Walker: It's not too early to plan next year's garden

U OF I MASTER GARDENERNovember 21, 2013 

I usually don't think about what to plant in next year's vegetable garden until after New Year's Day. But even though I just finished cleaning up last summer's garden a couple of weeks ago, I'm getting the itch to plan next summer's garden. The seed catalogs haven't arrived yet, so I'm looking online.

Every year, I make a vow to get the most out of my garden. Return on investment, if you will. Then I end up trying things I haven't grown before. Some give a good return, others don't. Experimenting is a good thing!

This year, I'm going to do my best to stick to the following agenda.

• Grow UP! Peas, beans and cucumbers are the best examples of vertical gardening. But smaller melons and squashes can also be grown up along a chain link fence or trellis.

• Grow expensive items. Raspberries are one of my favorites. One plant costs less than a pint of berries and yields many dollars' worth of berries for years to come. They also spread to create more raspberry plants for even greater yields in the future.

The other day I made a recipe that called for shallots. Shallots are a milder version of onions. The price at the grocery is a lot higher than onions, so I passed and substituted less expensive sweet onions for the shallots. So shallots are definitely on my gardening list.

• I like to grow things that will last through the next harvest, like onions, garlic and carrots. Winter squashes keep well for long periods, too.

• Of course, I have to plant things that are eaten fresh out of the garden like salad greens, herbs, tomatoes and peppers. Salad greens can be started in early spring (about a month before last frost) - about the time I'm getting tired of squash.

• There are crops I've tried that take up a lot of space and don't yield much. Corn and potatoes are two such plants. They were worth a try, but I won't grow them again. They're inexpensive to buy, so I'll save space for higher-yield crops.

FINGERS CROSSED

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my poinsettia. At that point, only the leaf stalks (petioles) had turned a deep red. Shortly after, the veins of a few leaves started turning red. Now I have a few red leaves and it looks like more are coming.

I might have a beautiful red poinsettia by Christmas after all!

If you have particular questions about gardening you'd like to see addressed in this column, send them to highprairielandscapedesign@yahoo.com.

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