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Planting locations- rotation plot or bio-intensive

Posted by linzelu100 Virginia 7a (My Page) on
Thu, Apr 18, 13 at 8:44

In the past when I had a garden, I didn't have much space so I had raised beds here and there, crammed with a mix of plants. It always worked out nice. We moved to a new home with a lot of land and are able to grow a lot more (yeah!). I don't know realistically, what would be my best plan for gardening.

A few things, I garden organically, so using chemicals is not an option for pests, therefore, I need to keep insect populations at normal levels. Also, we are gardening about 2,000 square feet this year, but coming years will be expanding with fruit trees, perenials and big plots of corn and such. Maybe an acre or two down the road...although it will take a long time to expand slowly to that size. Lastly, we plant a little bit of everything and a few families we plant a lot of, those being corn, garlic, curcubits, beans, nightshades, lettuce. And..we have dreadful CLAY SOIL.

I have read books on permeaculture, companion planting, farming, square foot gardening. I think it might be better for me to keep all nightshades in one section, corn in another, curcubits in another and rotate them each year, because of the size I will be working with and because I won't use chemicals. But I have also read that intermixing helps with pests. I read on a forum here not to plant nightshades together because they are heavy feeders. I am a bit out of my element here. Both sides have reasonable arguments. Thank you for reading my question.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Planting locations- rotation plot or bio-intensive

Alot depends on your method of tillage, how much sun you get. and how much time you can spend on your garden.
Use a spread sheet and start a garden plan.


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RE: Planting locations- rotation plot or bio-intensive

Suggestions:

1) sounds as if you are suffering from information overload. That only confuses, conflicts, and over-complicates the whole process. So it's time to quit with all the books for now. Sure you can get 100 arguments for why one way is best and they can all sound reasonable. They are all just opinions because there is NOT one-right-way to garden. There are hundreds. :)

2) Pick one thing to focus on - building 1 large raised bed garden (solves the clay issue and you have experience with them) for this year and get started on it as it is rapidly going to get too late to do anything in your zone.

3) Then get that raised bed in good organic gardening shape for planting - haul in lots of good compost - and plant it.

4) recognize that you simply cannot grow everything this year anyway so choose the crops you must have in reasonable amounts and get them planted in that garden. It is too late to plant garlic and corn takes too much room for this year. Plant tomatoes, cukes, lettuce, and beans.

5) recognize that you cannot get all the garden space you want built this year. It is a multi-year project. Put all the expansion concerns aside for now. Once the first bed is up and planted you can then focus on building a second one for the fall garden - the garlic, etc.

6) accept that gardening organically has its limitations for the first few years. It is not magic and it is more work for the first few years. Those include pest problems -they will come and they will do some damage until the beneficials in the area get built up. Look into online ordering of beneficial insects. And you will have nutrient issues until your soil food web gets built up too. Accept those limitations up front so when they happen you won't panic.

7) forget 'companion planting' for now. The benefits are minimal when it even works and it complicates the process. Save it for an established garden.

8) forget crop rotation issues for now. It will help down the road but you can't do it now anyway and one of the big benefits from organic gardening is that it reduces the need for it anyway.

Lastly, you say you garden organically. Easy to say and lots of folks say it without even the basic knowledge of what that means. It is much more than just "no chemicals allowed". Unless you really understand all its underlying principles, its willingness to accept less-than-perfection, you become frustrated. So for your reading focus on organic gardening only for now. The Organic Gardening forum here is a good place to start.

Hope this helps. Good luck.

Dave

PS: I read on a forum here not to plant nightshades together because they are heavy feeders. That's hogwash. They are not heavy feeders and millions of gardeners plant them together and have for eons with no problems.


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RE: Planting locations- rotation plot or bio-intensive

I have found that if you feed nightshades like heavy feeders you get nice plants but very little fruit.


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RE: Planting locations- rotation plot or bio-intensive

Dave has good advice...

If there was one thing I could tell you, it would be to get some fruit trees in this year... You don't have to have a complete orchard,but at least plant a handful.. They take time to establish, and that was one of my mistakes...

Just get some soil/compost delivered, make raised beds, and plant.. Use your intuition and your own judgement. From there it is mere trial and error..


Joe


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RE: Planting locations- rotation plot or bio-intensive

veggiecanner - Thank you for the reply! We get full sun all day, at least 8 hours. It's a good location. Plenty of time to spend in the garden. I prefer to be out there anyway :) As far as tillage, well that's changing this year. We have a riding lawnmower (old from the 70's!) that has garden lawn/farm attachments. We are tilling the ground with that as opposed to manually like before. I am pretty sure this year and the next few years, the soil will not be very desirable. These things take time unless you have big bucks to spend on ammendments. We don't.


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RE: Planting locations- rotation plot or bio-intensive

Well Dave and Joe, this may come as a shocker, because everybody wants raised beds anymore. We don't want that kind of garden anymore. We have always wanted the large kitchen garden plot style. The idea we have, and why we bought so many acres of land, was to grow large amounts of food/flowers/plants/trees. I can't realistically see the amounts we want (we have a very large family) in raised beds. We would need hundreds! I think it will be much easier to maintain with a small tractor. Right now we have 50 foot long rows, all 4 feet wide with 4 foot wide grass spaces between. I am sure our plan is flawed. There is always trial and error with gardening, especially for us. But we really don't want the raised beds anymore. We are adding fruit trees/cane fruits/blueberries this year. Next year we are adding about 200 asparagus crowns. We are getting that area ready a year ahead. We garden as a family for a hobby, so if it doesn't work out, we won't be going hungry thank God, but we would like to eat the majority of our food from our yard, because grocery store food just doesn't taste right to us anymore.

I do appreciate your opinions and yes, these books are overloading my brain cells, which is why I thought, let me check with my garden web friends. I just don't know if I should leave all squash in a four foot row to be rotated each year, or mix it up and put squash with beans and such all in the four foot rows. It is a much bigger space than what we were working with, I didn't know how much a 50 foot row of zucchini would attract the squash bugs, that we dislike so much already:)

As for the corn- Dave, your suggestion surprised me. I don't usually plant my corn till the end of April and all the locals scoff at me for that and tell me it's too early! All the farmers I know personally, all plant May 15 and never a day before here.


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RE: Planting locations- rotation plot or bio-intensive

this may come as a shocker, because everybody wants raised beds anymore. We don't want that kind of garden anymore.

That's fine. I'm not always fan of the way some build them myself but they do have inherent advantages in some situations. But then I don't need them either as I have acres of in-ground gardens and do primarily wide-row gardening. But I recommended them only because they will eliminate all the clay soil problems you will have to deal with.

I can't realistically see the amounts we want (we have a very large family) in raised beds. We would need hundreds!

As long as you understand that that is a limitation you are imposing on them and not a fact of them. "Raised beds" don't have to be framed in for any reason. They are often nothing more than 4 foot wide raised mounds of approx. 50% native soil and 50% high quality compost. They can easily be maintained with a small tractor can also be more productive when native soil problems would reduce production, they drain better and warm up faster in the spring for earlier planting, and are easier to amend as needed.

Right now we have 50 foot long rows, all 4 feet wide with 4 foot wide grass spaces between.

Sounds good. Perfect in fact. Mulch the grass paths well (unless you are into mowing) with cardboard and straw/hay/grass clippings, and sheet compost on them this year, or plant a high N cover crop on them, till them well in the fall and use them for planting next year - automatic alternate row rotation.

I just don't know if I should leave all squash in a four foot row to be rotated each year, or mix it up and put squash with beans and such all in the four foot rows.

If you don't plan to save seeds then all in one bed/row makes it much easier to cover with insect barrier and then you don't have to worry about squash bugs. Also makes it easier to hand pollinate. if you want to save seeds they'd need to be isolated and covered anyway so they might as well go together.

As for corn I agree that May 1 st planting is ideal but that wasn't my point.

Just read it again to be sure but results the same. Your first post reads like someone who is relatively inexperienced in gardening, was still very confused, and hadn't even started doing anything yet but thinking about it. That there was nothing actually in process. That impression was what i was responding to and if that was the case then my point was there is no way you could be ready to plant corn, or anything else for that matter, by May 1st.

Now it is more clear that you already have things going; progress has already been implemented. There is much less of a sense of confused panic in your second post. :) So specific questions - like the one about the squash - are easy to answer with that information.

Dave


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RE: Planting locations- rotation plot or bio-intensive

Dave, you are very funny and very helpful :) I did sound panicked didn't I? My heart goes into overdrive thinking about aphids on my corn and squash bugs...well everywhere! I am trying insect barriers for the squash and am planting seeds indoors for transplanting later on if they go south. SVB are terrible here too.

We are a military family, move around quite a bit. Pros and cons to that of course, worst is we never really get soil rich and established. I am told that helps bring in friendly insects that help the natural balance of my garden ecosystem. We haven't been anywhere long enough for that, but we are putting roots down now. We just LOVE Virginia. So beautiful!

I have never heard of anyone calling it a raised bed, with just additional soil on top. This is very interesting and very doable. We can certainly do that. I always thought raised bed had wood or some other barrier built up and filled in, making it impossible to get a tractor in and as you say perfectly, limiting. We always add our compost on top anyway, although as with money, never seems to be enough. We bought some locally here, last season (in our other home) and I don't believe it was good compost from the amount of weeds that came from it...all the clay rocks in it too. It was not very good. I am hesitant to buy anymore compost because of that. Where do you think my best bet would be for buying good compost? We use manure chicken/horse each year too.

" plant a high N cover crop on them, till them well in the fall and use them for planting next year - automatic alternate row rotation."

This is a very good tip for us. Have you used this idea yourself? We always keep grass and mow it because it is better than picking weeds from a dirt path. We use 4 foot because it is easy to pick from and a 4 foot path between gives us ample room to move around.

We are experienced gardners in the sense that we have gardened a long time, but only recently, the past few years, have we had really big successes. Those first few years were dreadful! We had no clue what we were doing. I guess we still don't compared to some, but we do enough to eat from our garden all summer. Those successes were so thrilling, which is why we have expanded so much. It took years to save up, but we are here now!


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RE: Planting locations- rotation plot or bio-intensive

Iremoved duplicate post

Here is a link that might be useful: Wide row gardening

This post was edited by digdirt on Thu, Apr 18, 13 at 14:42


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RE: Planting locations- rotation plot or bio-intensive

It is often called wide-row gardening - fairly common practice been around for probably 30 some years - see link below for pics in links to info.

And yes i have used it for years. Others here have posted about it too but I can't recall who off hand. One recent discussion I'll see if I can find for you.

Some do enclose the beds but usually with a moveable frame of some type. I guess because they like the appearance better or something. But most don't. I don't. You don't have to alternate the beds but it is easy to do and quite good for the soil improvement. And if you have a series of them then rotation is easy to do, just skip 3 rows over for tomatoes or whatever each year.

If you use clover or rye for the ground cover (aka green manure) you'll get good break-up of the clay soil too.

Bought compost can be risky from what I have heard. Never had to buy it as we do plenty all on your own with the hay fields and cattle manure. But you have the space now to start doing your own so get a good load of manure and get a big pile started. Meanwhile there is good stuff out there and you'll need to track down a good source to get incorporated into all your tilled clay.

You can buy it in bags but that can get expensive so look for a source that does active hot composting rather than just stock piling it, uses diverse ingredients, and that is at least 90-120 days old. It should be a good dark brown in color, smell like earth not ammonia, and crumble well in your hand with no big recognizable pieces.

Dave

Here is a link that might be useful: Wide row gardening


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RE: Planting locations- rotation plot or bio-intensive

I'e always reffered to raised beds with no sides as passive wide bed gardening. I used it for years. Just went to flat gardening last year.


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