Today my seeds arrived.  It’s time to start seedlings.  And that means I need to nail down my garden bed plan so I know how many of each thing to start.

The photo above is the basic shape of the garden following my irrigation bed preparation.  My garden is more trapezoid shaped than rectangular, so the light brown edges are not to scale.  But they will be food forests.

Along the east side of the garden, I’ll be planting dwarf apple trees.  These won’t cast much shade profile in summer, but might help keep it a little cooler around the bed zone.  I’ll be surrounding those trees with herbs, long-harvest greens like chard, kale, tree collards, etc., small fruits like berries, and chop and drop mulch plants like Comfrey, Cardoon, and Borage.  To the West, I’ll plant semi-dwarf fruit trees with similar understory plants. I am also going grow clover and hairy vetch as nitrogen fixing ground covers throughout.

As for the beds, the five rows to the North are 30 feet long with 18 inch paths. Below that  the six small beds are 4 feet by 7 feet with 12 inch paths. That area marked Perennial Zone will also be a food forest.  We already have a hugelculture, small mandala garden, and and herb spiral there, so I’ll just be making a few updates to that space to make it mesh with everything else. The next section of rows are also 30′ x 3′ with 18″ paths. The rows to the bottom of the garden are 3 feet wide by 20 feet long with 12 inch paths.

herb-spiral

In actuality none of the paths running from North to South line up because I intentionally laid it out to break up potential water flow by having lower beds catch water running from the paths. The garden is at a low point in our landscape so it catches a lot of water from the surrounding hills.  But it is also slightly sloped toward the southeast, so making overflow go where I want it to prevent erosion is really important to the layout.

The two sets of 30 foot rows and the 20 foot rows will be irrigated in dry periods.  The smaller beds will have a different system which I’ll cover in another post.

All in, we will have a little over 1400 square feet of dedicated vegetable beds, and a little over 1200 square feet of that will be irrigated.  We will also have an additional about 2000 square feet of food forest space inside our fenced area.

With the garden laid out, the next step is planning crop rotation.  I like interplanting, so my rotations are not by family but by groupings.  My main groupings that will be grown in the 30 foot beds are:

  • Cabbage and Potatoes: Cabbage is planted on outer edges, spaced 1 square foot apart.  Potatoes are planted down the center. Cabbage is transplanted shortly after potatoes have been mounded.  My first crop of both will hopefully be harvested around the same time then I will plant my second crop of potatoes by June to grow as my winter storage crop. I’ll grow buckwheat as a companion to the potatoes and chop and drop it when it’s time to transplant my fall crop of cabbage.
  • Onions, Beets, Tomatoes, Garlic: Onions go in as plug transplants and beets go in as seeds. Tomatoes go in as larger transplants much later, close to the time when beets are mostly harvested.  Onions come out before the tomatoes finish and garlic goes in for overwintering.  A second crop of beets go in late summer for a fall harvest. Hard winter wheat is planted as a cover crop when tomatoes come out.
  • Turnips and Sweet Potatoes: Turnips get to run the bed until sweet potatoes can be planted. We love turnips. And we also eat the greens from the sweet potatoes.  Still working on a cover crop for this one, but I am thinking it might be winter rye.
  • Carrots, Lettuce, and Radish: We love carrots and lettuce.  Radish will go in ferments or to market. We’ll probably get two rotations on this mix using different varieties.
  • Squash, grains, beans, peas:  This includes summer and winter squash, cucumbers, watermelon, muskmelon, all varieties of peas and beans, and by grains I pretty much mean corn, sorghum, and amaranth, maybe some sesame.

These are our big plantings – the mainstays of our diet.  So then the smaller beds will be used for what I like to call the fun stuff – eggplant, tomatillos, variety greens, peppers, okra, kohlrabi, cauliflower, parsnips, leeks, etc.

In theory, this should work.  I’ve played with most of these combos before and had good success.  But never with rows this long.  Also, never with irrigation which should make it even easier.  I also like to throw in some herbs to confuse insects.  Cabbage always gets cilantro/coriander. Tomatoes get basil, etc.

I’ll keep you posted as the season progresses!

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