Divide and Germinate: Space Planning in the Garden

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Garden ViewI just calculated that we have 1,038 square feet under cultivation in the Dirt to Dinner garden, give or take the odd shaped growing bed here or there. Now, how do I divide that up to see how much of what we have room to grow this year? And how much seed do I start to grow that many square feet of a crop?

Thank goodness at least one engineer was here ahead of me to help figure this stuff out. Maybe if I think this thru I will finally understand how to use all the Master Charts in How to Grow More Vegetables.

Peas are the favorite Spring crop around here. And you can actually get a fair amount of snap or snow peas from a square foot of growing space since you can pick them over several months, or as long as the cool weather holds, which is more likely to be the determining factor for us most years. ‘Sugar Daddy‘ was the top snap pea producer in our 2009 Pea Trials, so let’s start there. Sugar Daddy peas need 7-10 days for germination and another 60 days to flower and mature the first pods. If they go in Feb 1st, that makes ten weeks later we’ll have out first peas, around April 12th. In an average year, whatever that is, Zone 9b would have six more weeks of favorable pea weather to enjoy before we could expect the daytime highs to get too high for pea pollen to do it’s thing.

Peas under cageSo, how many peas do we want to eat over that six weeks? Sugar Daddy peas are really best eaten straight off the vine, but a light steaming and some butter work too. I don’t intend to can or freeze them, so we only need to calculate what we actually want to eat fresh. My notes from 2009 look like we grazed over at least four square feet of pea vines to get a family ‘serving’ for a day. In good weather, three or four days later, there were enough new peas to pick those same plants again. So, each four square feet of snap peas could give us two ‘servings’ a week. If we’d like twice that I better put in eight square feet of snap peas, maybe ten to allow for slug damage would be safer. Add to that a couple square feet of snow peas and another four square feet of Alderman shelling peas and we’re up to sixteen square feet of peas.

Easy, right? Mark that on my handy spreadsheet garden plan. Now, just 1,022 square feet to go.

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