Two years ago, I did a vertical only garden in pots since we didn’t really have much of a backyard. Last year, I created raised garden beds and used the square foot gardening method. I learned a lot last year and am ready to expand my garden this year! You can use this simple method to design your garden too. It’s easy!
Design Your Garden
I started by reading Square Foot Garden by Mel Bartholomew. The idea behind square foot gardening is that you can section off a bed a foot at a time and then depending on the size of the plant, you plant 1, 4, 9, 16 plants. Or in some cases, you use 2 or 4 squares for 1 plant.
From there, I did a TON of research on the web about companion planting. Understanding the ways in which companion planting can help improve your garden is amazing. There are a number of possible benefits, the major reasons include:
Some plants can improve the flavor of other plants simply by being in close proximity with one another. Pest control is a major benefit. Some plants discourage certain pests and guard plants that are normally attractive to these pests; or certain plants can attract beneficial insects that keep predators down. Some plants can attract pollinators well, and other plants close by benefit from these good pests.
I used herbs and flowers as companion plants in all my beds last year in hopes of keeping bad pests to a minimum and good pests in abundance. And I didn’t have any bad pests at all last season! I took notes in a gardening journal, to remember from books I read what goes well next to what (like planting the herb borage next to strawberries), and what you should not put next to what (like no beans near tomatoes). I used Marigolds to deflect aphids – Marigolds attract hoverflies….which eat aphids! I planted basil in almost every box.
One of my biggest mistakes was wanting to plant too much. Even though there were guidelines to how far apart you should plant some things when you design your garden, in some cases you just need more room. When flower shopping, it’s hard to just pick one type-I picked at least 10.
Another downfall I had last year was making sure to thin out the plants as they come up. I was so excited to see things starting to grow. So, what do you mean I’m supposed to cut 2 of the 3 seedlings that came up? Well, let me tell you, “they” are right. You need to let the strongest survive in order to let it flourish. By leaving 3 squash where I should have left just 1 when they came up, none of the 3 did well at all.