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How many crops should I choose?

Hello all!
I've just been given a 4' x 6' plot at my local community garden, and I'm really excited to start a kitchen garden. However, it's been some time since I've grown anything outdoors, and I don't want to become overwhelmed. How many different types of crops would you suggest I start with? I've made a list of what I would *like* to grow, and there are 18 items. I think I ought to reduce my list, but what's a reasonable amount to start with?
Just in case any of the plants on my list are not for the novice, here is what I would like to plant: sweet onions, carrots, spinach, snow/snap peas, lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, zucchini, arugula, garlic, asparagus, sweet peppers, corn, onion, rosemary, chives, melon. I live in Washington state, but on the dry side--think Idaho/Montana weather--and about an hour and a half from the Canadian border.

Thank you!
-Kayla

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rainbowgardener
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Re: How many crops should I choose?

ONE 4x6 plot? That's a tiny space, you will need to scale down your ambition some.

To get the most use of your little plot, think succession planting.

You can plant spinach, lettuce, radishes now. They will be over and done with fairly early in the season. After everything is well warmed up, you could plant some tomatoes and peppers amongst them. The cool weather stuff will benefit from the shade and then when the tomato and pepper plants are getting big, the cool stuff can be pulled to give them more room.

But 4 x 6 is room for 2 tomato plants and 2 pepper plants (and some people would say that is too crowded). Zucchini, melons, cucumbers get huge, you don't have room. If you can put up a trellis, you might be able to grow ONE zucchini OR one cucumber plant up the trellis. Corn is also very big and it needs to be planted in groups to pollinate each other, you don't have room for that either. Peas aren't worth doing for you either. If you filled your bed up with pea plants, you might get a meal's worth of peas and then they would be done. Tomatoes and peppers keep producing and producing.

In late summer, early fall you can plant spinach and lettuce again and plant some garlic. Garlic is planted in the fall to over winter and be harvested the following summer.

You can grow rosemary in a container.

The asparagus needs room and unlike the other veggies, it is perennial and is going to stay put and keep spreading, so it is not a good choice for your one plot either. And if you plant asparagus now, you don't get to eat any until it is in its third season.

Start small! :)
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Re: How many crops should I choose?

Thank you! That's really helpful! I knew my list was too long, but it's difficult to know where to start. I didn't know, for example, that zucchinis and cucumbers take up too much space for my little plot. You've given me a good place to start!

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applestar
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Re: How many crops should I choose?

if you can have a sturdy vertical trellis approx 4-6 ft tall and 4-6 ft wide, you can grow cucumbers along an edge. I usually plant 3 cucumber plants on the end of one of my 4' wide beds and have a nylon netting that hangs from the 5' picket property fence to support them. I train/direct the vines back and forth like a mountain trail but by the end of the season, they will be trying to spread 2 feet wider than the bed on both sides and climbing on to of each other along the top of the fence.

The cucumbers are given 1-1.5 ft of space on the end of the bed, leaving 4.5-5 ft for planting other things.

It's true what rainbow gardener said. I have yet to plant enough peas to really harvest enough. Closest I came to it was when I planted about 8 ft double row of Tall Telephone Pole (5ft tall)as well as a 4ft double row of Sugar Snap (6ft tall)and another 4 ft row of snowpeas (forgot the variety). That was almost enough to eat fresh while in production, but not enough to freeze for later that year, I have a 12 ft triple row of Karina (3 ft tall), a 4 ft row of Tall Telephone, and two 2 foot row of Green Beauty snowpeas (6 ft tall) I meant to sow more, but we had a late freeze that delayed early spring planting, then the heat wave, and now I think it's too late even though the weather is returning to more favorable levels.

If I can start the peas really early, then cucumbers can be planted after the peas on the same trellis.
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Re: How many crops should I choose?

That's a good idea to get a vertical trellis. I'll look into one! It would be great to grow some cucumbers.

Thanks for your expertise! It sounds like I'm not prepared to grow any peas for a while. ;)

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Gary350
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Re: How many crops should I choose?

I suggest you plant the things you like to eat best. 4x6 is a tiny garden but you can do a lot with it. Plant things that reproduce all summer long. If you plant things that produce only 1 crop then die you don't get much food for your work.

One tomato plant will keep you supplied with tomatoes until first frost. Corn does not do well in a small crop so I would not plant that. Squash is another thing that will reproduce over and over so one plant will keep you supplied with plenty of squash for a while. Peppers reproduce over and over too.

You can plant small things along the edges like radishes, carrots, greens, garlic, onion, herbs, etc.

Vine plants like melons, sweet potatos, pumpkins, cucumbers, would not be good vines get 25 ft long and take up a lot of space.

Beans take up a lot of space for what you get but pole beans might work fine.

You can plant 2 crops also. When one plant dies be ready to plant something new in its place. Plant Garlic, Spinach, kale, chard, in Sept.

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applestar
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Re: How many crops should I choose?

Here's one way to grow pole beans. This is a cheap arch trellis typically found in craft stores. They come in green or white. Green is usually in the garden section and white in the wedding section. The trellis is maybe 12" deep and I took the bottom segment/legs off of this one so it stands about 6 ft tall (otherwise I believe it would be 7 ft tall). I usually plant 4-6 pole beans on each side. The beans twine up the trellis and hang down for easy picking. :wink:

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Last year, I planted 2 ground cherries and 3 cherry tomatoes underneath the arch instead of leaving the space open for walking under, and hung tape ties from the arch to support some of the cherry tomato vines in addition to tying the them to the trellis. I also planted fast maturing runner beans for fall I think around mid-July.

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imafan26
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Re: How many crops should I choose?

Having a community garden plot myself, so I gotta ask this.

Is your plot open? That is side by side with another plot or is it separated from other plots by walkways?

Is there open access? Is the garden fenced or gated?

Read the community garden rules. You may have height limitations and some plants may not be allowed. There may also be attendance and annual requirements. if there is open access, you will find that some of your vegetables will be harvested for you.

Depending on how much time you actually have to spend at the garden, think about planting things that are disease resistant, don't need to have a lot of attention and a little unusual. Community gardens with so many plants and part time gardeners around are often magnets for pests and diseases.

Tomatoes do not grow well at my community garden so very few people even try to plant it anymore. If they did tomatoes would probably be high on the theft lists. Here it is best to have just a few plants and not rows of the same plant. Thieves want to pick up 20 cabbages, not just one. Beans, cucumbers and plants that people know and are very common are often taken.

Plants that get stolen the most here are bananas, cabbages, squash, and eggplant. Some ethnic plants are regularly raided like bitter melon, moringa, chayote, sweet potatoes, and Alucon (birch tree).

No one has yet reported any thefts of kale, kohlrabi, radicchio, or the more unusual vegetables.

Community gardens are a great place to make friends and learn how to grow different things and learn about different gardening practices. A 4x6 garden plot will not take up that much of your time, and if your garden allows it, you can arrange with other gardeners to schedule yourselves so you can help keep an eye out for each other.

P.S. Make sure you take your tools home. Make simple supports. Timers are not allowed at my garden.

With such a small plot, I'd plant some herbs and short plants with good disease resistance. I'd try some unusual plants that people won't recognize too easily like edible flowers (nasturtiums, daylily), spinach substitutes (amaranth, NZ spinach), Jerusalem artichoke, Jicama. It would be a great opportunity to expand your culinary horizons.

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Re: How many crops should I choose?

Thank you everyone for your input! I'll upload some photos once things start growing!

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jal_ut
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Re: How many crops should I choose?

Looks like everyone sees something a little differently. I garden in a large plot so something the sixe of 4/6 sounds like a spot to plant 6 zucchini vines or 3 crookneck and 3 zucchini. Be aware that these plants get quite large. They would very quickly come out of the bed onto the walkways. Though they are said to be bush type plants, that simply means the vines only get 4 feet long.

OK, if you can put a trellis on one end, you can grow some cucumbers, or pole beans or peas up the trellis. In that 4 foot width I would put 16 beans, or 6 cukes, or 20 peas. Plant them about 6 inches in from the edge. You can then have the rest of the bed for something else.

Large squash or pumpkins out of the question. They get very long vines.

A couple of peppers and a couple of tomatoes would be fine. Plant some radishes around them. Maybe lettuce too.

Beets, and or chard may do well. You can plant a row across the 4 foot way and space rows 12 inches.

A clump of chives could be put in one corner and it is perennial.

Cabbage is a rather large plant. You could perhaps grow 6 nice heads if that is all you put in that bed. The floret gets quite wide up to around 30 inches.

Hope this gives you some ideas. You will have to decide what you want to try, but as noted you can't try all those things in such a small space. Have fun!
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