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Cucumber fruits hanging in greenhouse and tomato growing on stems

Planning and Designing Your Garden

Now is the time of the year when you start planning what you will be planting and designing your garden layout.

Planning your garden

Planning a garden involves going through your seed packets from the year before, decide what you want to plant this year, how to efficiently use your space so you can plant the most fruits and vegetables, and correctly time when you are going to start sowing your seeds. With a bit of time spent planning, you can have a wonderfully productive garden that is optimized for both produces and seeds and also make you proud and happy. Whether your garden is a large backyard garden, a balcony or a small garden plot, here are a few tips and strategies that may help you get your planting efforts on the right track.

Where do you start?

There is no need to feel overwhelmed when you start planning your seed garden. Just start small the same way any new gardener is told not to take on more than can be managed. If you are planting to save seeds, please remember that the seed from an open-pollinated plant will only remain true-to-type as long as the pollen is not shared between different varieties within the same species. Therefore, knowing just what species to begin with when you are growing a variety for seed will help ensure success. If you are planting for produces, grow the varieties you love the most. Just make sure you think of the distance each plant needs to thrive, the soil and temperature requirements. Growing familiar varieties means that you already know which plant will perform well in your climate. However, there is something exciting about introducing a new variety in your garden. If you give the new variety the care it needs, it will reward you with a new garden bounty to add to your plate and will contribute to the biodiversity in your garden.

How much space do you have?

This is where designing your garden layout will come to play. One of the first thing that will dictate what you can grow is the gardening space you have. Mapping out the garden will help you decide what you can grow or not. The good news is that you can grow different varieties even when you have a balcony, a backyard garden or an urban garden, ideally south facing. To make efficient use of the space in your balcony, a backyard garden or an urban garden, you may want to consider a vertical garden. A vertical garden is a method of growing above ground, which allows to grow fruits, vegetables and plants (aromatic edible or not), by stacking or layering them as long as you have enough sunlight and water. Unlike a horizontal vegetable garden, the vertical vegetable garden makes it possible to produce as much or more on a smaller area. Cultivation can be done in soil or in an inert substrate (sand, clay beads). Gardeners are already doing this when they use trellises to support climbing plants like beans, squashes, vines, and so on. You can grow multiple varieties in the same square if you take into account the spacing the plant needs, its height and its root system. Another method is container growing. A lot of plants will do well in containers. Some varieties are compact. We can think of culinary herbs, cherry tomatoes and aubergines and some varieties of corn – check our culinary herbs, tomatoes, aubergines varieties - to name a few. You can also type the word “container” or “compact” in the search window of sowdiverse.ie to identify which plants would do well in a container and/or are compact.

If you have a bit more space and a larger garden, take time to map out your garden and think of the layering of the plants you would like to grow. In that case again, you can optimize the space by looking at the plants needs, heights and root system. A very famous growing combination is called the three sisters. These three crops Corn, Squash and Beans complement each other in the garden as well as nutritionally. The large leaves of squash plants shade the ground and that help retain soil moisture and prevent weeds. Beans provide nitrogen to fertilize the soil and also help stabilize the movements of the tall corn when there are winds. Beans are nitrogen-fixers as their roots that can take nitrogen, a much-needed plant nutrient, from the air and convert it into forms that can be absorbed by plant roots. Corn provides tall stalks for the beans to climb so that they are not out-competed by sprawling squash vines. Check out our Corn, Squash and Beans varieties. In summary, spend a bit of time planning your garden layout, without feeling too overwhelmed, and the garden will reward you with bountiful produces, the pollinators will love you and you would have helped increased your plants diversity.

What county are you in?

We all know what the Irish weather is like. We can have all 4 seasons in one day (laughs). We also know that some counties in Ireland are rainier or get more sunshine than others. We know that temperatures may be colder in the north or inland while they are milder closer to the coast. Each county has its benefits and challenges, and understanding which ones you face is crucial for the success of your garden. Research what species and varieties grow well as food crops in your area and then you can determine what can be grown more successfully. If you have a greenhouse or polytunnel, lucky you! You can grow basically whatever you like as long as the plants get enough sunlight, space, water, food and warmth to do well.

What crop will you plant?

You cannot go wrong by selecting open-pollinated varieties. Please check out our open-pollinated varieties at sowdiverse.ie
If you are looking to save seeds, planting only one variety of a plant that cross-pollinate allows for the production of true-to-type seeds when adequately isolated from other gardens that may be growing a different variety from the same species.
Above all, do not take on more than you can manage and enjoy the simple pleasure of gardening, harvesting what you grow and working with nature!