Sunday, 31 May 2015

Longterm Garden Planning

The more that I look at the Balcony Garden, the more I think that rather than merely going for "production" in both quantity and monetary value (lol, which hasn't worked too well), the way to make the garden the most valuable to myself would be for it to produce me with my own salads a few times a week, for around six months of the year. I have only four large rubber-maid containers out there at the moment, but I'm pretty sure I could add another three if I turned them lengthwise. 
Left: Carrots, Strawberries, Zucchini & Cucumber / Right: Tomatoes & Nasturtiums
In the back corner, I could keep things pretty much as they are now, filled with tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers and carrots. They all grow fairly well together, and also easily add to a fresh salad... but if I tried to grow potatoes back there again, like I did last year, they would interfere with eachother too much (Potatoes & Cucumbers are not Companion Plants). Plus, unless you are making potato salad, it's not a very "salad-like" vegetable - not too mention the problem of having to rotate your containers for the next three years, to ensure that more root-vegetables don't grow in it again before the soil replenishes. Too many root-vegetables out there, and you'll end up damaging your crops with scab and other such things after a few years... which makes root-vegetables very unnattractive to me, considering the other things I could grow instead which are arguably of higher value.
Left: Peppers, Nasturtiums & Tomato / Right: Kale, Radish, Watermelon & Salad Greens
Up front, I could have another container where the peppers are, and another in between the two already up there, if they were turned length-wise. Then I could start off the season with three full pots of kale and find a few other things to grow during the hottest months, and in the end of the year, plant ALL the big pots full of kale. That would make for quite a bit of kale - although, I think from now on, the only kale I'm going to grow will be the Red Russian variety. It only takes 45 to 60 days to grow, while most other varieties take around 80 to 90 days. That extra month, at both ends of the year, is quite a significant amount of growing time.
15oz Kale Harvested from One Pot
Plus, last year I produced 20oz of Kale out of only one pot, but this year I've pulled out only 15oz, although, as you can see, I still have another full pot to harvest. But, with proper planning and Red Russian Kale's significantly shorter growth period, perhaps three crops of kale could be pulled out a year, rather than two. Imagine if I could grow four pots in the spring, then perhaps another seven pots in the fall time - that would be a heck of a lot of kale, making quite a bit of salads and stamp-pot.
Left: Sprouting Salad Greens
If I expanded the garden with three more rubber-maid containers, I'd have to find another place for all the pots on the floor. Of course, I still have the railing to hang containers off of, but between the cost of the containers and especially the hangers ($40+ per container, plus $15 to $20 for the container... plus soil = $60/container), it is just cost-prohibitive to put six or seven containers on the railing - at least compared to the value I got from the rubber-maid containers, which grow far more crops but only cost about $18/19 each to set up, including the soil! When I look at that glass partition on the balcony, I think it would be much cheaper to rig up something alongside it that could hold containers - heck, I could even build a shelf myself, and I'm sure it would be a lot cheaper than spending several hundred dollars just to hang containers off the railing. It sure would be nice though, to have several containers, perhaps planted 2 weeks apart, continually sprouting with enough salad greens to have a fresh salad three or four times a week.
Here's how I think a season of crops could work (RM = Rubber Maid Container, PB = Planter Box):

RM #1 (Front) = Peppers x 8plants, Beans, Kale (Fall)
RM #2 (Front) = Kale (Spring), Beans, Cantaloupe (Summer), Kale (Fall)
RM #3 (Front) = Kale (Spring), Beans, Watermelon (Summer), Kale (Fall) 
RM #4 (Front) = Kale (Spring), Beans, Brocolli (Summer), Kale (Fall)
RM #5 (Side) = Kale (Spring), Cucumbers, Califlower, Pumpkin(?) or Kale (Late Fall?)
RM #6 (Side) = Radishes, Cucumbers, Carrots (Spring), Carrots (Summer), Kale (Fall)
RM #7 (Side) = Radishes, Cucumbers, Zucchini, Kale (Fall)

Front Corner Pot #1 = Tomato & Nasturtiums
Front Corner Pot #2 = Tomato & Nasturtiums
Back Corner Pot #3 = Tomato & Nasturtiums
Back Corner Pot #4 = Tomato & Nasturtiums

PB #1 (Railing - Side/Inside) = Salad Greens, Mustard Greens (Fall)
PB #2 (Railing - Front/Inside) = Salad Greens, Mustard Greens (Fall)
PB #3 (Railing - Front/Inside) = Salad Greens, Mustard Greens (Fall)
PB #4 (Railing - Front/Inside) = Salad Greens, Mustard Greens (Fall)
PB #5 (Railing - Side/Outside) = Strawberries
PB #6 (Railing - Front/Outside) = Strawberries
PB #7 (Railing - Front/Outside) = Strawberries
PB #8 (Railing - Front/Outside) = Strawberries
PB #9 (Place on Floor)= Salad Greens, Mustard Greens (Fall)
Hanging Pot & Various Small Pots on BBQ & Floor = Parsely, Mint, Dill, Chives, Garlic, Echinacea (Fall)
That would total as follows:
1 x RM Harvest of 8-10 Pepper Plants 
10 x RM Harvests of Kale
1 x RM Harvest of Cantaloupe
1 x RM Harvest of Watermelon
1 x RM Harvest of Brocolli
1 x RM Harvest of Cauliflower
2 x RM Harvests of Carrots
1 x RM Harvest of Zucchini (2 Plants?)
+/- 12 to 16 Pole Bean Plants
+/- 9 to 12 Cucumber Plants
+ 4 x Tomatoes & Nasturtiums
+ 5 x PB's of Salad Greens Rotating All-Season
+ Radishes Planted where/when Space Available All-Season
+ Strawberries & Herbs Producing All-Season
If I could get the little balcony ripping like that, it would not only look extremely cool but it ought to produce easily enough for me to be eating good, healthy garden salads on a regular basis throughout most of the year.

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