Welcome to my Four-Season Garden Plan for 2021!
Sometimes, no matter how much you read and study, you just need to see something in action to really learn. So, to help anyone interested in growing vegetables and herbs every month of the year, I’m sharing my 4-season garden plan for 2021.
Please feel free to share your thoughts and ask questions in the comments thread!
This post also contains affiliate links based on my personal experience with products that support a seasonal lifestyle. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I hope you find them useful.
An Overview of my 2021 Four-Season Garden Spaces
This year, we’re focusing on four growing areas on the farm. After dismantling our Market Garden in 2017, we’ve begun relocating our growing areas closer to the house. The reason for the change is simple, we’re older, and this is easier.
We’re also growing primarily for ourselves, and no longer need the acre of growing area we were using for the CSA and farm stands in years past.
The four areas of focus are:
- Edible landscaping along the front porch.
- Vegetable production along the south side of the house.
- An herb and veggie area at the back of the house.
- A semi-wild patio area near our chicken coop.
Resources for Planning a Four-Season Garden
When planning a 4-season garden, there are some essential resources that are worth the investment.
Any books by Eliot Coleman, the grandfather of 4-season gardening, are worth their weight in gold when it comes to creating and maintaining a 4-season vegetable garden.
I also hold The Garden Awakening by Mary Reynolds as a trusted and inspirational resource for garden planning. This book is lovely, wonderful! Not only are the illustrations captivating, but the spiritual approach to the land as the first step to cultivating garden spaces is heartwarming and soul healing!
After those resources, a good notebook, pens, and pencils are all you need to create garden plans that heal the land while providing food and comfort to the gardener.
Edible Landscaping Along the Front Porch
Edible landscaping is the use of food-producingOregon State Cooperative Extension
plants in the residential landscape. It combines fruit
and nut trees, berry bushes, vegetables, herbs,
edible flowers, along with ornamental plants into
aesthetically pleasing designs. These designs can
adopt any garden style and may include anywhere
from 1 to 100 percent edible specimens.
The edible landscaping along the front porch of our rancher is dominated by a strawberry groundcover and rhubarb ‘shrubs’. This landscape jam is complimented by a few other perennial edibles that delight the senses, including mint and other perennial herbs, beebalm, hyssop, and echinacea.
The numerous 3′ x 3′ beds also host a brilliant rotation of annual flowers and vegetables, including sunflowers, calendula, nasturtium, annual herbs, and lettuces.
Finally, intersperced among these edibles are ferns, hostas, and other shade-loving perennials that soften the landscape.
This 70-foot long space has 2 sections. One smaller area has 75% shade. The remaining, longer section has 25-50% shade. The diverse environment provides a lush and inviting space for humans, birds, and beneficial insects.
The plan for this section of gardens this year includes repairing some of the older raised beds, removing some of the more invasive perennials, and diversifying the plants in the shaded area.
The shade garden
I’m removing a bed of beebalm because there is already so much of it on the property. It will be replaced by Diervilla, otherwise known as Bush Honeysuckle. It’s a native perennial intended to brighten the space and feed the birds and butterflies!
I’m also adding creeping thyme as a groundcover with the same intent: brightness and attracting beneficials and pollinators.
Let the Sunshine!
The longer stretch of raised beds gets 50-75% sunlight. This growing area’s highlight is a wide sampling of edible flowers, including echinacea, calendula, borage, pansies and Johnny-jump-ups, red clover, sunflowers, and violets.
This is where you’ll find the long stretch of rhubarb that I let bloom in the spring. Its tall white blossoms provide a substantial and enjoyable break between the porch and the gardens in April and May.
The strawberry ground cover is a delight! It’s a never-ending unfolding of the seasons from bare greens, to blossom, to fruits, and back again. Strawberry is so cold hardy; it leaves enjoyable patches of green throughout the winter months as well.
Beds kept open for annuals will be bedazzled with sunflowers, cosmos, and zinnias.
Vegetable Gardens and Hoop Houses Along the South Side of the House
We have a long lush lawn running along the south side of the house. It’s a tricky area when food not lawns is your goal because this is where we find the septic!. We’ve pulled out the plat for the property and are expanding the growing area along the western edge of this space. It’s away from the spetic system and a great place to convert a useless lawn into a growing area.
The area enjoys full sun all year long, so the new beds will be covered with hoops for 4-season growing. These beds will be 100% dedicated to annual vegetable production.
We’re working with the pantry planner to grow what we eat. We’ll supplement with other novelties at the local farmers market. These beds will host a lot of cooking greens, salad greens, and root vegetables.
Tomatoes will get their own bed as well as several containers scattered around the property. I’m growing paste tomatoes and cherry tomatoes this year. Heirloom treats will come from other local growers.
Herbs and Veggies at the Back of the House
The area at the back of the house has a steep slope and gets 75% or more sunlight throughout the year. It is easily accessed by the basement door and enjoyed as viewed from above on the back porch.
The oldest part of this growing area hosts a crabapple tree and lilac bush. Around these is an herb guild, an area where perennial herbs like chives, lemon balm, and comfrey take over and need little weeding or watering.
These beds are newer additions and we’re expanding the area this year. They will grow annual vegetable rotations and perennial herbs.
Chicken Coop Patio
Our 2 Barred Plymouth Rock enjoy a board and batten coop on the southeast side of our property. It’s a lovely area bordered by Elder bushes and a 30-year-old Dogwood. We’re using the principles in Garden Awakening to create a relaxing patio area around the coop.
I’ve built low fencing using logs from downed pine trees. There’s a fire pit and cleared area for chairs and tables. The plan is to work with the landscape and naturally occurring wildflowers to create a little escape from everyday life that doesn’t require a road trip.
As priorities go, this area will not get dedicated attention until June or July. Once the gardens are established we’ll have time to play and create. I imagine an area where nature and culture combine to restore the soul. Lots of shade plants and pieces of art to capture the eye and the imagination will littler this mini-landscape.
Herbs for the 2021 4-Season Garden
This year, I want to get better at preserving herbs for off-season cooking.
Perennial herbs scattered among the various gardens and in beds 100% dedicated to herbs are: horseradish, sage, lavender, rosemary, oregano, chives, Sorrell, tarragon, lovage, and chamomile.
As for the annuals, the bright beauty is Genovese Basil! I make large batches of pesto and freeze it in 1-ounce cubes that quickly bring summer flavor to winter soups and pasta dishes. Others include cilantro, parsley, and dill.
I also enjoy growing herbs in containers and having them decorate open areas around the property. They’re a fragrant and decorative addition to the landscape!
Managing Deer this Year
Last August we had to say goodbye to my beloved shepherd, McKeever. A gentle giant of a dog, he was the best friend a gal could ever enjoy!
In addition to being a great buddy, McKeever was an exceptional deer deterrent. Ours is a rural property surrounded by woods and horse pastures. Deer are a real problem, and now that we are living without a dog, we need a new strategy to keep them away that doesn’t involve the expense of fencing.
This is a learn-as-you-go experiment using various barriers to protect the gardens from grazing deer. I’ll be posting lessons learned on Instagram, but I’ll take advice as well!
Please leave thoughts and recommendations in the comments thread below.
Sourcing Seeds for My 4-Season Garden
I’ve decided to make my seed purchases be an investment in sustainability this year. I’m putting 100% of my seed budget into Seed Savers Exchange and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Any monies I have remaining for native plants will be spent at local growers or Prairie Moon Nurseries.
These seed sources are dedicated to cultivating and preserving open-pollinated, heirloom seeds for vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers. I encourage you to learn about seed exchanges and find one established to cultivate vegetables for your climate. Purchasing seeds from these sources helps ensure a diversity of heirloom seeds survive the trends of genetic manipulation.
It’s a bit of seasonal-living activism that is easy to practice!
Wild Spaces and Wild Edible
Be sure to leave room and time for wild spaces to provide wild edibles for your seasonal meals!
In the acre around our house, we leave wild spaces that grow wineberries, pawpaws, morel mushrooms, and an entire apotocary of herbs.
No matter the size of your yard, plan in wild space. They not only feed your body and soul, but they provide essential habitat for cristters great and small.
Crop Rotations for the 2021 4-Season Garden
Click here to download my seed starting and crop rotation plan for 4-season vegetable gardens in agricultural zone 6a. Anyone can use the spreadsheet to plan their garden rotations by adjusting a few weeks in either direction, depending on your frost dates.
The hardest part of crop rotations in zone 6a are the transition months of May and August.
The FREE Monthly Garden Checklists ebook can help you plan for these busy months in the garden.
Early May Frosts
Our last frost for all but 1 of the past 12 years has been on Mother’s Day weekend. That pretty late and often comes after weeks of mild April weather. The dance involved planting tomatoes early enough to get a decent harvest, but late enough to survive that potential frost.
We’ve been using hoop houses for years to manage our tomatoes. These easy-to-build structures give the tomatoes the heat they need for early planting. By keeping an eye on the weather for frost warnings, we further protect the young plants with additional layers of floating row cover on the coldest nights.
August’s Dry Heat
Many beds are ready to transition from summer to fall crops in August. The problem in this agricultural zone is that the ground is often too hot to germinate seeds for direct sowing. Some years they are also parched dry, making them inhospitable for young and tender transplants.
The best way to manage hot dry soil in vegetable gardens is to use shade cloth, transplants, and in-ground irrigation systems. A little planning goes a l-o-n-g way in August and getting a jump on fall garden plans!
Growing with a Pantry Plan
The most important aspect of growing for the pantry is knowing what you actually eat!
Grow those foods that you rely on in the winter months. This includes tomatoes, for sure! But be sure to allow space for sweet potatoes, storage onions, and other items easily added to the pantry for winter meals.
It’s all a Part of the Seasonal Living Framework
The Seasonal Living Framework describes a lifestyle that heals people and planet. it rests on 5 pillars: gardening, cooking, personal wellness, activism, and astrology. By creating a daily routine that allows for these influences to blossom in your life, you make choices grounded in seasonal time, thus healing your whole self and walking more gently upon the planet that sustains you.
Join the Garden Party!
If you enjoy seeing life through the lens of the changing seasons, I invite you to stay connected. This is a community of activist-oriented gardeners, cooks, and nature lovers.
If you want a loving community to be a part of your seasonal life, please do anyone (or ALL!) of the following:
- Sign up for the newsletter and get my herbal teas and tisanes recipe book for FREE! Tea is always a welcome addition to any time in the kitchen.
- Join our FREE Facebook group where we’re always talking gardens and kitchens.
- Follow me on Instagram and watch the seasons unfold on my 5-acre homestead in Harpers Ferry, WV.
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