2014 Main Garden Plan2
Welcome to 2014! I’ve decided to ring in the new year by sharing my 2014 garden plans with you. For those of you who are unfamiliar, our farm consists of two principal gardens: The Main Garden and the Fenceline Garden. Today I’m going to be sharing the Main Garden plan. This year is certainly a transition for us because it is the first year we’ll have a giant garden but no CSA. The planning was made simpler by my established crop rotation plan.
Last year I established a simplified crop rotation plan which enables me to take advantage of companion planting while also ensuring that a crop is never planted in a location that was previously used for something in the same plant family. Here’s how it works…
The Main Garden has 20 beds that are 4’ x 12’ and 8 beds that are 2’ x 12’. The larger beds (generally) are planted with two crops that are good companions. For example, Bed #6 will be planted this next year with New (Red) Potatoes in the first and last four feet with Red Winter Kale planted in the middle four feet. In 2015 this planting scheme will rotate down to Bed #10 which will have been previously planted with cumbers on the ends and pole beans in the middle (both from different plant families than potatoes and kale). The overall chart shows the direction of rotation (see images below).
Succession planting complicates this system slightly. Succession planting is when you replant garden space that has already been used during the season. For example, the Spring-planted shelling peas in Bed #6 will have reached full maturity and be of no more use by sometime in June. There are still several months left of the growing season here in Zone 6a after June and it would be a shame to let all of that valuable garden real estate go to waste all summer and fall. Instead of wasting it, I do succession planting. The peas will be replaced with cucumbers. The most time consuming part of garden planning for me is making sure that succession planting: 1) still results in planting good companions and2) won’t result in planting something at the end of the season that is in the same plant family as what I plan to put there next year.
Three Sisters (And Three Cousins)
One of the things I’m really excited about this year is implementing my first use of the Three Sisters gardening technique. Three Sisters refers to a growing technique used by Native Americans which involves planting three crops together – corn, beans and squash (includes pumpkins) – for mutual benefit. The corn provides a trellis for the beans. The beans provide nitrogen needed for both the squash and corn. The squash provides ground cover, keeping the soil moderated in both temperature and moisture. In addition the combination provides pest control benefits.
I’m going to be trying my own Three Sisters planting, only with slight variations.
- Popcorn, Peanuts and Pie Pumpkins
- Sunflowers, Pole Beans and Sweet Potatoes
I’m a smidge nervous about the sunflower combination. I recently discovered that sunflowers are allelopathic (produces natural toxins that limit the growth of nearby plants). After some research it seems that beans tend to decently with sunflowers and I read a few accounts of sweet potatoes doing well. However I read many accounts of questionable results with squash. This is consistent with my own experience; summer squash planted with sunflowers last year did not do well at all.
In that same Three Sisters spirit I’m also going to be planting pumpkins/melons with radishes and borage (we’ll call them the Three Cousins). I tried this last year (although the radishes and borage went in late) and it seemed to result in healthier melons and pumpkins than my previous gardens. The radishes act as a trap crop for vine borers (which I’ve always had huge problems wit) and the borage has some magically quality that improves the health of the melons/pumpkins (and many other garden plants). I’ll be harvesting the blossoms and leaves of barrage for medicinal uses.
Fun New Foods
This year I’ll be trying all of the following for the first time:
- Fernleaf Dill
- Ground Cherries
The 2014 Main Garden
With all of that in mind, here is what I’ve come up with.
Main Garden (Initial Planting)
Main Garden (Succession Planting)
Things to Note
- Lots of carrots! We eat a lot and since carrots keep well in their garden beds even under a blanket of snow, I’m hoping these plantings will take us all the way through next winter.
- Lots of spring peas! Some snap, some shelling. We love to snack on snap peas. I’ll be selling what we can’t eat (and perhaps freezing a few pounds). The shelling peas will be canned. The massive amount of peas is also part of my plan to replenish nitrogen into the beds that I failed to amend with manure this fall.
- Roma tomatoes only. Romas are our preferred tomato for fresh eating, cooking and canning. With 72 square feet of garden space devoted to them, we should have plenty for all three uses. I’m hoping to can salsa and a year’s worth of homemade ketchup!
- Northern trellises. The smaller beds at the north end of the garden will have semi-permanent trellises on the northern side. These will provide support for spring peas, as well as trellising for squashes and melons in the summer months. Because they are to the north they won’t shade out the rest of the garden.
- Deer-proof potatoes. Last year I planted potatoes and garlic along the outside of the fence and the deer left them completely alone. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll plant this year’s potatoes in the same location (west of the garden) or on the outside of the southern fence. I’m also contemplating other annual (or perhaps perennial) crops to place in those locations.
One of the best parts of this plan is that I currently own the majority of the seeds I’ll need. All the same… I’m sure I’ll spend my fair share of time looking over seed catalogs and dreaming this winter. How about you? Planning to grow anything unusual or new-to-you this coming year? I’d love to hear about it!