Salisbury, MD. "To map or not to map, that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler to…." Oh, never mind! The point here is that having a map of your garden or gardening areas is quite helpful when it comes to long range planning. As many of us know, short range planning can be whatever strikes your fancy at the moment. A map wouldn't be necessary for that. If you don't plan to be at your current gardening location more than another year, perhaps a map isn't necessary either. However, if you don't have a map, which often merges into a plan, you may have no record of what happened last year. If you plan to continue gardening and don't have a map, you might find that you don't make as much progress as you would like with your garden from year to year.
We all think we will remember, but we generally don't. As the Gardening Grannies will be quick to tell you, memory is a progressively unreliable commodity. How many of us have found packets of seeds of unknown origin or had "something" come up in a flower bed that we were certain was "something" (as opposed to a weed which is referred to as "nothing") but we had no clue what on earth it was? If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that, at the time, we were probably quite certain that we would remember. Maybe even promising ourselves that we would mark it "later" and now, well, it's "later" and it's a mystery. Last year, Granny Henry found what she thought were some squash seeds and planted them in the middle of the garden. Turned out they were peanut skinned pumpkin seeds (more properly called Galeaux d'Eysines) and they virtually took over the entire area.
Granny Griffith, with those nineteen raised beds that we've written about so often, didn't have a plan when she put the beds in some ten years ago. She started out with two, then four and, then, "somehow" nineteen. Now, there's nothing wrong with nineteen raised beds, but planning might have yielded a more efficient design. Nonetheless, the first few years went just fine. Then, about five years later, a serious problem arose. Her garden experienced a nasty case of fusarium wilt that turned her lovely tomatoes into pitiful, drooping Charlie Brown-type remnants of plants. Not waiting for a second issue to arise, Granny took stock of the situation and set about seeking a remedy.
First of all, she pulled the infected plants and put them out with the trash. Then she made a map of her garden area and noted what crops were planted in which beds. She made a stab at trying to remember what had been planted in the infected beds the prior year and made appropriate notes. Sometimes the notes were post-it notes on the map and sometimes they were written right on the map itself. She began to document which beds and veggies did well and which ones didn't. In the back of her mind, she knew the problem was most likely poor crop rotation, but didn't have proof. She quickly came to the realization that having crops, problems and successes clearly documented from year to year is way better method than trusting it to memory. It's been five years now, and Granny Griffith swears by her mapping system and has had no further issues with wilt.
The first map is always the toughest. You really should step it off and have it more or less to scale. Some gardeners do their entire yard and some just do specific areas they want to track. If you want to do your entire yard, you could start by digging out the plat that the surveyors did when you purchased your property. You can copy or enlarge it and go from there. Granny Griffith did her map as the result of a specific problem and did it just of that problem area. After the first year's design, she just lays a couple pieces of grid paper over the original map and recreates the basic bed layout. She then numbers 1-19 down the left side of the map and notes which crops are planted where. She used to number right on the beds but soon discovered that, with several plantings per bed per year, she soon ran out of space. As you can see beds #1 and #2 already have their first crops noted: winter plantings of a couple kinds of garlic, swiss chard and parsley. Permanent plantings of figs (beds #6, #7 and #9) and alpine strawberries (bed #15), columbines (#18) and rosemary (#19) are written right in the beds. The only things that change in the permanent planting beds are the underplantings which vary from year to year. The eight circles labeled "B" around the outside of the garden are barrels and their plantings also vary from year to year.
Tomorrow is the first day of winter….a special day to begin the planning of your next season garden. So, Grannies, onto your rockers and into some serious planning for your best garden ever in 2011.
The Gardening Grannies are a group of avid and Master Gardeners who live, love and garden on the Delmarva Peninsula. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we look forward to hearing from you.