I am always willing to look up reliable sources/answers for you! Happy gardening! Get out there and enjoy this warm weather this week!