Every year, gardeners are faced with one of two situations. One is seen every year when zucchinis are planted and if you are a parent you have heard too often this statement from your children. “Zucchini again?” The other situation is when the garden does not produce enough produce to get one through the season. In the past, knowing how much to plant was simply a guess but today we have tools that can guide us to a more appropriate educated deduction.

To utilize this garden tool to its fullest, one must first understand human nature. First, adults tend to enjoy vegetables more than kids. While there are exceptions to this rule, it is a general premise of this tool and contrary to what kids may say French fries are not a healthy alternative to fresh vegetables.

The second premise that this tool uses is the amount of space that is need for an adult compared to a child. Adults need 4 square feet of garden space per meal being served per day. Children, on average, need only 4 square feet per meal per day. What this means is that if you are only going to harvest for a dinner salad, then you only need one 4 square foot garden.

To aid in this understanding lets create a chart. The far left column will be the names of the people you plan to serve. In my example, I am going to use a family of three. The next columns represent individual 4 by 4-garden spaces or 3 by 3-garden spaces for the child.

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In this example, mom is going to eat a salad for lunch and dinner. This means that she will have two columns that are checked. The father is only going to eat a salad at dinner so he only needs one column checked. The child is only 5 years old and in doing so only needs one 3 square foot garden space checked.

This family has also decided to try urban homesteading and in doing so needs vegetables to preserve for the upcoming year. Since each family will benefit from these vegetables, an additional column needs to be checked.

This family wants to donate some fresh produce to a local food bank. In doing so, they decide to grow an additional 4 by 4 garden space for their food donation.

Once the family’s needs have been checked on the chart, it is a simple process by which the checks are added. The number of checks is then taken times the size of the garden space. This number is the number of square feet you will need to meet this family’s needs.

If you are using the square foot garden method, simply take the number that you came up with and times itself. This will give you the total number of plants one needs for the season, which includes cool or Cole crops and warm season.

Having an idea of how much you need for a season will save on the budget, reduce waste, and will allow you to plan for the whole season. Once you have this information, you are prepared for the sea of seed catalogues that will fill your mailbox.

Growing Vines in a Dry Climate Garden

Plants commonly known as climbers are vine like in their habit, growing by virtue of long, thin and generally flexible branches. They often grow naturally in forests and woods, where their “aim” is to reach out of the darkness of the forest’s floor towards the sufficient light levels found at the trees’ canopy. The various growth habits typical of different climbing plants, have developed over time in response to the need to grow on trees and large shrubs, as a means to reach upwards. Growing vines, provides the gardener with a variety of solutions for a number of situations. The question is, which plants are suitable, and for which circumstances?

Self-clinging Climbers: These are plants that have organs allowing them to cling on to relatively smooth surfaces such as walls. In gardening terms they are virtually maintenance-free but over time can cause damage to windows and other parts of a building. Another problem is when trying to remove them from a wall, the attempt often resulting in extensive and expensive repair work being required. Examples are Ivy, the deciduous Boston Ivy, (Parthenossisus sp) Ficus pumila, and trumpet vine. (Campsis radicans) These plants though can be an excellent choice for free- standing and retaining walls. The mature foliage of both Ivy and Ficus differs from, and is much less attractive than the often delicate and interesting juvenile foliage. Pruning and clipping encourages new growth, and therefore the re-appearance of the young leaf shapes.

Twining climbers: These are the ones that can really create havoc, especially in small gardens. They should not be planted closely behind other plants like roses and other ornamental bushes, or herbaceous perennials. Maintenance simply becomes unmanageable as the twines encroach upon and wind themselves around the neighboring plants.

Rampant twiners are best reserved to cover unsightly objects like garden sheds or wire fences, on condition that other plants are some distance apart. Common examples are Passion fruit, the phenomenal flame vine, (Pyrostegia venusta) and Podranea. I seriously recommend not planting species like Thunbergia grandiflora, its stunning floral display notwithstanding. In small spaces it becomes a dreadful mess and tangle. There are twining plants that are a bit less aggressive and should be considered like honeysuckle, star jasmine, (Trachelospermum jasminoides) the delightfully fragrant Quisqualis indica and various species of jasmine itself.

Climbers requiring support: Plants in this category obviously demand work, care and attention, by way of training, tying and pruning, but ultimately, allow for a more controlled maintenance regime, and for a neater garden. Climbing roses and Bougainvillea are but two examples common to Mediterranean and dry climate gardens. Bougainvillea should not really be considered as a bush or shrub. It is a very poor choice indeed as a free standing shrub, particularly in small spaces, and ought to be trained on a wall or some other supporting structure, or dwarfed in a pot.

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