Way To Plan Walkways… Not!

This is a quick rant to show you what a crazy mess I have in the kitchen garden. I planned it well, but not. Let me explain…

look okay? look closer...

While at first glance it looks as if all is growing well. In the bed on the left I have sweet meat squash next to cantaloupe next to butternut squash. Three kinds of cucumbers* line the back. In the bed on the right I have zucchini next to more cantaloupe next to crookneck squash. A row of Black Beauty eggplant finishes out the other side. There is plenty room for all and they seem to be very happy. My plan was to train all of the squash to grow to the middle and sides of the beds (into the walkway), while the cucumbers and melons climbed upwards. All is going as planned. Which is not a good thing… for me that is… the one that has to step through it all! And I water by hand which means I’m dragging a hose around too! (sigh)

And if that isn’t bad enough, let me show you the other side of my cucumber trellis:

cukes going nuts!

Here we have a walkway that is just big enough for me to comfortably walk through. (roughly 2 feet, maybe less) It’s meant to be that way so both boxes can become a big makeshift hoop house during cold weather. Except that the cucumbers think this space belongs to them. I thought they’d mostly face the other side of the trellis to face the sun. Hmm. Yet another obstacle course to deal with.

Oh wait, it’s gets better. Let me show you two more beds that I made the worst mistake in:

looks good now...

Here we have what was the beginning stages of my kitchen garden layout plan (started earlier this year). My makeshift hoop house; next to that I planned for a large walkway (about four feet); and then another hoop house after that… and so on. Looked great on paper. So what went wrong? Well silly me, I decided to plant six (six!) tomatoes in one bed, and all my peppers (and yet another tomato plant) in the other. I can hear y’all screaming at me but in my defense, I did this before and though crowded, the tomatoes did just fine. I believed that it would be completely manageable and all I needed was some strong support cages so they wouldn’t topple onto each other. Here’s what it looks like now:

but it's a jungle in there!

I can’t even take two steps in. I knew that my tomatoes would grow tall and fill out, but this even surprised me. You see, I failed to remember that the previous garden had much larger walkways and that is why it all worked out okay! (smacks head in a “I could have had a V8” motion) I crouched down to take this shot because you just can’t see anything when standing. You can’t even see the chicken run that’s just on the other side…

whata mondo mess

…and this is why. On this end of the bed I have Black Krim and Cherokee Purple. These are like giants at six feet tall. And if my eyes aren’t deceiving me, they look as wide too. You see how the Black Krim is just about touching my bell pepper plants? Yeah, it’s reaching across a measly little two foot walkway to do that. When family and friends visit their mouths fall open because it’s quite a sight. Very huge and gorgeous. Still, it’s no fun trying to get around the plants. Not with my garden plan. (shakes head)

oh, you want to reach the other row, huh?

So when planning the chicken garden, did I learn anything all? Hmm, you’d never know from looking at this picture. This is one of the four walkways that I laid out so we can easily get to the sunflowers and corn. Easily, ha! Can you find the other three?

uh, what's all this?

And what about the zucchini and pumpkins I planted for the chickens? Could you harvest anything out of these two rows? Can you even tell there are two rows here?

lovely potatoes

So the lesson here is that space between rows/beds/boxes is just as important as the bed itself. When researching how to plan the market garden, I copied what the experts advised and all is good. I put in nice wide walkways and made sure to carefully space plants so they don’t grow out of control. So why didn’t I carry that logic and planning into the other gardens? Oy vey!

*Tip: While it’s okay to plant the squash and cucumbers all together like this (they will all grow in harmony and produce fruit just fine) it isn’t okay if you’re saving the seed. Cross pollination effects the next generation of these related plants. I have so much seed that it didn’t matter what went where… this time!