Planning and first planting for 2015

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The last few days I have been planning the garden layout for spring/summer/fall 2015.

Basic layout

I began by placing a driveway marker in the northwest corner of the garden, then one 9m east of that position, parallel to the row of cedars which marks the north boundary of the yard, about 30cm in from the trees.

I then placed another 12m due south of the first. I determined the position using a long rolling measuring tape in such a fashion that the third marker was 15m from the second (i.e. using the so-called `pythagorean theorem’ (which we know was known in Babylonia long before Pythagoras). With only one measuring tape, this took a few back and forth adjustments, but it wasn’t too bad.

The last step was to place a fourth marker due south of the second using the same technique. This fourth marker is outside the plantable area due to a ‘cut-out’ rectangle in the southeast corner of the large rectangle, but it is within the branches of a tall spruce, so not an inconvenience. The intent is to leave these four markers permanently placed so that planting zones can be set relative to them.

Inset layout

Within that broader grid, I planned for a half-metre border which would be tilled and kept clean but which would remain unplanted. In the past, the garden has always tended to extend to the outer border which makes mowing difficult as well as weeding; but now that I have acquired a mini-tiller to go between rows which also has edging facility, this should be fairly easy to tend.

Pre-planned detail

I like to plant lots of garlic, hot peppers, tomatoes, and beans, and whatever else fits. My wife likes runner beans and peas, so I tried my best to pre-plan the other items since the garlic takes up a lot of room and must be planted in the fall. I sometimes screw up and then things get tight in the spring!

Considerations from experience

I have found that tomato plants get quite huge around here depending on how the season goes, so they need at least a metre of space. What’s more, we run the risk of infection, and this year was rather a disaster since the tomatoes started going black from the inside out. So the first consideration was to allot space for tomato plants and not to let them be near one another.

Ideally, for the sake of pest control and the like, we would like to keep them, peppers, and potatoes away from one another as well. It’s hard to do a perfect job, but I tried.

The peas and beans needed to be reasonably accessible for my wife, and the runner beans are only happy in one location so unfortunately we can’t rotate them. We decided on a spinach patch as well.

I.e. from the house
I.e. from the house

Note the corner markers, green garden twine defining temporary boundaries, and the garlic planting template. This is a 2ft by 4ft piece of aspenite (as I had some handy) perforated at regular intervals in a grid pattern which I use to determine where to plant bulbs. It prevents me from forgetting whether I’ve planted a certain location or not because I fill the holes once I remove the grid.

In the foreground are two rows of garlic being left to overwinter; this improves their flavour.

Here we have it from the southwest and west angles.

Southwest view
Southwest view
West view

Garlic varieties

The garlic did ok but not spectacularly this year. The main problem was that I left it too late, and so the bulbs began to explode and the skins came off. Skinless cloves run the risk of damage and infection, so I contacted Golden Acres Organic Garlic Farm near Wellesley (recommended by a friend and I’d bought from them last year) for some new seed garlic. It being late in the year, I had limited choices, so acquired Leningrad and Persian Star (my wife’s favourites) and Portugal #1 and #2 (which I like, they are nice and big). The rest will be planted from my supplies.

Immediate plan and spring plan

I mocked up a spring plan in light of the above so as to get an idea of space required for various things, which I will scan and attach when I have a bit more time. The immediate plan is based on the spring plan, but shows only what I have actually planted this fall so that I know what it was, where it was, how much, and when I did it. I always record this but somehow manage to lose the record, so I’m hoping that putting it here on my blog will help.

October 15th planting

Today, I planted the following garlic, from south to north, and where there are multiple varieties in a row, from west to east:

  1. Persian Star (GA1), 40 bulbs in 4 rows (east/west) of 10 cloves
  2. In 4 rows of 18 cloves
    • Choparsky, 24 cloves over the first 6 of each row
    • Irkutsk, 24 cloves over the middle 6 of each row
    • Siberian, 24 cloves over the last 6 of each row
  3. In 4 rows of 18 cloves
    • Portugal #1 (Azores; GA1), 24 cloves over the first 6 of each row
    • Duganski, 24 cloves over the middle 6 of each row
    • Portugal #2 (GA1), 24 cloves over the last 6 of each row
  4. Leningrad (GA1), 52 cloves in 4 rows of 13 cloves.

‘GA1’ means ‘Golden Acres first generation’ meaning that I bought them from the farm and am planting them for the first time. The other garlic is either GA2 or from my friend Bob Litke. I’ll have to check my records to see which is which.

Tomorrow I have to be at work, and it is supposed to rain through the weekend. I’m at the office Monday, and in Chicago at a conference from Tuesday through the following Sunday, so anything more will unfortunately have to wait. Let’s hope the weather holds. But at least I’ve got the most important items planted! That’s 236 garlic plants so far 🙂

October 17th planting

I was away in town on the 16th, and it rained last night. It was supposed to rain today but so far it has not–so although the ground is quite wet, it’s good planting weather. Cool but not cold.

So today, I’ve planted a column to the east of the main block 4 cloves wide[1. Edit 8 May 2015: somehow it appears that the blocks are in fact 6 cloves wide, for groups of 36. Just as well, since the survival rate in light of frequent weather changes and water on the garden was not that good.] in groups of 24 (so 6 mini-rows per group). From north to south, these are:

  • No Name Beauty (meaning that Bob Litke, who gave them to me, had lost track of their origin; but in a good season, they give huge bulbs which taste great)
  • Carpathian
  • Brussels (these were in a bad spot, so I harvested just enough to plant this group)
  • Korean Red
  • Killarney Red
  • Brown Tempest.

This takes me to the border zone, so I’m going to leave a big gap as per the plan for the spring and plant what I have left in another column on the right (east) edge of my garden.

Then I planted another column at the eastmost edge of the planting area organized similarly to the first.[2. Edit 8 May 2015: this column seems to indeed have been 4 cloves wide, as stated.] I had the following varieties:

  • Leningrad
  • Portugal #1
  • Portugal #2
  • Thai Turban
  • Duganski
  • Asian Tempest.

All of today’s plantings were from this year’s harvest, 288 plants.


Altogether, this makes 524 plants 🙂

I dispensed with Belarus since it wasn’t overly productive. Let’s see how next year’s harvest fares. I’ll have to remember to harvest more quickly so that the bulbs don’t start to crack!

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