Tips for Garden Planning

By Donne Gonzales, NMAA Los Sembradores Farm Trainer

There are a few things to think about when starting to plan a home garden with vegetables, fruits, and flowers. First, it’s important to consider if this garden is for your personal use for family in friends, or if it will be a business garden/farm that is focusing on profit that will contribute to the larger community 

The next things you need to consider are: do you have land access and how much of that is doable for you to work? Are you the owner of the land or do you lease? Have you talked with the mayordomo to see how much water is allotted to farm/garden plots?  This year seems to be good for water flow, but what happens in times of drought?

Finally, you should consider your seeds. Where will you be getting seeds from, and how will you plan for purchasing seed (which can be expensive!)?

I would highly recommend searching for seeds through  community resources such as a local seed library, or talking with a local farmer that you may know. Sometimes it’s helpful to visit farmers markets and make contact with locals who can share seeds. It’s also easier to grow seeds that have already been adapted to the area. They do better, and have an easier time growing, resulting in a better yield.  

In general, I think it’s a great idea to start small and with practice, get bigger! It takes not only months but years to get comfortable with regular gardening, and really knowing the land. You need to sit and be with the land on a regular basis. Understand the soil, bugs, weather in and out of the growing season, and even how the land likes to be watered. Do you have a lot of shade or extra sunny areas? Will you have to fight with the rocks? 

Will you be growing in traditional acequia irrigated furrows, or use the more conventional 3 foot tilled bed method with drip or overhead irrigation? You can also consider raised beds. They may feel easier once they are constructed, but getting material and filling beds can take much more time and be more costly than going with traditional methods. 

3ft bed growing method used for greens inside hoop house spring

Acequia farmer with traditional furrows

Our goal is to help prepare – not scare – anyone by sharing all the things we have to think about. There’s equally or more wonderful things that come from having a garden after you’ve put in the hard work to get started! Eating yummy fresh food, experimenting with a variety of flavors, being outdoors and enjoying the sun are just a few. It’s also incredible to help kids in your family or community to see how things grow, and usually they really want to eat the vegetables that they’ve helped plant and harvest. 

We are now near the end of June, the weather is still being funky in the higher elevations, near the mountain we have had a handful of recent frosts. It seems to have affected the beans, and corn, but I’m also very hopeful that the season will be blessed. Even into July and  summer months there are still a variety of things that can be planted. Don’t feel like it’s too late! 

Some things that can be planted now and grow quickly are: 

  • Radishes
  • Turnips (Hakurei are very tasty and quicker than traditional purple top)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce (if its to hot in your location, you might want to wait until it cools down a bit)
  • Arugula
  • Bok Choy
  • Kale
  • Baby chard 
  • Baby beets
  • Peas ( take about 60 days, don’t like heat, but could be planted for a fall harvest)

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