The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Planning the 2014 garden

Reflected sunrise

I've been playing with different methods of garden rotation over the last few years.  The easy way to do this is to plant in zones --- all of the crucifers go in zone A in 2013, in zone B in 2014, in zone C in 2015, and then back to zone A in 2016.  My long-term plan at the moment is to rotate tomatoes using this method, moving them through the sunniest, sprinkler-free spots: the forest garden, the back garden, and the area around the gully.

But for the rest of the garden, I prefer to keep things mixed up, with each bed being different from its neighbors.  That keeps the bugs confused and diseases isolated, and also helps me hedge my bets for different kinds of weather.  However, since I also take into account corn pollination, winter sun, summer shade, ease of quick-hoop erection, water-loggedness (I know that's not a word....), and depth of soil, along with planting history, the annual rotation takes quite a while to figure out.

Garden rotation spreadsheet

My current method uses a spreadsheet like the one shown above.  I've considered hiring someone to turn my method into an app, but since I've never used a smart phone, I doubt that'll happen anytime soon.  Instead, I just manually hunt through until I find a bed that hasn't been planted with the family I'm trying to find room for within the last three years, then bold that line to remind myself it's been taken.

I generally plan out as much of the spring garden as I can until I get stuck, then run a second round of rotation planning later in the year.  This year, it seems like I planted too much rye to allow me to set out my early May beds, but these things usually work out due to failed early plantings, so I'm not worried.

Sprouting peas

The final step is to pick through my seed box and figure out what I need to order.  This year, I'm running a germination test on old peas (which are clearly fine), parsley, and peppers; am definitely ordering lettuce, basil, onions, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, and corn; and have old-but-fine or saved seeds for everything else.

The photo at the top of this post is a reflected sunrise --- color in the west instead of the east on a cloudy morning.  I'm not quite sure why that seemed relevant to garden planning, but it did.  Insert some poetic line here about looking back and looking ahead all at once.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I am planning our first garden, 1 acre, and trying to be organized. Although I've been researching the web, it looks like The Weekend Homesteader will help me. My question: if I buy the complete book, will I get all the info in the monthly series? (Probably so, but want to be sure.) Thanks!
Comment by agnes e Tue Jan 14 09:40:30 2014
agnes --- Thanks for reading! The book has everything that's in the monthly ebooks except for a few bonus pictures that I threw in just for prettiness. (It's a lot cheaper to fit extra pictures in ebooks than in paper books.) So you should be just fine with the paperback.
Comment by anna Tue Jan 14 10:32:04 2014
Looking forward by looking back: you see the opening, rosy sky, and, I guess, your shadow, in facing west. So you are looking, too, on the surface, at shadows (which will have a different cast in summer, that's true). But I, the groundhog, see that your thoughts of warmer times and the life above ground, is not the Whole Picture! Just as, when we hiked at Bays Mtn in the leaf litter, we were so insignificant, compared to Outer Space: then we were to the Whole Picture as all your Live in the Soil is to the plants you are "rotating" But then what happens to the hosts of life that lives on and around those plants? How confusing! For sometimes, it might be the soil-life from last year that would help the garden if you kept it "the same". That is, from the example of the tobacco hornworm, cited in Bringing Nature Home, a balance will happen in your soil, over the course of the summer, if it you have fixed the soil and plantings "right". The trick is, that some plants do seem to be "enemies" to others, for ex. raspberries and tomatoes? As a groundhog, I look for perennials!
Comment by adrianne Tue Jan 14 10:59:51 2014
Anna, what are your favorite varietals, the veggies you MUST plant every year? You should do a lunch time series on all the types that work best in our region!
Comment by Emily from Bristol Tue Jan 14 21:40:59 2014
The future cannot hold what the past did, but the past cannot hold what the future will. Reflections.
Comment by Lesley Monroe Wed Jan 15 04:02:39 2014

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