Do you plan what you're going to plant in your veggie patch each season? Or are you the type that just shoves things in, crosses your fingers and hopes for the best.
If I am honest, I am a little bit of both.
However since my maternity leave has morphed into basically becoming a stay at home Mum due to the unrelenting cost of childcare, my goal to contribute is by growing as much food as I possibly can to save us money. And what I've found is, it requires planning.
So here are the steps I am taking in planning front.
Observe the seasons
Towards the end of last year I started documenting my garden and really observing what was happening. I started my own garden journal and inside I've been documenting the weather (rainfall and extremes), the bugs (when they show up and when they disappear), what plants seem to be thriving the most and what doesn't. As of this year I will be back to doing a summation of my observations here on the blog.
So far I've already identified that I need to rest my mandala garden in the summer time due to the brutal heat. I've identified that I need to get living mulches well established before October. I've identified that my bunching spring onions get destroyed by black aphids every November which wipes them out until March so I need to get others established ready to plant a second run. I've identified that it's too dry to bother growing corn any time before December.
These observations will help me be more aware, more efficient when it comes to growing food year round.
Planning for needs
Last year I grew turnips. It was a terrible decision. I hate turnips. They took up loads of space and half of them went to the chickens. Who didn't even eat them either.
So now I prioritise what we eat over anything else. I note what we're buying to top up our veggies and keep a record of what I need to plant.
I know 1m square of corn produces around 500gm of frozen corn kernels plus enough fresh cobs to provide for 6 meals. I know we buy 500gm packets of frozen corn every 2 months so we need to grow at least 4x that amount next year to see the year out.
I know we eat a capsicum a week. We eat beans or broccoli. Lots of spinach/swiss chard and lettuce. And cucumbers, so many cucumbers. The kids love beetroot, they would eat an entire jar of preserved beetroot in one sitting if I let them. Carrots the same, a carrot a day (at least). I am trying to get the kids to eat eggplant... still not winning that game yet. But I like it, so I will persist.
But I will never grow turnips again.
Timing is everything
I love cauliflower. It grows extremely well in our aquaponics. However, we have a very very short window to grow them before it starts warming up. If I am raising it by seed it needs to be started mid February.
Tomatoes are the same, whilst everyone else smashes them out in summer, it's too hot, too humid, too many pests, too many diseases. So they get started late summer for us ready to harvest in Autumn. Any later then there is risk of frost (which is rare). If I start them too earlier they may get the diseases anyway. If I start them in early spring it's set them up to be at their producing peak when the fruit flies arrive.
Planning for crop rotation
Planning helps with crop rotation and if you've got an intensive garden setup (basically anything that's in a backyard) you have to do it. Planning for me helps me know what I can plant in some areas and what needs a break. It also helps me manage soil health so it's not depleted. It helps me manage pests and diseases. I rotate my crops from Leaf, fruit, roots then legumes. After the legumes I give it a boost of compost and manure, give it a little rest, let the chickens dig it over and away we go again.
Planning out my garden has definitely helped me turn a random harvest into a consistent supply of food, and I don't think I'd do it any other way now.
Although occasionally you'll still see me jamming in something that wasn't planned. And that's OK.
Are you a planner or a jammer?