Tag Archives: crop rotation.

First Real Garden Day

I´m going to be so sore!

We were attacking the garden today, replacing fence posts; the old ones were rotten and broken (“these should last for a year” – three years ago!).  Shaping garden beds out of the remaining areas of our fenced space.  These spots have been covered with waste silage plastic (as seen in background) for a year or more, and the earth is awesomely root-free.

In other words, digging shallow trenches.  Which immediately filled with water.  Digging that is like wet concrete, clumping and dragging on the boots and shovel and resisting being dumped out of the wheelbarrow.  Especially since I´m digging to the clay layer, which will be filled in with wood chips.  Getting that topsoil off to pile on the beds, instead of supporting weeds in the aisles.

This…
…will look like this after an infusion of wood chips

But the bugs aren’t out yet!  So it´s all glorious.  Any day now, the bugs, the peepers, and the tree buds will all pop out at once, so it´s time to enjoy the peaceful working conditions.

Can you tell I´m really into mulch?  So nice, though, to just peel off the mulch blanket and sow.

My first planting!  Spinach, two weeks late, according to my planting calendar. I felt like I should start gardening like I mean it, so I put some brain work in in the winter planning the planting schedule for starts and direct sowing, and it sure feels good now to have a simple schedule to follow.

I mapped the garden in seven areas, for crop rotation, estimated how much of X thing I want to grow, and then calc’ed back/forward from frost date and made a calendar.  Now all I have to do is follow it.  Far less thinking.  It´s nice to not be mapping each little bed for “what was in here last year/previous two?”  Tedium.

Provided my last frost date projection (guess) of May 21 is not wildly off (actual date fluctuates between Apr 30 and Jun 1 in the last five years), the planting calendar will be a wild success.

Inside, the starts are thriving.  Again with the calendar, I shouldn’t have too-leggy tomatoes and too-late celery when it´s time to transplant out, thanks to my planned and staggered starting.  Yes, I´m just now figuring this out. 

Atlas melon sprout is pushing up a huge chunk of dirt on that tiny stem
All of them like to lift up a little dirt, but not that much!

Potatoes

This is one bed’s worth of potatoes (I’m miffed that foreshortening is distorting this picture.  It’s a five gallon bucket, 2/3 full).

Not bad for a bed that I didn’t plant any potatoes in!

Or rather, I did in 2014.  These are all volunteer potatoes, from spuds that escaped the harvest last fall.  They performed about the same as the potatoes I planted deliberately.

Thence rises the question: why not plant potatoes in the fall, like garlic?  Why is this not a thing?

I suppose that it is a matter of conditions.  Last year we had a massive snow blanket that stayed all winter, so the potatoes underground were well protected from freezing and thus rotting.

This year promises a similar hard, long winter with heavy snow.  Although personally, I don’t think heavy snow equates with “hard” winter. Hard only on us people that shovel.  The snow is a cozy soothing blanket that protects much.  The wild bees and bumblebees had an amazingly good year this summer after last year’s deep snow winter.

Anyways, I may try fall planting some potatoes, if I can manage it.  Everything is an experiment.

Right now we have a cycle, since we are still in a process of breaking ground/expanding the garden:  The first year, we break beds with the broadfork, and plant potatoes in most of the new beds.   In the fall, the potatoes come out and are followed by garlic.  This means the bed is churned up well 3x (initially, planting/hilling, and harvesting potatoes), heavily mulched  for both the spuds and garlic, and fed with hen litter, etc if we have some etc, for the garlic.  The garlic will be followed by a cover crop, or two, in the second fall.  So, the soil is is good shape by the time it comes around to other crops in the third year.  After all the initial disruption, it will not be tilled again.

It’s our cycle, and we’re sticking to it.   It has arisen because we’ve observed that potatoes thrive here in the un-amended soil.  Not that that’s a surprise, potatoes loving Nova Scotia? Also, I think potatoes are under-appreciated as soil aerators, and of course, there’s a heck of a lot of soil upheaval in the process of growing them.  Heavy work.

I think there may be two more years of garden expansion, before we have a site large enough for my desires of food production, so that means in the fifth year potatoes will go in where there were potatoes before.  Every five years the soil gets forked up dramatically?  I hope that’s enough rotation.

Uncovered this little guy while digging.  Smaller than the average worm.  And NOT happy about being manhandled.
Uncovered this little guy while digging. Smaller than the average worm. And NOT happy about being manhandled.