crop rotations

Crop Rotations and Plans 2017

Crop planning is one of my favorite seasonal preparations.  It is part day-dreaming about the new and exciting things that will be tried during a season and another part problem-solving.

Problem-solving?

Well, yes…

Things to consider – what to plant, crop rotations, soil needs, and overall spacing (will what I WANT to grow even fit in the garden plan?).

Fall planted mesclun

Fall planted mesclun

Deciding what to plant is always the super fun part.  All those STUNNING seed catalogs that stuff the mailbox in January…glossy, perfect pictures of beautiful produce.  Love it.  But…it is easy to look at all those gorgeous photos and get carried away.  I’m a biologist at heart and am driven to experiment, but I also have to remember to go with what I know people enjoy and with what has proven to work in our setting.

With our raised planting beds, we are able to practice bio-intensive plantings.  That basically means we try to utilize all the space offered in the planting bed to maximize production.

Want a good and informative read?  

Check out Jean-Martin Fortier’s Book “The Market Gardener.”

We also concentrate our soil amendments to the planting area.  No more compost lost to the pathways or beyond the raised bed.  Focusing the application is more efficient and cost effective!

Crop rotations become easier with each season when you start with a master plan.  Flexibility in farming is a must, but having a basic idea from the get-go is needed to guide decisions throughout the seasons.

There is a lot of information out there about crop rotations and strategies.  The bottom line is to not plant the same crop or crop family in the same spot year after year.  Crop rotations give the soil a “break” and interrupts some pest cycles.  The crop rotation plan we try to mirror is Eliot Coleman‘s eight year plan:

8 year rotation plan from Eliot Coleman

8 year rotation plan from Eliot Coleman

So…with Spring around the corner, we are ready.

  1. We have our seeds ordered and seed starting is underway!
    Onion seeds

    Onion seeds

    2. Our crop rotation is set letting us finalize our crop plan.

    3. The garden is mapped for 2017!

And so begins our 2017 market season.  We hope you join us for this year’s market journey!

All is quiet on the ridge

It has been a little while since our last post, but strong cold spells tend to put a halt to one’s outdoor efforts and ambitions.

So, while the ground is frozen and the temperatures fall…what is left to do for prepping a garden?

Planning.

Yes, this post is not at all exciting. There are no fun photos. Little actual activity. But this part of garden preparations is just as important as all the physical stuff.

Here is what is going on right now while we try to keep warm and snug inside…

1. Crop rotation. Being a visual person, I always have to sketch out what has been where and the next spot it can go. Crop rotation is an essential challenge. To help minimize accumulation of pests or depletion of soil nutrients, we try our best not to put crops from the same family in the same spot year after year. With our current setup, we should be able to perform a 4 year rotation, meaning, for instance, that it should take 4 years of moving around the garden before tomato plants make it back to the spot where we first planted them.

2. Crop plan. Once the crop rotations are smoothed out, the crop plan pretty much is developed. Another important component to developing this plan, however, is the results of the previous season. No need including something that we couldn’t grow well or that didn’t sell. All of that harvest and sales data was entered into a spreadsheet over the fall. For the tentative crop plan, again…I have to have a picture, so I map out the layout and where everything is supposed to be located in all the fields. Closely coupled with the crop plan is the seed starting schedule, the planting schedule and the succession plant. I feel pretty good about the seed starting schedule (though we will be testing a new growing area this year). The planting and succession calendars don’t always work out how I like. Still, it is always good to at least have a plan.

Snap shot

Snap shot

3. Seeds and supplies. Currently in the works are the season’s seeds and supplies orders. At this point in time, all of the information comes together to plan what we want to grow in the 2015 season. We have to consider all the seasons, all our successes and anything we want to experiment (there always has to be something new to try).

It is at this point that feedback is valuable and influential. So…with that in mind…

are there items you’d like to see us grow? Are there things we should stop growing?

What are your garden plans?