Monday, January 21, 2013

Garden Mapping for 2013

Better Farm's main gardens, 2013 proposal.
Any seasoned backyard gardener or organic farmer knows the importance of garden mapping to help with annual responsibilities of seed selection, companion planting, and crop rotation.

February is the busiest seed-ordering month, as anticipation builds for indoor March planting across the Northeast. At Better Farm, that's where our greenhouse comes in. We get our seeds planted in there the first week of March; by the first week of April (usually!), we're able to start direct-planting outside with crops like peas. So we spend January poring over seed catalogs compiling lists of our favorite fruits and veggies, and beginning our Better Farm garden map.

Different crops have different nutrient requirements and affect soil balance differently. Some, like corn and tomatoes, are heavy feeders that quickly deplete soil nitrogen and phosphorus. If you plant corn in the same spot year after year, that plot of soil will run low on nitrogen and phosphorus more quickly than other parts of your garden will. By changing the location of corn each year, you'll be able to renew the plot where it grew the preceding year, so your soil won't get out of balance. There are other crops that also use up nitrogen rapidly. They tend to be the leafy and fruiting crops, such as lettuce, cabbage, and tomatoes. In contrast, root vegetables and herbs are light feeders. Peas, beans, and other legumes add nitrogen to the soil but need lots of phosphorus.

The general rule of thumb for balancing out soil nutrients is to avoid planting the same general category of crop (root, legume, and leafy/fruiting) successively in the same place. It's best to follow nitrogen-fixing legumes such as peas or beans with nitrogen-loving leaf or fruiting crops such as lettuce or tomatoes. Then, follow the heavy feeding crops with light-feeding root crops.

Utilizing companion planting guides we've referenced before on the blog and referencing past year's garden maps, I set about creating proposed rows that would work together to add fertility to the soil, deter pests, provide shade cover and climbing space, and be done in such a way that we can rotate crop location annually to keep an ever-diverse soil makeup.

To start, I had our intern Zoya take inventory of the seeds we still have leftover from last year:


Then it was time to take measurements in the garden and raised beds, and draw a basic outline of what we were dealing with:

That image was then scanned into the computer for re-use in 2014. Finally, it was just a matter of filling everything in.  
Better Farm's main gardens, 2013 proposal.
Raised herb/asparagus/garlic beds
Here are a few zoomed-in shots of a few raised beds in the main gardens and the mandala garden:

Mandala garden
Proposed new gate to provide garden access from our outbuildings

Chicken tractor, at right, kept in close proximity to mulberry trees to provide easy picking and foraging for the birds. Blueberry bushes, which we'll be doubling this year, will be protected with cages.
I'm leaving plenty of blank space so we can decide as spring sets in whether to produce extra of certain veggies like tomatoes and lettuce for local businesses or residents who might like to pre-order organic toppings for their burgers and salads; or herbs for their cooking.

Here's our grow list so far:
Better Farm Organic Seed List 2013

Herb Beds
Amaranth
Arugula
Asparagus
Chia
Chives
Cilantro
Cumin
Dill
Garlic
Lemon Balm
Lettuce
Marjoram
Mint
Mustard Greens
Oregano
Rosemary
Sage
Spinach
Swiss Chard

Main Garden
Artichoke
Asparagus Beans
Beets
Black Beans
Blueberries
Bok Choy
Broccoli
Brussel Sprouts
Cabbage
Cannelini Beans
Cauliflower
Carrot
Celery
Chick Peas
Corn 
Cucumber
Edamame
Hubbard Squash
Kale
Kidney Beans
Leek 
Lentils
Onion
Peanuts
Peas
Peppers
Potatoes
Radishes
Squash 
Strawberries
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes
Watermelons 

Mandala Garden
Artichoke
Cantaloupes
Eggplant
Lavender
Marigolds
Mulberry Trees
Nasturtium
Okra
Pumpkin 
Rhubarb

Aquaponics
Lettuce

Sprouts
Chia 

Orchard
Figs
Peaches
Raspberries
Walnuts
Apples

Interested in buying a weekly share of what we're growing? Contact us at info@betterfarm.org for more information.

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