Our 2022 Garden Plan
Welcome to our adventures in gardening. Check out our 2022 garden plan!
Dean and I both grew up with gardens, so it was only a matter of time before we started our own. As a kid, Dean helped his mom plant seedlings and remembers his first garden-fresh tomato from his Nana’s garden. My family had a large garden every year; we enjoyed fresh veggies and canned or froze loads of extras. My parents, Gpa and Gigi, still garden each year, but on a much smaller scale.
Dean quickly developed a true passion for gardening. He is the planner, planter, pruner, and weeder, with assistance from me and the kids. Dean treats his tomatoes like bonsai trees, carefully pruning and tending each vine.
Gardening provides so many benefits for our family – fresh, delicious food, appreciation of and connection to nature, and general health. The kids love planting, watching the plants grow, and harvesting. They’re learning about the growing process, healthy foods, and how to take care of their plants. Fresh garden food also encourages them to try new vegetables. My non-vegetable eating 4-year old somehow loves fresh kale from the garden. Go figure!
We love eating our garden-fresh food. Check out some of our favorite recipes from the garden:
- Fire-Roasted Green Tomato Salsa
- Quick Pickled Jalapeños
- Rhubarb Zucchini Bread
- Grilled Stuffed Zucchini
Now in our third year of gardening, we are by no means experts. We rely heavily on our favorite nursery, the trusty internet, and our local experts – Gigi and Gpa. We’re sharing our favorite gardening resources, our current garden plan, adjustments from last year, and some tips.
Garden Planning Guide: Our Favorite Resources
- Garden Videos: Dean often consults his favorite online gardeners, Epic Gardening and MIgardener, for tips and explanations.
- Sun vs. Shade: Consider how much sun and shade hits the garden when deciding what to plant.
- Watering is essential! We use drip line attached to our sprinklers.
- Give plants space to grow and provide air flow: We’ve definitely made the mistake of planting vegetables too close together (as you can see from some of the photos above from our first garden). Overcrowding can cause lots of problems; follow the plant or seed packet instructions or ask the local nursery.
- Provide support: Stake up tall plants and create trellises for climbers like peas, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Vertical space is essential for maximizing small garden areas.
- Nourish: Look into nutrients for your veggies.
- Protect: Combat common garden problems.
Plan The Garden
After our first garden grew into a mishmosh, we learned that planning is an essential first step. Dean draws out the garden area and writes the location of each plant. Consider each plant’s optimal growing conditions, including water source, sun/shade exposure, planting depth, spacing recommendations, harvest time, and USDA Plant Hardiness Zone (we are zones 5-7).
Gpa and Gigi maximize their small garden by using containers and staggering planting based on harvest time. For example, peas are an early harvesting crop. When the peas near their end, Gpa plants kale in the same bed. By the time the kale is actively growing, the peas are ready to come out.
Changes to This Year’s Garden Plan
We’re making some improvements (hopefully) to this year’s garden. Dean is adding more blueberries and tomatoes and we are trying yellow squash. He and the kids planted a potato in a bucket last year. It didn’t grow at all, so we are quadrupling down and trying 4 this year. Dean is also dedicating a new bed to herbs and moving the zucchini (which grew HUGE) to the ends of the raised beds so they take up less bed space.
Last season, Dean trellised the tomatoes with a “Florida Weave,” which supports plants between lengths of twine attached to stakes. He found it tough to maintain because the plants grew at different rates, so not all the plants were ready for the next twine rung. Also, the Florida Weave worked better when Dean could regularly tend the garden. But after a week away, he faced a frustrating battle against unruly tomatoes. This year, he’s trying a trellis made from cattle fencing.
Consider adding companion plants to the garden – non-vegetables that either attract pollinators or deter pests. Last year, our single borage plant attracted many bees. Dean plans to add a few more this year. We also plant marigolds in the beds. They aren’t only beautiful, but bring in good bugs that protect the plants from aphids and other harmful pests.
When to Plant
Figuring out when to start a garden depends on a number of factors, including where you live, if you’re starting seeds vs. transplants, if you have a place to start seeds indoors, and what you’re planting. Luckily, there are lots of resources to make this process easier. Check seed packets for general information. For geographically specific information, colleges and universities in many states offer growing guides online. Check out the Old Farmer’s Almanac’s vegetable planting guide by zip code.
Also, be aware of the last frost date. Research the average last frost date for your area, keep an eye on the weather, and hope for the best. Our average last frost date is mid-May and we lost some starts from frost last year. This year, we’re going to try hot caps.
Dig In: Plant Seeds and Transplants
Seeds vs. transplants: Starting a garden from seeds offers tons of options, but more initial work. Transplants are great for shorter growing seasons and tend to be more successful. When growing from seeds, we start double the number of plants we ultimately want. If we have good luck with the seeds, we share seedlings with fellow gardeners.
We start plants from a variety of methods, including seeds started indoors with grow lights, seeds started in a “greenhouse”, and seeds and transplants started directly in the garden. Kiddos are great planting helpers, if you don’t mind a little extra mess. Our kids love digging, looking at all the different seeds, watering, and checking on the plants’ growth.
Seeds started in a “greenhouse”: Gpa and Gigi use a window-lined staircase to their bulkhead as a makeshift greenhouse. The area stays warm and gets plenty of light. Gpa and the kids planted seeds for the greenhouse during the first week of March: cilantro, jalapeños, two kale varieties, mini pumpkins, pickling cucumbers, 3 tomato varieties, tomatillos and various flowers (snapdragons, foxglove, marigolds, hollyhock). By April, most seedlings were flourishing.
Seeds started indoors with grow lights: We’re trying out an indoor grow light to give the plants an earlier start. Dean and the kiddos started seeds on March 20; by March 24, we had a bunch of baby seedlings and the seedlings will move to the garden in early to mid-May. We started arugula, peas, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, basil, cucumbers, and jalapeños.
Seeds started in the garden: Sunflowers, carrots, and beets.
We try to start as much as possible from seed. However, if something doesn’t grow well, we’ll head to the nursery and pick up some transplants. Last year, we transplanted store-bought jalapeños, basil, eggplant, and tomato.
Tips for Starting Seeds
Gpa starts seeds in cardboard egg cartons, saved nursery containers, or cleaned tofu packages with added drainage holes (this is a great way to re-use materials).
This year, Dean tried a self-watering seed starter tray. Both do the trick.
Fill wells about 3/4 full with high-quality potting soil. Follow depth guidelines and add 2-3 seeds spaced evenly per well.
Cover with soil and label the wells. Follow watering instructions.
Thin seedlings if more than one sprouts per well. Leave the hardiest seedling and clip the rest with scissors near the soil.
Once the seedlings are 2-3″ tall with several leaves (or after you pick up some starts from the nursery), transplant them to the garden. Follow the garden plan and planting instructions on depth, spacing, and watering.
Be Prepared for Pests!
Gardens attract all sorts of bugs and animals. Some, like bees and butterflies, are wonderful. Others, not so much. For our homemade aphid deterrent, we mix water, a couple drops of dish soap, and a teaspoon of vegetable oil in a spray bottle. When Dean sees aphids on his tomatoes, he sprays liberally with the mixture every day or two until the aphids are gone. To protect our blueberries from snacking birds, Dean built wood frames covered with mesh. Birds weren’t able to get in, but the frames were pretty wobbly and difficult to move.
We’ve also changed our crops because of critters. Our first year, a couple days before we were set to harvest corn, Dean opened an ear to find huge missing chunks. He opened ear after ear and found the same on each – some sneaky squirrels tasted 95% of our corn. Needless to say, that was our last corn growing attempt. On the bright side, the kids love teasing Dean about squirrels eating his corn and devising elaborate ways to protect corn from the squirrels.
2022 Garden Plan: Our Favorite Tools
This year, Dean made a storage box for our garden tools. It’s mounted right on our fence next to the garden, so the tools are close at hand, but out of reach of the kiddos.
Tips for Closing Out the Garden
At the end of the season, clean out the beds. Also, keep your garden map to help plan next season. Our first year, we convinced ourselves we’d remember where we planted the zucchini and where we’d move it. However, when planting time rolled around, we struggled to remember. Last year, we saved our garden plan and made notes of intended changes. This year, planning the garden was so much easier.
Keep seeds to start next year. Our kiddos were great helpers. We definitely lost seeds with their exuberant help, but they really enjoyed the process of clipping the seed pods and shaking out the seeds.
Spread seeds on a paper towel to air dry. When thoroughly dry (we leave ours a couple of weeks), store the seeds in a sealed plastic bag with the paper towel and label. We’ve saved seeds from jalapeños, cucumbers, sunflowers, marigolds, zinnias, basil, cilantro, hollyhock, and snapdragons. We’ve learned not to keep seeds from plants of which we grow multiple varieties because they can cross-pollinate. For example, we ended up with a hybrid pumpkin/butternut squash.
Thanks for checking out our 2022 garden plan. We’re excited to see how our garden turns out this year. Looking forward to a new set of mistakes and adjustments for next year. And most of all, we can’t wait for time spent with the kids in the garden and enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of our gardening labor. Please share your garden adventures with us!
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