Several years ago, when I was a lad in my teens, I read a publication from the Scott’s Lawn Care Company. Among the many articles was one entitled, “The Impulse Versus the Plan.” In the article, they discussed the benefits of planning out your lawn chores in advance, rather than just letting the impulse of spring weather propel you into random action.
The same can also be said of your vegetable garden. Many gardeners, especially those who have never gardened before, are content to be carried away by the moment. They eagerly rush out into the sunshine, drive over to their nearest big box store, purchase whatever strikes their fancy at the moment, then rush home to plant their treasures in the ground with dreams of juicy tomatoes and buttery sweet corn dancing in their heads. And then, come autumn, when they’ve reaped a harvest of little or nothing, they are left scratching their heads wondering where they went wrong. Well, one could probably find a number of mistakes that were made, but I will contend that their number one mistake was that, metaphorically speaking, they slammed it all together, rather than taking the time to carefully plan things.
Short and to the point, a plan works. A well thought out plan, properly executed, will give you a harvest of plenty instead of a cornucopia of nothing.
So how do you develop this plan for your garden?
Start by reviewing what you did last year. What worked and what didn’t? Which vegetables yielded a bountiful harvest, and which were miserable failures? Did you have problems with insect pests? Diseases? Animals? How did you handle them? Were your efforts successful or did the rabbits have a royal feast at your expense?
Next think about the garden site itself. If this will be a brand new garden, think about where you want to situate it — preferably on the south side of your house where you’ll get the most amount of sun. You’ll want to measure out the site, mark it off with stakes and string, then dig up the grass and amend the soil. If this is an existing garden, you may want to test your soil, then depending on the results, mix in some organic matter to recharge it.
Now, think about the vegetable plants themselves. What varieties of vegetables did you grow last year, or in years past? Did you like them? Do you want to plant those varieties again or would you like to try something different? Perhaps you had problems with disease or insect infestations. You may want to think about rotating those vegetables to a different part of the garden, choosing a disease-resistant cultivar, or avoiding that vegetable entirely.
Once you’ve armed yourself with definite decisions on how you want to proceed with your garden, you can shop with confidence. You’ll know what you want, and what questions to ask to find it. You’ll have carefully researched all of the choices available and made the ones that are right for your garden.
“Gee, Mark, you’re sure a wet blanket,” you may be saying to yourself. “I go to my garden to relax and enjoy myself. Research and planning is what I do all day at school or at work. Now you’re telling me I have to do this for my garden too? Where’s the fun and relaxation in that?”
Okay, let me ask you a question. Where’s the fun in seeing the results of your hard work in planting and watering come up short year after year? How relaxing is it to see all your wonderful vegetables destroyed by the same disease or insect pest again and again, and not knowing why or what to do about it? Wouldn’t you much rather have a bumper crop? I agree that gardening is supposed to be fun but it also requires effort. Isn’t it more fun to see your effort actually rewarded?
It has been said that in life, if you don’t have a plan, you’ll end up working for someone who does. May I offer a similar statement for gardening? In gardening, if you don’t have a plan, you’ll be envying the harvest of someone who does.