Pepper Joe's Gardening Tips - Planning & Designing Your Garden
Planning and designing your garden can be a lot of fun. I find it's a way to help get through those winter months as well. There are also several practical reasons for mapping out your garden in advance. It makes seed ordering more efficient because you know exactly what you need instead of guessing. It aids in remembering what was planted where so that you can make certain to do rotation planting. (This is important to minimize garden pest problems and to switch plants using different nutrients from the soil.) Also, the plan makes a good old point of reference for future gardens. I make notes on my plan of what went right, what went wrong.
One key part of planning is to factor in the height of the plants. You want to grow them from the smallest in the garden front, medium in middle and tallest in the back. This approach will maximize your sun exposure and air/wind flow. Hot pepper plants and most others love plenty of sunshine and fresh air. Another key issue with planning and designing is to determine the maturity dates of different plants that you would want to cook and eat together. For example one of my favorite dishes is "Spicy Zucchini and Potatoes a-la-Pepper Joe" (recipe below). So I want the zucchini, hot peppers, potatoes, tomatoes and bell peppers maturing approximately at the same time.
Certain plants thrive alongside of each other and make excellent companion plants so this can be part of your plans also. Hot pepper plants do well alongside of eggplant, tomato, okra, swiss chard, escarole, squash and cucumbers. They are all heavy feeders so give them plenty of fertilizer. I mulch my hot pepper plants with grass clippings after they've taken hold in the garden to supply a constant source of nutrition as well as give them fish emulsion every two weeks. I also spray them with an epsom salt solution every two weeks.
Chile plants also like herbs as neighboring plants plus you get the added benefit that herbs deter many garden bugs. The only problem that I have with my pepper plants is from aphids early in the season. The ants bring the aphids up the plants and then they "milk them" for the sweet sap that the aphids extract from the tender leaves. To deter the ants I plant peppermint nearby. The few aphids that show up can be knocked off of the plant with a sprayer and water. I also plant parsley, basil, oregano and rosemary near my Hot Pepper Plants.
A "Hi-Tech" Approach
Designing a garden can be a blast especially on a computer. Forget the expensive softwear. Just pay attention to the math with the spacing requirements between plants and rows and measure your gardens length by width. A picture is worth a thousand words so here we go with a very simple garden plan:
You can plant the herbs in the garden corners and at the very front for easy access. This is a very basic Illustration but it can serve as a rough guideline. Don't forget, smaller plants up front.
Good luck with your garden designing and planning, and have fun with it!
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