My gardening ambition grows with every year, increasing the pressure to maximize every inch of gardening space. Climbing peas and beans grow on teepees among the fruit trees and berry bushes, while squash and melons lumber along the ground shading the soil. Aside from these space-gobblers, most of our vegetables are grown in four gorgeous raised beds.

Raised beds circa July 2012

Raised beds circa July 2012

The beds came from NaturalYards, a local Oregon company, and each measure 4′ x 6′. That gives me just shy of 100′ of growing space in the raised beds. It’s hard to juggle good crop rotation while cramming in enough produce to feed our family, so typically every year I make a garden plan to keep me organized.

2012 raised bed garden plan

2012 raised bed garden plan

After looking at last year’s plan, I made some changes for 2013. First, I am rotating what grows where. Different plants sap different nutrients from the soil, so good crop rotation will help keep the soil balanced. It may also cut down a bit on disease to move them to a new spot, in case the bad guys try to overwinter in the soil.

Next, I’m thinking about what we were overwhelmed with last year vs. what we were able to preserve. We didn’t get enough tomatoes, peppers and eggplants last year, so more this time around. The bush beans weren’t worth the space, since I can more efficiently grow them vertically around the garden. And somehow I missed planting leeks last year?!? They are versatile for year round harvesting, along they take time to mature, so I’m planting lots this year.

2013 raised bed garden plan

2013 raised bed garden plan

Finally, our beds are all pretty filled right now with winter vegetables. Winter crops to be harvested in early spring, like rutabaga, will be replaced with cool weather crops like kale and chard. Other winter veggies won’t be pulled until late spring, like celery and carrots, right when it’s time to transplant in a whole bed of tomatoes.

It pays to be strategic about your garden plan, especially with limited space. Take these chilly evenings to pour over your seed collection and draw out your plan. Leave enough room for each plant to reach their mature size, think about companion planting (planting onions in between lettuces, etc), and get those seeds started!

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