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Garden Layout

 
Brandon Greer
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This Spring will be trying my first annual vegetable garden and I'm realizing now how little I know about anything to do with gardening. I've put together this little garden layout showing four 100 sq ft beds. Can someone please advise me on my layout and offer any pointers or what things I should be considering when arranging my garden? I know that annual vegetable gardens isn't really in line with most permaculture ideas but I've got to start somewhere!

Thanks!
Garden Layout.jpg
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Angelika Maier
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I would not worry too much about the layout just begin gardening, you can change that next season and next season again.
The thing what I would change about the layout is that I would do 4 equally sized beds the direction the potatoes are.
This way it is far easier to work with.
I wouldn't put in a whole block of lettuce, who want to eat that all? Sow a row every now and then.
I further think you could have some more variety of vegetables, beetroots if you like them, zucchini, eggplants, cucumbers,
etc. But the important thing is to start. Don't waste too much time on plans it's all annual anyway.
For beginners everything Chinese brassica is great, Pak choi bok choi and how they are all called.
If you can get cheap of free wood chips, then put down some cardboard for the paths and woodchips on the top, that keeps everything
nice and moist and the weeds on the paths are easy to pull.
 
John Elliott
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I would suggest interplanting, rather than areas of monoculture. The first example of interplanting people run into is the three sisters garden, where corn, pole beans and squash or melons are planted together. The corn is planted first and provides the support for the pole beans planted a couple weeks later, and then the squash spreads and provides the mulch/ground cover.

But you can do the same trick with okra and tomatoes; the sturdy stalks of the okra provide the staking you need to keep your tomatoes off the ground and yielding more. And then in the shaded spot on the north side of the okra/tomato combo, you plant the lettuce so it doesn't get too much sun and bolt. And a mustard plant in the middle of it all will do battle against any Fusarium pathogens that have an eye on attacking your tomatoes.

Carrots and onions don't take up much space, so they are great to insert in places. While you can't really transplant carrots, onions don't mind if you uproot them and move them to a different location.

Interplanting changes your view of the garden, and instead of planting rows in a certain area of the garden, you think more about levels: which is the tall crop? (i.e., sunflowers, corn, okra) what is the bush crop under it? (beans? basil? amaranth?) and finally what is the spreading ground cover? (sweet potato? squash? melons?). When your thinking moves over to this mode, your annual vegetable garden really is in line with permaculture ideas.
 
Charles Tarnard
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To add to what John was saying, arrange them in different ways in different parts of the plot and watch what they do. I am a super newb to all of this. Last spring was the second season we've grown anything on purpose, and the first I really paid attention. The most interesting thing I noticed involved the pumpkins and corn. We had two rows of pumpkins around one row of corn, all placed way too close together. The rows were oriented N-S. The westside pumpkins all grew through the row of corn to either: a) find the morning sun or b) run far away from the afternoon sun. If they were just in neat little rows all by their lonesome I probably would have never paid much attention to their growth pattern. This year the pumpkins get the east side. I'll see if something else wants the west side.

Experiment, pay attention.
 
Peter Ellis
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Others have already addressed the idea of interplanting, rather than isolated patches of your different plants.

I will add my voice to the idea that you want to do that. You want to think about things like how tall your plants will get, where the tall plants will cast shadows, which plants will benefit from a bit of shade, which should not be in that shade. You also want to think about the time succession of your plants. For example, tomatoes and beans generally go in later than carrots or peas, lettuce or onions.

So, you can start carrots and onions in a portion of the garden, then plant tomatoes in amongst them. The onions and carrots will have plenty of time to get well established before the tomatoes are a threat to shade them out.

Don't forget to mulch your beds to help retain moisture and control weeds. The mulch will also add nutrients to your soil over time and help keep soil temperatures moderated.

The interplanting is done for a number of reasons, including having your nitrogen fixing legumes near other plants that will benefit from the added nitrogen, reducing pest problems by making it just that little bit harder for a bug to find its favorite plants (all the squash in one patch makes it easy for squash beetles to just work their way straight through, but if it's a squash then a potato, the bug may not keep looking past the potato, or at least not quite so quickly as if it were just going squash to squash. Some plants can actually discourage pests. It also lets you have one plant support another that needs it, like corn climbed by beans, or provide shade for something that doesn't want too much sun, like lettuce in the shade of tomatoes.
 
Brandon Greer
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Thanks for all the great info. Interplanting is exactly what I'm hoping to achieve so I'll have many follow up questions about that. The plot with Pole Beans, Squash and Corn was my attempt at interplanting because I read the Native Americans used to do that. I also like the Okra and Tomato interplanting idea!

My first follow up question: It is suggested that I turn the garden beds to run East to West. Am I understanding this right?
 
Charles Tarnard
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If you were referring to my post, I wasn't really suggesting you do anything with your orientation. I just relayed an anecdote about how my pumpkins clearly preferred being on the east side of a row of tightly planted corn and how planting crops together allowed me to observe that.

I only have the slightest inkling of what works here. I couldn't begin to give you specifics of what you should do where you live.
 
John Elliott
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Brandon Griffin wrote:
My first follow up question: It is suggested that I turn the garden beds to run East to West. Am I understanding this right?


I think there is some advantage to this. I have my hugelbeds oriented east to west, and there are things that I want on the sunny south side, and other things that would do better on the cool north side. I sprinkled celery seed all over one hugel, and they seem to prefer the north side. I'm hoping this year to have lettuce later into the year by planting them on the north side where they won't bolt and go to seed quite as fast.
 
Peter Ellis
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On the question of east-west versus north south orientation:

I think that there are topographical and situational elements that would be very important in determining the better orientation and that the compass orientation is probably less significant than other issues, such as which direction your slopes run, where your shade from other environmental factors (trees, buildings) runs, what is the most convenient orientation for you coming out of your house to work the garden.

Orientation relative to the sun matters, but more in the ways that it informs your planting than in an impact on plant performance. Whether the bed runs north to south or east to west, some of it will get the early morning eastern light, some of it will get the later day western light. How you structure your planting will assure that the plants get the light that is best for their variety, more than the bed orientation.

And, for example, if your bed runs fifty feet on a N-S axis and that puts half of it in the shade of your house all afternoon, while running fifty feet E-W you can keep it in full sun for the entire day - the shade or sun is much more important than the orientation. Whether you want the full sun, or the partial shade, will depend on things like where you are located and what you are growing. Will your plants wither in the terrible summer sun of your southern location, and benefit greatly from some shade? Or do they need every minute of sun possible in your cooler, shorter season northerly clime?

What is the slope like? You probably want to run close to contour, rather than running straight up/down your slope. The on or near contour position will hold water in the bed better than if it runs up/down the slope, where the high end will tend to be much dryer. Again, that might work out to be a good plan if you have some plants that want to be much dryer than others.

What is your soil like? If you run the bed in one direction does it give you a different variety of soils than if you run it in another direction? and which direction gives the best advantage?

And when you have looked at sun/shade issues, slope issues, soil issues - then you get to correlate them all to try and find the best compromise - because there is no guarantee that they won't be in conflict

Angelika does have a point - don't over think it and get into paralysis by analysis. The biggest thing is to get seeds into the ground. After that, they will do the vast majority of the work and your job is mostly observation to figure out where to make improvements next year.
 
Brandon Greer
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My Land is very flat throughout. The area where I'm planting my garden is pretty far away from trees so shade from trees or slope won't be an issue I'm guessing.

And yes, I have a tendency to overthink things way too much! For 2 years I put off having a garden due to analysis paralysis but this year is the year I'm really going to do it. I already have the seeds and the beds partially prepared. I'm just trying to avoid as many beginner mistakes as possible
 
Brandon Greer
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So heeding the advice given here as well as a bit more research into interplanting I've come up with the following "guild" ideas:

Each row is now running East to West and are 4 ft wide and 25 ft long with 19 inch pathways. Some rows are divided into two sections labeled A & B

Going from North to South:

Row 1A: Corn, Pole Beans, Cucumbers
Row 1B: Corn, Pole Beans, Squash
With Lettuce on the Northern edge partially shaded
Sunflowers around the edges

Row 2: Corn, Sunflowers, Bush Beans with potatoes and carrots scattered throughout.
Mustard planted on the Northern edge partially shaded

Row 3A: Okra, Tomatoes, Bush Beans with scattered carrots
Row 3B: Okra, Tomatoes, Peanuts, with scattered carrots and onions

Row 4: Bush Beans, Potatoes

I've kind of gotten into the mind frame that each guild needs a nitrogen source which is why I've tried to include a legume in each. Of course this requirement may be an exaggeration in my mind, so please correct me if I'm wrong.

Can you guys give me feedback on this arrangement? Have I filled all the available niches (climbers, ground cover etc)? Critique is very welcomed here!
 
Peter Ellis
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Brandon, sounds to me like you have a plan and now it is time to go forward with it and observe your results. Good luck!
 
Brandon Greer
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When interplanting, how does that effect the spacing? For example, on the seed packs it says plant then 5" to 10 inch apart and then thin to 6" to 8" apart. Do these instructions apply the same or should they be spaced wider to allow room for the other plants?
 
Charles Tarnard
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Brandon Griffin wrote:When interplanting, how does that effect the spacing? For example, on the seed packs it says plant then 5" to 10 inch apart and then thin to 6" to 8" apart. Do these instructions apply the same or should they be spaced wider to allow room for the other plants?


I find it easiest to assume everything is going to go horribly wrong and I'm going to get no yield. This makes it easier for me to try multiple things and see what works best for myself. This way I'm less reliant on the knowledge of others. Very few mistakes you make in the way of planting are horribly permanent, so screw it up good and learn all you can. My opinion, of course.
 
Galadriel Freden
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Brandon Griffin wrote:When interplanting, how does that effect the spacing? For example, on the seed packs it says plant then 5" to 10 inch apart and then thin to 6" to 8" apart. Do these instructions apply the same or should they be spaced wider to allow room for the other plants?

Last year I sowed my seeds by scattering five or six different types over the surface of the beds at random. The taller ones were mostly at the back, but really, I just mixed it up and went for it. Some of my seeds were also insectory flowers (cornflowers, calendula), and a few were nutrient accumulators (crimson clover, alfalfa); I also let the weeds come up where they would, and merely chopped and dropped them when they got tall. It was pretty tightly packed in there! Nothing got thinned, and yields were about the same as my previously "tidy" garden. And so much less work!
 
Peter Ellis
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Brandon Griffin wrote:When interplanting, how does that effect the spacing? For example, on the seed packs it says plant then 5" to 10 inch apart and then thin to 6" to 8" apart. Do these instructions apply the same or should they be spaced wider to allow room for the other plants?


For me, I am not confident enough in my plant identification to mix seeds an distribute randomly. I hope to get to that point, but not yet.
What I have in mind for my own garden next season is to inter plant such that each variety is spaced roughly per recommendations from its own kind, but it is going to get crowded, with three or four varieties crowded into an area that would conventionally have only one. I am hoping that by having differing heights and timing on these plantings, I won't have problems from the overcrowding.
 
Brandon Greer
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How should I arrange the plants? Should they alternate so each plant is next to a different vegetable or should they be planted in small patch of 4 or 5 for example?
 
Angelika Maier
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I do a bed system like in your plan and my rows run across each bed. I don't do interplanting, but I don't grow big areas of the same. 3 one meter rows of lettuce is more than you can eat, same with many things. I sow most things directly it is the easiest thing to do so if you want to interplant simply mix the seeds together.
The advantage of interplanting is mainly saving space, because pestwise there is not much difference if you plant small enough areas. Or you can plant very close rows of something which grows fast and something which grows slow, for example lettuce or radishes and carrots.
It is really very important not to plant too much of the same thing and you need sufficient root crops, carrots parsnips turnips, celeriac.... Don't forget to plant garlic, it is often imported from China and expensive too.
Note when something is not growing well but other things do. There might be a soil deficiency.
The advise with the mulch is absolutely correct, good plants are comfrey and borage.
 
Brandon Greer
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Angelika Maier wrote:I do a bed system like in your plan and my rows run across each bed. I don't do interplanting, but I don't grow big areas of the same. 3 one meter rows of lettuce is more than you can eat, same with many things. I sow most things directly it is the easiest thing to do so if you want to interplant simply mix the seeds together.
The advantage of interplanting is mainly saving space, because pestwise there is not much difference if you plant small enough areas. Or you can plant very close rows of something which grows fast and something which grows slow, for example lettuce or radishes and carrots.
It is really very important not to plant too much of the same thing and you need sufficient root crops, carrots parsnips turnips, celeriac.... Don't forget to plant garlic, it is often imported from China and expensive too.
Note when something is not growing well but other things do. There might be a soil deficiency.
The advise with the mulch is absolutely correct, good plants are comfrey and borage.


Thanks for the info. Speaking of garlic, I definitely wanted to plant some but all websites said it doesn't ship until Fall. When is garlic supposed to planted? Also, I was surprised how many varieties there are. Which variety is just the regular garlic you can buy at the store?
 
Ann Torrence
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Brandon Griffin wrote:

Row 1A: Corn, Pole Beans, Cucumbers
Row 1B: Corn, Pole Beans, Squash
With Lettuce on the Northern edge partially shaded
Sunflowers around the edges

Row 2: Corn, Sunflowers, Bush Beans with potatoes and carrots scattered throughout.


Row 4: Bush Beans, Potatoes

I've kind of gotten into the mind frame that each guild needs a nitrogen source which is why I've tried to include a legume in each. Of course this requirement may be an exaggeration in my mind, so please correct me if I'm wrong.

Re the 3 sister arrangement. Most people hate this when they try to do table veg instead of long-term storage crops. IE sweet corn instead of grain corn, zukes & cukes instead of winter squash, green beans instead of dried beans. The idea of mutual support works well for you when you don't have to get in the thicket to harvest. It's pretty impossible until it all dries down in the fall. A cuke growing up a corn stalk is a romantic idea, but good luck finding it on the day it should be eaten. I haven't tried root crops in with my three sisters, but again, harvesting a carrot before fall would be an exercise in frustration. A storage carrot might work.

Potatoes will need hilling or deep mulch that isn't really compatible with the bush beans.

Personally, I wouldn't worry about nitrogen in the first year, plant a lot of nitrogen fixers like in your plan and under-sow with more if you are deficient (eliot coleman new organic farmer for specific ideas on combinations but you can't go wrong with an annual clover). Undersowing should compete with the weeds too. Then turn under the debris at the end of the season and rotate things around next year, the nitrogen fixing is a long term project, not a week-by-week thing to worry about. If you are starting low on N, I would supplement with alfalfa meal or blood meal or manure. The annuals grow so fast, it's hard to imagine the beans producing enough for themselves and the corn when you want the corn to have it, which is before the beans really even should be showing true leaves (you plant beans 2 weeks after corn in a 3 sisters system).

Take good notes. You want to know when you planted, when you harvested first, most, last. The square foot method for organizing your succession plantings has its advantages in that you can figure out how much to plant each week by knowing how much you want to eat at one time. And it's easier to keep track of things. Buy some ice cream sticks at the dollar store for labels. Use a pencil, not a Sharpie (learned the hard way).

As for plant density, consult either Jeavons or Square foot gardening, or your packets. I do my spacings like this: if the recommended spacing for beets is 4 inches and lettuce is 12 inches, then add them together (16) and divide in half: 8 is the spacing for that combo. Assuming that you will let the lettuce grow to full maturity, etc. That's a lot of complexity, which is another benefit to just doing a square foot at a time. Actually, I cram things together a bit more and harvest earlier. Harvesting baby greens is more fun than thinning!

Also, a few flowers and herbs for the pollinators and your senses. Calendula, marigold, borage, nasturtium, chives, all have edible flowers. Here's a list of edible flowers. Day lilies are delicious. Flowers come on fast and keep me going to tend things while I wait impatiently for ripe tomatoes.

If you haven't gardened at all before, allow yourself some wiggle room by granting permission to buy a few plants. Starting from seed is a skill that can be frustrating at first, and you want the first year to be a positive experience. Tomatoes at least. A few marigolds. Instant gratification isn't always a bad thing Pretty much everything else on your list (maybe excepting okra which I haven't grown) is pretty easy from seed. Basil you can sometimes get in the herb section of the nursery with 30 plants in one tiny pot. I have separated them with great success when my seedlings failed at home.

Good luck on your adventure! It's a ton of work to get started, but the rewards of that first salad are indescribably satisfying.

Edited to add: starting garlic now depends on your climate. It won't cost much to grab some garlic at the grocery store and give it a go, but it has to go in ASAP, because the bulb-fattening triggers are all dependent on increasing daylight. Here where the ground is still frozen, it probably would be too late by the time I could plant it. So it's usually planted in fall, like its distant kinfolk tulips and lilies. Pick out a spot now for next fall's planting and put something there that you will harvest early, not potatoes!, so the ground is ready to plant.
 
Brandon Greer
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Ann Torrence wrote:
Brandon Griffin wrote:

Row 1A: Corn, Pole Beans, Cucumbers
Row 1B: Corn, Pole Beans, Squash
With Lettuce on the Northern edge partially shaded
Sunflowers around the edges

Row 2: Corn, Sunflowers, Bush Beans with potatoes and carrots scattered throughout.


Row 4: Bush Beans, Potatoes

I've kind of gotten into the mind frame that each guild needs a nitrogen source which is why I've tried to include a legume in each. Of course this requirement may be an exaggeration in my mind, so please correct me if I'm wrong.

Re the 3 sister arrangement. Most people hate this when they try to do table veg instead of long-term storage crops. IE sweet corn instead of grain corn, zukes & cukes instead of winter squash, green beans instead of dried beans. The idea of mutual support works well for you when you don't have to get in the thicket to harvest. It's pretty impossible until it all dries down in the fall. A cuke growing up a corn stalk is a romantic idea, but good luck finding it on the day it should be eaten. I haven't tried root crops in with my three sisters, but again, harvesting a carrot before fall would be an exercise in frustration. A storage carrot might work.

Potatoes will need hilling or deep mulch that isn't really compatible with the bush beans.

Personally, I wouldn't worry about nitrogen in the first year, plant a lot of nitrogen fixers like in your plan and under-sow with more if you are deficient (eliot coleman new organic farmer for specific ideas on combinations but you can't go wrong with an annual clover). Undersowing should compete with the weeds too. Then turn under the debris at the end of the season and rotate things around next year, the nitrogen fixing is a long term project, not a week-by-week thing to worry about. If you are starting low on N, I would supplement with alfalfa meal or blood meal or manure. The annuals grow so fast, it's hard to imagine the beans producing enough for themselves and the corn when you want the corn to have it, which is before the beans really even should be showing true leaves (you plant beans 2 weeks after corn in a 3 sisters system).

Take good notes. You want to know when you planted, when you harvested first, most, last. The square foot method for organizing your succession plantings has its advantages in that you can figure out how much to plant each week by knowing how much you want to eat at one time. And it's easier to keep track of things. Buy some ice cream sticks at the dollar store for labels. Use a pencil, not a Sharpie (learned the hard way).

As for plant density, consult either Jeavons or Square foot gardening, or your packets. I do my spacings like this: if the recommended spacing for beets is 4 inches and lettuce is 12 inches, then add them together (16) and divide in half: 8 is the spacing for that combo. Assuming that you will let the lettuce grow to full maturity, etc. That's a lot of complexity, which is another benefit to just doing a square foot at a time. Actually, I cram things together a bit more and harvest earlier. Harvesting baby greens is more fun than thinning!

Also, a few flowers and herbs for the pollinators and your senses. Calendula, marigold, borage, nasturtium, chives, all have edible flowers. Here's a list of edible flowers. Day lilies are delicious. Flowers come on fast and keep me going to tend things while I wait impatiently for ripe tomatoes.

If you haven't gardened at all before, allow yourself some wiggle room by granting permission to buy a few plants. Starting from seed is a skill that can be frustrating at first, and you want the first year to be a positive experience. Tomatoes at least. A few marigolds. Instant gratification isn't always a bad thing Pretty much everything else on your list (maybe excepting okra which I haven't grown) is pretty easy from seed. Basil you can sometimes get in the herb section of the nursery with 30 plants in one tiny pot. I have separated them with great success when my seedlings failed at home.

Good luck on your adventure! It's a ton of work to get started, but the rewards of that first salad are indescribably satisfying.

Edited to add: starting garlic now depends on your climate. It won't cost much to grab some garlic at the grocery store and give it a go, but it has to go in ASAP, because the bulb-fattening triggers are all dependent on increasing daylight. Here where the ground is still frozen, it probably would be too late by the time I could plant it. So it's usually planted in fall, like its distant kinfolk tulips and lilies. Pick out a spot now for next fall's planting and put something there that you will harvest early, not potatoes!, so the ground is ready to plant.


Lots of great information here!

I had no idea there was a difference between sweet corn and grain corn. I ordered something called Truckers Favorite. Do you know which that is?
 
Angelika Maier
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Garlic goes in the ornamental bed too, but not with daffodils.
 
Brandon Greer
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Follow up question: If I'm going to be growing pole beans that wrap around the stalks of corn, won't these two plants need to be harvested at the same time? I thought about this as I was trying to choose a Pinto pole bean and saw that different varieties mature later than others.

So then the corn have (Trucker's Favorite) is 77 days, about how many days' variety should I be looking for with the beans? Aren't the beans planted first?
 
Paul Cereghino
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Ditto Ann's comments. The only time I have done three sisters I grew grain corn and grain beans and winter squash, and the whole thing turns into a big jungle, and I only got in following the deer that chomped on the beans (but they missed lots of beans in the thicket!). It all dries down, an you go in an pick it all at once. I have read that this was the strategy historically. You typically want the corn to get a head start so the beans don't overwhelm them.
 
Brandon Greer
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Regarding the corn getting a head start, the variety I'm growing (Trucker's Favorite) is only 77 days which is shorter than all the pole pinto beans I've found. I guess this means that no matter what, the corn will finish before the beans do. So is it ok to leave the corn unharvested while waiting for the beans to finish? I chose the Trucker's Favorite to use as a flour corn in case that matters. Please advise
 
B.E. Ward
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Hey Brandon,

Did you think about peas and decide against them? Or just not interested?

The reason I ask is I found them to be the easiest, highest-yielding crop I planted in my first plot.
 
Brandon Greer
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B.E. Ward wrote:Hey Brandon,

Did you think about peas and decide against them? Or just not interested?

The reason I ask is I found them to be the easiest, highest-yielding crop I planted in my first plot.


I've just never been a fan of peas, although I only ever ate them out of can as a kid. Maybe worth a try to see if I like freshly grown peas.
 
B.E. Ward
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Brandon Griffin wrote:
B.E. Ward wrote:Hey Brandon,

Did you think about peas and decide against them? Or just not interested?

The reason I ask is I found them to be the easiest, highest-yielding crop I planted in my first plot.


I've just never been a fan of peas, although I only ever ate them out of can as a kid. Maybe worth a try to see if I like freshly grown peas.


It's all in the preparation! Mixed in a nice pasta dish, fresh peas are awesome. There's also snap peas, which I'm less into but just as easy!
 
Peter Ellis
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Canned peas are nothing like fresh. Well worth growing.
 
Charles Tarnard
Posts: 337
Location: PDX Zone 8b 1/6th acre
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B.E. Ward wrote:

It's all in the preparation! Mixed in a nice pasta dish, fresh peas are awesome. There's also snap peas, which I'm less into but just as easy!


I just want to go on record saying snap peas are among the greatest things since walking upright.
 
Brandon Greer
Posts: 264
Location: 1 Hour Northeast Of Dallas
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Well then I guess I'd better give these peas a try. Are winter peas the same as regular peas as far as taste? I've already overdone it on the seeds for spring so I will have to either wait until next year or try winter peas.
 
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