By Steve Aegerter, Master Gardener, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver County
Before you do anything in the garden, create a plan. It's the best way to avoid past mistakes you may have made in your garden.
List all the plants you'd like to grow. Divide your list into columns of "Must", "Very much would like" and New and experimental" and "If I have room".
Use a piece of graph paper, or any other system that will help you scale your garden.
Utilizing the spacing requirements on your seed packets, carefully fill in your beds. If you are a raised-bed gardener, you likely can space plants closer together but only an inch or two closer.
Consider keeping similar plants together: A salad garden, a pepper garden or legumes, for example.
If your gardening space is limited, think about garden plants that will grow up, rather than out. By using trellises, available fences, cages, netting, bean towers or anything else that will allow you to grow plants up, you can significantly increase your vegetable harvest. In addition, planting a vertical garden adds character because of the different height and growing structures you'll use.
Inter-cropping and succession planting
Follow these suggestions to enlarge the productivity of a smaller garden and increase the harvest of a larger plot.
Examples of inter-cropping would be to plant and allow cantaloupe vines to grow beneath corn. Or, plant vegetables that mature early between rows of vegetables that mature later. For instance, sow radishes along with carrots. The radishes will have been harvested before the carrots are 2 to 3 inches high.
Utilize the 16 inches between broccoli plants by planting some leaf lettuce, which will mature much sooner than the broccoli. Other combinations will work as well; your imagination and information on seed packets can be your guide.
Succession planting makes common sense. When you've finished a harvest of one particular crop, sow something else in its place. Usually that "something" will be quick to mature, such as radishes or lettuce. You can get a head start by growing seedlings, and transplanting them into areas that have been vacated by a previous harvest.
Along with a grid plan, another useful tool is the garden calendar--your own. Before the weather will allow you to do much digging in the garden, outline what you want to plant and when. What do you want to grow from seed? When do you need to get that seed growing if transplants are to be ready on time?
Once your garden is on paper, you are ready to begin. And, about that time, Mother Nature will be ready for the gardening season.
Photograph courtesy of Judy Sedbrook.
© CSU/Denver County Extension Master Gardener 2010
888 E. Iliff Avenue, Denver, CO 80210
Date last revised: 01/05/2010