Planning your garden – Fall and winter thoughts

| December 29, 2012



As I was reflecting in the previous post about fava beans, it opened up a larger discussion about planning a garden, which in our area can be year round for most of us.

What do I want to grow and how long does it take to become “food”?

As we approach winter, there is less plantings to plan for than in the Spring and summer.  But, I thought it would be a good place to start.

First things to consider are


(1) what part of the plant am I eating and


(2) am I going to save my own seed from this plant? 


When I frame my thinking and planning in this way, it helps me vision my garden 2 to 6 months from now.  Remember, all plants live to go to seed/ to reproduce.  When you harvest a pea pod that is tender and green, you are basically sending a signal to the plant to make more pea pods.  This also keeps the plant growing and vigorous.  If you leave the pea pod on the plant, it will dry into a dry pod and dry pea seed, the plant also dries as all the plants energy is going into the seed formation.


Using the pea as a continued example, let’s say I plant pea seedlings on March 1.  I space them 4-6 inches apart and give them a good trellis.  If we have a regular spring (not too much rain, frost or snow…), I would expect to begin eating fresh peas by the middle of April, and to continue to eat them until the end of May.


This could be followed by planting pole beans, which would follow the same trellis.  They have a similar growing pattern, in that you harvest the green beans and you encourage the plant to keep setting green beans.  These green bean starts will grow up the trellis and be setting tasty green beans in about 4 weeks (say by the end of June or beginning of July), you can expect to eat green beans for another 4-6 weeks from these plants.  You will have a peak of harvest, and notice that the same plant’s productivity will slow down.

I like to use the Vegetable Gardeners Handbook  by Frank Tozer.  The crops are listed alphabetically and each listing includes how many weeks to harvest, as well as over how many weeks the harvest will occur.  For example, peas will take 6 weeks to get to the pea stage and you can begin harvesting at 6 weeks, then plan to continue to harvest pea pods continuously for the next 6 weeks after that.


I have been growing peas in some gardens all year round as some of my gardens have mostly shady areas.  The pea plants have been more prolific in the cooler spring to summer, but we have enjoyed peas through the summer.


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