Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Another garden plan explained

A photo from a past season...
Here's another early and late planting map explained.  I'll try to avoid repeating too many of the same concepts from my prior garden plan post.  The earlier posting was for a school garden, where each small section was allotted for a class, whereas the below plan is for our community garden's Group Vegetable Garden, which is a ~400 s.f. space shared by 22 people.

The goal of this part of our community garden, is to allow new members to work in a garden while on the wait list for their individual plots.  It also allows us to mentor beginning gardeners, share knowledge, etc. Finally, we really do push for a lot of vegetable production. 

We used to have big planting days in the early Spring and kind of wing it, expecting a large group to pull together it's knowledge assets and make the garden happen. Now, I've moved it towards a central plan, but using a democratic process to for crop selection.  This way, we just get things planted and all are happy.
Similar to the school garden's explanation, I'll first cover the Summer plan, and work backwards.  The lower tier is set aside for tomatoes, plus basil and carrots as their companions.  This year we are doing lasagna or sheet composting for that tier, so I'm not sure if the carrots will germinate on a layer of paper, so they may be skipped in that area.  The back triangle of the lower tier has some horseradish plants that tend to take over, and we're also going to plant parsnips (which were a huge hit last year). 
A typical harvest from last Summer

The center row of the middle tier will have warm-weather crops, so the early season planting will be quicker crops.  The other rows have early, full season crops like chard, collards, kohlrabi, kale and rudabagas, which were already planted in late March and will remain until the Fall (or longer).

The upper tier has some cold weather plants replaced with warm, and some long season plants.  The garlic was planted last November, and will be harvested in July, and then replanted, maybe to be covered with a hoop house next Winter.

The early plan shown below has some of the full season crops that were described above.  The quick crops that will be rotated with warm weather crops, include arugula, spinach, fava beans, lettuce, radishes, cilantro and bak choy.  It's important to understand that not all "short season" crops are created equal.  The quickest are radishes and spinach.  Soon after, the arugula will bolt (or go to seed).  Then, lettuce.  We will have to make some choices and harvest some salad greens in their entirety to make room for the new, before they reached their full potential.  Still, baby or young salad greens are great, so no loss.  Arugula and lettuce will sometimes bolt before getting bitter (as it gets hotter), or get bitter before it bolts...so always worth making space and not worry about extending their lives.  Or, both happen at the same time, as heat affects taste and bolting.  Fava beans are often done by late June or early July, so we'll plant okra seedlings in between the fava bean plants by mid-June, and as the fava bean plants wither away, the okra will take over.  Okra grows super-quick in the heat and can be started as late as July, so no need to speed the process of their predecessors, so hence I chose fava beans rather than something that would be harvested earlier.

One more upgrade we made this year, in addition to the lasagna composting in the lower tier, is our using raised beds and sunken paths.  We're following a smaller scale version of a concept that I've seen in some urban farms in Brooklyn, using coffee bean sacks to cover the paths.  This will hopefully reduce or eliminate foot traffic in the beds, whereas in the past, our brick or wooden plank paths were level with the beds, so people would be tempted to veer off the paths and step on the soil.  The raised beds will also increase drainage, and speed up the warming of the soil in the Spring.  Finally, the new paths will just make the entire garden a lot more assessable and easier to work on, better ergonomics (rather than trying to balance on a 6" plank while weeding, harvesting, etc.).  Lots of benefits, so we believe that it's worth the sacrifice in planting space.  See some recent photos...


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