Sunday, March 25, 2018

Spring 2018

Buckwheat Johnny's Seeds need #1

C'mon Spring!  You can do it.

This has been a long winter.  February was mild and that got every one's hopes up for an early spring.  But then winter started back in full force.  In the past three weeks I've experienced some of the worst driving experiences I've ever had.  I even gave up on a fun work meeting at our district office and turned around and headed home.  And I'm no quitter!   But it's melting now, the birds are coming back and gardening season is just around the corner.

It's time to make plans.  This year will be different because I will no longer be sharing half of my raised beds with the next door neighbors.  They will have a garden of their own.  Which means I now have 12 beds instead of 6.  My husband asked me "what are you going to do with all of those beds?"  - Well, anything I want to do!

First off I can improve my crop rotation.  Each family of crops should be rotated on a 4 year rotation because that is how many years it takes most soil born problems to dissipate.  And the beds need to rest somewhere in there with a cover crop of grass as a green manure.  So ideally one crop (tomatoes for example) requires 5 beds.

Sunflower-Autumn-Beauty-Mix-15-SeedsThe order of rotation is also important.  Tomatoes should be proceeded with grass and followed by legumes.  In fact just about any heavy feeding crop should be followed with legumes which fix nitrogen in the soil.  That isn't difficult for me because I always plant several beds in peas and beans.

Zinnia is longest-lasting cut flower | Home, News | Amateur Gardening Amateur Gardening
I will plant 4 beds with a cover crop of Buckwheat.  I chose Buckweat because I haven't grown it before, and the flowers will attract pollinators.  There are a lot of options for cover crops.  I've used both red clover and vetch. I've also planted black beans just for the fat that they are a legume, You can also plant alfalfa, oats, rye grass.  A lot of the recommended cover crops are more appropriate for large scale gardens or farm crops, especially because their root systems make it difficult to dig them up when you are done with them.

Resources for Crop Rotation and Cover Crops
Rodale's Organic Life
Mother Earth News
Cover Crop Basics

Snapdragon 'Chantilly Peach' (Antirrhinum majus) snapdragon...these look like a snapdragon fell in love with a hollyhock
Secondly, I am going to do something I've been wanting to do for many years.  I'm going to have one bed for cutting flowers.  Zinnias, Cosmos, Calendula, Snapdragons, Sunflowers and things I haven't even thought of yet.  Most of my flowers are landscape components.  You want to cut them and bring them in, but if you do then you can't enjoy them outside.

 But I'm sure if I start cutting stems from my cutting bed then I will want to fill in with other interesting things from the landscape like Black Eyed Susan and Fountain Grass. 

Thirdly, this leaves me one more bed to experiment with.  Because of my rotations it will be the 8x8 bed next to the garden shed.  That's where I usually plant potatoes or squash but this year I will experiment with some herbs I haven't planted before like Lavender.  This is part of my research prior to designing a full fledged herb garden.  I have herbs tucked in here and there but as I learn more about their habits I will be better able to plan a complete herb garden. 

Next weekend I will begin setting up my seedlings in the house.  The focus will be on tomatoes.  It's high time I did a year of my Barlow Jap tomatoes and replenish my seed store.  What do you think the odds are that I will deviate from this plan and plant a few more varieties?  And end up with Too Many Tomatoes?