Rotation Reboot

Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt – true in my Midwestern youth and true today.

Last week I accidentally* ordered 4 additional garden beds instead of the 2 strictly required for my 2015 garden plan.  Today, with extra garden beds waiting in the garage and a snow day in the Triangle at hand, I sat down to consider what to do about the 32 square feet of extra planting space I accidentally* acquired.  As I considered whether to add new plants, expand the number of my current varieties or a combination of both, I kept thinking of this article I had run across a couple of weeks ago about crop rotation.

Until now, I have done a pretty good job of refuting the quiet voice in the back of my mind talking about crop rotation with arguments like “I add compost regularly to my raised beds, so I am replacing the lost nutrients” and “my scale is to small to worry about crop rotation, and that is for monocultures anyway”, but as I sat here today looking at what I had already planned and what I was planning to expand, it became harder and harder to not be a responsible steward of the soil I have made and hope to nourish my family with.

At the same time I am garden planning, I am enjoying the Edible Education classes on youtube about the future of agriculture, arable land and food in America and the world.

So back to the article for tips on rotations and my garden plan I went.  My garden was not entirely hodgepodge, there was some method to my madness!  I have a north facing backyard despite my strong preferences and best efforts when house hunting last summer, but if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with!  So all the tall plants were planned for the back of the garden so they weren’t casting shade on anyone behind them and the ones that need more sunlight hours were placed to the right of the garden which has more daylight hours before being shaded by my south facing house.  Beyond those two considerations though, it probably was a bit of a hodgepodge.

I started with color coding my planned plants according to the 4 main categories (leaves, fruits, roots and legumes) to see where I was – which was all over the place, then reorganized their placement into a more cohesive plan.  I started at the left with the leaves and worked my way right to legumes with the idea that everything will shift to the right for 2016 and so on.  I don’t currently have an equal number of boxes devoted to the roots and legumes as I do for the leaves and fruits to make this work perfectly, but I am hoping that ending my denial and admitting I have a rotation problem is the first step in solving it.

And since I was at it with color coding plant “types” on my Excel spreadsheet, I thought I might as well include the container plantings I had planned, the non-rotational plants (asparagus, some herbs and strawberries) I will have off-set from the Garden Proper and the Morel boxes I have in the tree line at the back of my property.  And since I was going to include those, I may as well include a code for my preferred preservation techniques for each type…

The red arrows are where trellis supports will be, and the 3 beds in blue will be off to the side and will not rotate from year to year.  I think it is entirely likely that more beds will be added for 2016 and an effort will be made to utilize them for roots and legumes so I end up with a roughly even number for each overall type so the rotations work more uniformly.

I plan to grow a handful of flower varieties with as many natives as possible to serve the local pollinators, but since I will not be eating them, I am comfortable putting them directly in the yard and not taking up precious garden space with them.  Additionally I have my 5 blueberry plants, 4 fig trees (2 in the ground and 2 in containers), my Meyer Lemon and an indoor Bay Laurel.

All in all, 2015 is shaping up to be a great year to grow and I am considering alternate irrigation sources now that I have cut Denial out of my garden plan.

*tell me your definition of accident and I will tell you mine

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