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March 2015

The Joe Lunchpail Garden - A guide to the average backyard garden, Part I

By Mike Thayer

If you're the typical weekend gardener, then this guide is for you.

IMG_0027 - Copy (2) - CopyThis is a guide designed and catered for the not-so-serious but wants a decent garden kind of person.  This guide is not fancy, it lacks pages upon pages of beautiful garden pictures, but it does provide content, content, content and is also catered to the local area.

Got Dirt?

Plan your successful garden at the kitchen table.  Sketch out your thoughts on a piece of paper while sipping on your favorite beverage.

Even if you've had an established garden for years, mapping out your garden and deciding on plant varieties can save you time and perhaps money come spring.

I like to plan my garden out during the late winter months, when cabin fever takes hold and I'm suffering from football withdrawals.  Ii also like to check out the garden sites on the internet (I'll list links later in this series) and the mail order see catalogs around this time, getting ideas and buying a few things.  Buying in late winter helps ensure you'll receive your order in time for when that spring urge to start putting plants in the ground hits  you.

The first step i f you don't already have an established garden is to select an acceptable site.  No weekend gardener/typically average Joe Lunchpail backyard is absolutely perfect, but you'll have a harvest you can be proud of if you locate your garden where it will get six to eight hours of sunlight daily.  The site should drain well, be "reachable" by garden hose, but not to close to the dog house, unless extra fertilizer is desired.

If you don't have a flat backyard, don't worry about it.  Slight slopes can be good thing for drainage, but steep slopes will require terracing and that means the weekend gardening thing just became a "take-a- vacation-in-order-to-make-a-garden-spot" major project.....    Unless you decide that's what you want to do, you may want to consider container or patio gardening.

Don't have room for a big garden?

How about a couple small ones instead?  Have a little plot for your tomatoes, have another little spot somewhere for your onions, carrots and radishes.  Sow some lettuce seeds in a flower pot instead of those petunias and you've got yourself a nice salad garden, fresh from your backyard.  There are a number of tricks and things  you can do that will save you time and space which will be discussed later in this series.

Space limits may mean you can't have everything you want in your garden, you may have to pick and choose.  Too much in a garden or not having enough room to operate can lead to problems and a disappointing harvest.

TIP:  Flower pots aren't just for flowers anymore.  If you've got a window ledge that just collects dust, put a little flower pot on it sown with parsley.  Down the road, you've got fresh parsley to top a dinner entree.  And don't think you'll be sacrificing beauty by swapping out flowers for vegetables.   A flower pot filled with a variety of lettuces can actually be quite striking.  Eggplants with their broad leaves and purple flowers can make a nice display.  Peppers, one of my favorite potted plants, can actually live for years if brought inside during the cold winter months.

If you are space limited, it's especially good to keep a garden diary.  Knowing what you can or can't do will pay dividends later.  A diary doesn't have to be anything fancy, heck, you could make some quick notes on the calendar hanging in your kitchen.  I often do that for rainfall.  Making a simple note of what you planted and when, if it was a wet spring or a dry summer and the what/how many when you harvest will go a long way towards helping you speed up your planning and execution process for next year.

Next up in Part II, Zoning Your Garden