Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Whether you have a raised bed vegetable garden, container vegetable garden, small vegetable garden or large vegetable garden, I think the best way, is to lay out a garden plan is on paper.  

Organic gardening is the same whether it is in a pot, in a raised bed or just tilled up ground.  Soil and plant health are key.
In Garden Plan and Garden Plans we discussed the first of three points below plus vegetable planning for cool weather crops.  Go back to those topics to learn more.

 In general terms the following information is needed:
  1. Type of vegetable you want to grow
  2. How much space does is take (it’s footprint)
  3. How much time to maturity
  4. What is the best time to plant (cold weather crop or warm weather crop)
  5. What are the companion plants
  6. What does the soil require for the plant
We have discussed the planting process in three steps thus far:
  • We know what cool weather crops we want to plant
  • which varieties
  • the space they take
  • time to maturity
  • and best time to plant.
Between the time the cool weather vegetables are planted and the warm weather vegetables are ready to plant we can prepare the ground so the warm weather vegetables have plenty to eat (soil health) and have ground cover to keep their roots moist.
STEP FOUR: Plant cover crops.  If you have already planted cover corps last fall mow your crops down.  If you have NOT planted cover crops plant now.
Better Homes and Gardens has a 3 page article on Cover crops that is good reading, simple and to the point.
"Cover crops just might be the hardest-working plants you’ll ever grow. Cover crops (also called green manure) suppress weeds, build productive soil, and help control pests and diseases. Plus, cover crops are easy to plant and require only basic care to thrive. And they grow well in nearly every part of the country." says BHG.
We are going to sow cover crops in the entire area where we want our warm vegetables to grow in about 6 weeks.  I have choosen:  Small quantities of these seed may be difficult to find in your area.  On the right are some sources for small quantities.
Rye. This crop comes in two different types: annual rye and cereal rye. Both have their advantages. Sow cereal rye during the late summer or early fall, and it will grow until late in fall and resume growing in spring. With annual rye, which winterkills in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 and colder, you’ll be able to plant your garden earlier, since you won’t have to turn the cover crop into the soil and then wait 3 weeks as you would with a perennial cover crop.  We will be using Annual.  Stay away from anything that say perennial rye or it will be like you will be adding grass seed to your garden.
Buckwheat.(pictured right from Amazon) It’s not wheat, and it’s not a Little Rascals character! Buckwheat is a broadleaf plant and an excellent smother crop—it’s effective even against weeds like quackgrass. “Buckwheat is very fast-growing and can provide a quick canopy to shade weeds. Just be careful to not let it go to seed, or you’ll have buckwheat in your next crop," says Creamer. It matures in just 6 to 8 weeks and can be squeezed in between spring and fall vegetable plantings. Buckwheat’s white flowers serve two purposes—they work well as a filler for flower arrangements, and they attract beneficial insects.
and long rooted radishes such as Daikon (pictured left) or white icicle. To break up the soil.  The long roots on this radish penetrate to break it up, thus reducing the need to till.  Mow this radish just as it starts to seed or pull to eat, leaving the radish top for the soil.  Mowing this radish and leaving the root in the ground automatically add organic matter to your soil at the depth of the radish.  Do NOT let any cover crop go to seed.

 Cover cropping for small gardeners is so new that good articles and information are difficult to find.  Cooks Garden has the radish seed pictured to the left but small quantities of Buckwheat and rye and other cover crops are more difficult to find.  A local Farm Supply is your best location.  Find some neighbors to split large bags of these cover crops to make it more economical.
Some good sources of information for cover crops are those produced for farmers. Cornell University Cover Crop guide
Smith seed Cover Crop Seeds .

I will broadcast sow these seeds and use a rake to cover them with soil.  When these crops reach about 6 to 8 inches I will mow the area leaving the mowed debris on the ground as a mulch cover. 

On the left is my garden plan.   In the area where you see 6 Tomatoes is where I will broad cast cover crop seeds.  The circles with Dill and Basil above them are herbs that will be planted in between the tomatoes.  Dill, basil, onions, radishes, beets, turnips and beans are companion plants for tomatoes and each other.

This plot is 20 foot by 50 foot but the same plan could be made by a 5 foot by 5 foot or a 10 foot by 10 foot.  Decide on how many tomato plants you want (2 is usually adequate for most families) and then eliminate the rest of the plans.
EXAMPLE:  In a 5 x 5. One row of three type of lettuce will produce 20 lettuce plants at 3 inch spacing. One row of three types of onions will produce the same 20 onions, one row of radishes or carrots will produce 60 plants, one row beets and turnips 20 plants.  A 5 x 5 plot could have 4 rows of cool weather vegetables leaving enough room for 2 tomatoes and when the cool weather vegetable are pulled enough room for cucumbers or peppers or okra or egg plant.

At the 6 weeks mark or about the middle of May I will start planting my warm weather vegetables.





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