Archive for the ‘Other things of interest’ Category

Spring Summer Planting plans

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011


Spring-Summer 2011 when to plant veg

6th March – sow outdoors – brussel sprouts,

sow undercover – celery, cauliflower (indoors)

13th March – sow outdoors – lettuce, beetroot, red & savoy cabbage, carrots, leek

20th March – sow tomatoes

3rd April – perpetual spinach & sibilla, parsnip, radish, rocket

sow indoors – French beans, pattison squash

17th April – sow outdoors – purple sprouting broccoli, endive, leek, sorrel, turnip, calabrese, kale

24th April – sow outdoors – peas (halif d’annonay & champion of England)

1st May – sow outdoors – broad beans, lettuce

plant out French beans

15th May – sow outdoors – parsnip, radish, rocket, runner beans, sorrel, swede, sweetcorn

22nd May – sow indoors – courgette, cucumber (mini & Wautoma)

29th May – sow outdoors – French beans, kale, turnip

sow indoors – pattison squash

5th June – sow outdoors – butternut squash

19th June- sow outdoors – lettuce, runner beans, swede

3rd July – sow outdoors – perpetual spinach & sibilla, endive, radish, rocket

7th August – sow outdoors – lettuce

14th August – sow outdoors – endive, radish, rocket

Vegetable Variety
Beetroot Sanguina Sow: mid March – end July
Crop: June – end October
Broad Beans Aquadulce long pod Sow: mid February – May
Crop: mid June – end August
Broccoli Green heading calabrese Sow: end March – July
Crop: end July – mid November
Purple sprouting Sow: mid April – end May
Crop: next March – May
Brussel Spouts Sanda Sow: mid March – May
Crop: October – mid February
Cabbage red – Rouge tete noir Sow: mid March – end May
Crop: mid August – mid November
Savoy – Piacenza Sow: mid March – end May
Crop: September – December
Cauliflower Autumn Giant Sow: March – June – indoors
Plant out: April – July
Crop: September – mid December
Carrots Lisse de Meaux long Sow: February – mid March – undercover
Crop: mid May – June
Sow: mid March – end June – outdoors
Crop: mid June – mid October
Celery Full white self blanching Sow: February – March – undercover
Crop: August – December
Chard Perpetual spinach Sow: April – May & July – August
Sibilla Crop: July – February
Courgette Dark green dwarf bush Sow: mid April – June – indoors
Crop: mid June – end September
Cucumber (mini) miniature white Sow: mid May – indoors
Crop: mid June – end September
Cucumber Wautoma Sow: mid May – indoors
Crop: mid June – end September
Endive Bianca riccia de taglo Sow: mid February – April & July – August
Crop: April – June & September – October
French Beans Purple climbing Sow: April – indoors
Plant out: mid April – end June
Crop: mid June – mid October
Jerusalem artichoke
Kale Sutherland Sow: April – mid June
Crop: August – February
Leek Meziers long winter Sow: mid March – end April
Crop: mid October – February
Lettuce Reine des Glaces Sow: mid March – end August
Flame Crop: May – October
Onions Sturon Sow: mid March – April – outdoors
Crop: July – August
Parsnip Tender & ture Sow: April – mid May
Crop: July – August
Peas Halif d’Annonay Sow: March – April
Crop: May – August
Champion of England (tall) Sow: end April
Potatoes Edgecote purple Sow earlies: mid March – May
Kestral Crop earlies: june – mid August
Romano Sow maincrop: mid March – mid April
Crop: mid August – September
Radish Red top Sow: April – mid August
Crop: mid April – August
Rocket Mild cultivated Sow: April – August
Crop: May- September
Runner beans The Czar Sow: May (indoors) or mid May – June
(outdoors)
Crop: mid July – mid September
Squash (summer) Pattison orange patty pan Sow: mid April – June – indoors
Crop: mid June – end September
Squash (winter) Waltham butternut Sow: May – indoors or June – outdoors
Crop: September – October
Sorrel Belleville leaf Sow: mid April –May
Crop: May – August
Sweetcorn Golden bantam Sow: May
Crop: August – September
Swede Champion red top Sow: mid May – end July
Crop: mid October – December
Tomatoes Legend Bush Sow: mid February – March
Gardeners delight (cherry) Crop: July – October
Orange Banana
Galina (early)
Turnip 40 day Milan white Sow: April – May
Crop: mid June – August

Notes from permaculture day

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

These are copied from various sources.

Agricultural principles
Polyculture
Polyculture is agriculture using multiple crops in the same space, in imitation of the diversity of natural ecosystems, and avoiding large stands of single crops, or monoculture. It includes crop rotation, multi-cropping, and inter-cropping. Alley cropping is a simplification of the layered system which typically uses just two layers, with alternate rows of trees and smaller plants.
Guild
Permaculture guilds are groups of organisms – plants, animals, fungi, bacteria etc. – which work particularly well together. These can be those observed in nature such as the White Oak guild which centers on the White Oak tree and includes 10 other plants. Native communities can be adapted by substitution of plants more suitable for human use.
The Three Sisters of maize, squash and beans is a well known guild. The British National Vegetation Classification provides a comprehensive list of plant communities in the UK. Guilds can be thought of as an extension of companion planting.
Increased edge
Permaculturists maintain that where vastly differing systems meet, there is an intense area of productivity and useful connections.
The greatest example of this is the coast.[dubious – discuss] Where the land and the sea meet there is a particularly rich area that meets a disproportionate percentage of human and animal needs.[original research?] This is evidenced by the fact that the overwhelming majority of humankind lives within 100 km of the sea.[citation needed] So this idea is played out in permacultural designs by using spirals in the herb garden or creating ponds that have wavy undulating shorelines rather than a simple circle or oval (thereby increasing the amount of edge for a given area). Edges between woodland and open areas have been claimed to be the most productive.[5]
In permaculture design, increasing the amount of edges is an important tool for maximizing the productivity of a farm. Specifically, ponds are designed with an irregular shape (as opposed to circular) to maximize the water’s edge. Wooded and grassland areas are intermingled. Of course, since the biodiversity is high in any area, there are a lot of micro-interfaces where different organisms interact. All of this improves the resource efficiency and productivity of the designed ecosystem.
Perennial plants
Perennial plants are often used in permaculture design. As they do not need to be planted every year they require less maintenance and fertilizers.
Companion planting
Guilds – e.g. three sisters (corn, squash, and climbing beans). help keep insect and other pest problems to a minimum.
Composting all materials for fertilizing and mulching are produced within the permaculture garden.
No dig – spread compost on top and let worms do the work. Low tillage cropping to save soil, energy, moisture and growing time. Sheet Mulching
Sheet mulch is put down in layers to mimic natural forest mulch: well decayed compost, weed barrier, partly decayed compost and raw organic matter.

Rain water harvesting – not only saves on water but is especially good for the garden as rainwater is loaded with nutrients
Water feature – often encourage insects, birds, frogs, and other small wildlife creatures, and many of these will feed on pests in the permaculture garden.

OBREDIM design methodology
OBREDIM is an acronym for observation, boundaries, resources, evaluation, design, implementation and maintenance.
• Observation allows you first to see how the site functions within itself, to gain an understanding of its initial relationships. Some recommend a year-long observation of a site before anything is planted. During this period all factors, such as lay of the land, natural flora and so forth, can be brought into the design. A year allows the site to be observed through all seasons, although it must be realized that, particularly in temperate climates, there can be substantial variations between years.
• Boundaries refer to physical ones as well as to those neighbors might place, for example.
• Resources include the people involved, funding, as well as what can be grown or produced in the future.
• Evaluation of the first three will then allow one to prepare for the next three. This is a careful phase of taking stock of what is at hand to work with.
• Design is a creative and intensive process, and must stretch the ability to see possible future synergetic relationships.
• Implementation is literally the ground-breaking part of the process when digging and shaping of the site occurs.
• Maintenance is then required to keep the site at a healthy optimum, making minor adjustments as necessary. Good design will preclude the need for any major adjustment.

Elements of a Wildlife Habitat
Provide Food for Wildlife
Everyone needs to eat! Planting native forbs, shrubs and trees is the easiest way to provide the foliage, nectar, pollen, berries, seeds and nuts that many species of wildlife require to survive and thrive. You can also incorporate supplemental feeders and food sources.
A combination of trees and shrubs of all sizes and groundcover provide not only cover and places to raise the young, but natural food for wildlife.
When selecting plants, try to use native varieties for your area. Highbush blueberry, Carolina cherry laurel, and elderberry shrubs are a few of the plants that provide berries. Eastern red cedar, southern red oak and hickory trees are excellent choices. A variety of manmade feeders are available for seed, fruit, suet, mealworms, and nectar that can supplement nature’s banquet.
Supply Water for Wildlife
Wildlife need clean water sources for many purposes, including drinking, bathing and reproduction. Water sources may include natural features such as ponds, lakes, rivers, springs, oceans and wetlands; or human-made features such as bird baths, puddling areas for butterflies, installed ponds or rain gardens
Water is essential for your habitat. Use a birdbath close to bushes or trees so birds have a safe place to dry their feathers. Most birdbaths are too deep so place a couple of flat rocks in your birdbath and only fill the birdbath to an inch or inch and a half of water so that the small birds can bathe too. Using a dripper will not only make a nice sound to attract wildlife, but it will also help to keep the birdbath clean and full. Heaters are available for birdbaths and ponds for the winter months.
Create Cover for Wildlife
Wildlife require places to hide in order to feel safe from people, predators and inclement weather. Use things like native vegetation, shrubs, thickets and brush piles or even dead trees. birdhouses, bat houses, toad houses, rock or wood piles
Cover can be provided by planting an assortment of trees and shrubs. The dense branches help to protect wildlife. Brush, rock, and log piles are places for birds, rabbits, chipmunks and a variety of other animals to hide from predators and the weather and to raise their young. Another source of shelter for birds especially during the winter months are roosting boxes.
Give Wildlife a Place to Raise Their Young
Wildlife need a sheltered place to raise their offspring. Many places for cover can double as locations where wildlife can raise young, from wildflower meadows and bushes where many butterflies and moths lay their eggs, or caves where bats roost and form colonies.
A protected place to raise the young completes the list. Cavity nesting birds use old decaying trees. Homeowners and developers often remove the trees leaving no place for birds to nest. Nesting boxes, installed in the proper location, provide a cozy home for cavity nesters such as bluebirds, chickadees, tufted titmice, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and screech owls. Trees and shrubs provide nesting areas for birds who build their own nests. In addition, a pond can be home to frogs, fish, dragonflies, and other insects.

• Water – a pond if possible, even a small one, will be a great addition, though the age/ability of the children may need to be taken into account. If a pond proves impossible, consider a small self-contained water feature or even just a bird-bath.
• Bird table – birds are the most visible, and possibly most popular, visitors to any wildlife area, and since many of the once common kinds are in decline, they can do with a bit of help particularly in the winter months.
• Sympathetic planting – whether you choose to go for only native species, or use typical garden varieties, remember that plants are the basis of the food chain, so pick ones that will attract insects and other bugs, which in turn bring in birds and other visitors to the area.
• Shelter – from the largest to the smallest, wild animals need somewhere to shelter. There’s an untold wealth of animal homes and shelters on sale, ranging from hedgehog homes to ladybird logs, so you won’t be lost for ideas

Green manure

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Here’s some information on green manures. We are growing vetch, or Winter Tares, in several of the beds.

Vicia sativa, also known as Vetches.

Winter Tares is a hardy annual that can be sown March-May or July-September for over-wintering. It is good at nitrogen fixing and for weed suppression on heavier soils but avoid acid or dry soils and dig in before flowering.

‘Green Manure’ doesn’t sound very pleasant but it does wonders for the health of the soil and subsequent plants. It is a crop that is grown mainly to benefit the soil rather than for food or ornament.

The idea of growing a crop purely to benefit the soil and other plants is not a new idea it has been around for centuries but fell out of vogue with the advent of World War 2. Man-made chemicals were produced that could enhance plant growth, kill pests and diseases and increase productivity. Little was known then about the harmful effects of the chemicals on humans or predatory insects. People are now more aware that there are better, more natural ways of ensuring the soil and thereby the subsequent crop is healthy and green manuring is one of the best methods.

The benefits include:-

Improving Soil Structure
Some green manures have deep penetrative roots that as they grow open up the soil. This is an advantage on heavy soils as allows drainage to occur more freely and organic matter to be left in the soil and on lighter soils the particles of soil can bind together better so they can hold water better and leaves organic matter in the soil.

Weed Suppression
Green manures crops grow quickly and their very leafy growth smothers weeds. It is like a living mulch as it suppresses weeds and retains moisture in the soil. It is good practice to make sure the soil is weed free first. That is why they are very important when areas are left fallow especially good in winter.

Adding Nutrients
Certain varieties bring to the surface minerals they would be unusable to plants and leguminous green manures absorb nitrogen from the air and fix it in root nodules on their roots so that when it is dug in it becomes available to the following crop. Specific soil bacteria are required to be present but they are usually present in healthy soil. Nitrogen is required by plants as it encourages healthy stem and leaf growth.

Soil Protection
As a living mulch it helps to protect the soil from compaction due to heavy rainfall, prevents the leaching of nutrients, and helps hold the soil together. In the summer it will protect the soil from the drying effects of the sun and wind.

Pest Control
It provides habitats for frogs, beetles and other natural predators that like the damp cover of green manures and that feed on pests such as snails and slugs etc. It also confuses certain insects if the green manure is planted between food crops eg Carrot fly flies low so if a taller not too invasive green manure is planted in between rows the fly will be confused and not attack the whole crop.

Resting Soil
Some soils need a rest to recover from constant cultivation and by planting with a green manure it will help soil fertility and structure with very little effort. Green manures can be left in for a year or more, but in the case of most domestic gardens/allotments it is generally a winter thing.

Green manures can be left to grow and then periodically cut down before flowering so as to prevent seeds growing. The plant material can be composted in a compost bin.

It can be allowed to grow and then dug in and left to decompose – allow 30 days before planting next crop. This can be quite hard work and care must be taken not too plant to soon as some green manures eg. Grazing Forage Rye releases a chemical that inhibits seed germination.

No dig systems can still use green manures the crop is simply cut down, the foliage is left on the ground to decompose, and is treated as a mulch and planted through this layer or just move it to one side to sow seeds. The foliage can also be removed and composted.

Be careful with perennial green manures and grazing Forage Rye as they may re-grow after cutting down. You can kill it off with a light excluding mulch such as black plastic or a crop of potatoes grown under straw.

Winter Tares green manure is part of the legume family so grow on ground with/after legumes in a crop rotation plan. Any harmful pests & diseases will show up in the green manure rather than the more valuable veg. It helps to fix nitrogen and once dug in will fertilise the following nitrogen hungry crops like brassicas.

Protect from slugs/snails and birds especially pigeons who like to nip the tops off. Please note that Winter Tares releases a chemical that inhibits the growth of small seeds (particularly carrots, parsnips & spinach) so a month should be left after digging it in before sowing the next crop. It does not pose a problem for transplants or young seedlings.

Grow with Forage Rye to give good cover in winter or Italian Rye.

Notes from Maria’s veg growing workshop – what to plant now, crop rotation, and books/websites

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Gardening websites
Gardening books
Growing rocket

Also in terms of crop rotation here is the general rule of thumb for your crops.
Year 1- root crops
Year 2 – brassicas
Year 3 – legumes
Year 4 – potatoes

Also just as a reminder here is the list of what you can plant now/overwinter. (September 27)

Planting now

Radish

Cut and come again salads

Kale

Spinach

Landcress

Lambs lettuce/corn salad

Purslane/claytonia

Window ledge herbs

Parsley, basil, marjoram, mint, oregano

Sprouting seeds – indoors

Overwinter

Garlic

Spring onions

Onions

Broad beans

Winter lettuce

Brassica pests

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

There were some bugs on some of the broccoli leaves and I didn’t know what they were, so I found this very useful site http://www.vegetable-garden-guide.com/growing-cabbage.html. They are mealy aphids. I’ve found some info on how to treat them, posted at the bottom.

Growing Cabbage – Pest Control

Mealy Aphids from growing cabbage http://www.vegetable-garden-guide.com/how-to-grow-brussel-sprouts.html
Large White butterfly eggs from how to growing cabbage http://www.vegetable-garden-guide.com/how-to-grow-brussel-sprouts.html
Small White caterpillar from growing cabbage sprouts http://www.vegetable-garden-guide.com/how-to-grow-brussel-sprouts.html
Mealy Aphids are a serious pest when growing cabbage – they will weaken the plants and introduce viruses which further weaken the plants. Spray with Derris if infestation is serious.

Eggs of the Large White butterfly. Caterpillars can defoliate a plant quickly so watch out for them. Inspect the underside of the leaves for clusters and squish them. Practice your tennis strokes when the butterfly is about.

Caterpillar of the Small White butterfly. Defoliates plants quickly, watch out for them. Pick off and destroy, use a nematode spray or spray with Derris. Eggs are laid under leaves in a random way, not in clusters, nor are they brightly coloured.

Growing cabbage to minimise pest problems will mean following some sort of crop rotation plan. This simply means not growing vegetables of the same family in the same piece of earth year after year…it encourages pest build up in the soil.

For cabbages this means – Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Kohl Rabi, Turnip, Cauliflower. Whether you are a seasoned vegetable grower or are just growing cabbages or any vegetable for the first time – pests and diseases don’t care… so get to know your enemy.

From http://www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/advice/pests_and_diseases/nonflash_index.shtml?mealy_cabbage_aphid

Treating mealy aphids – Organic

* Regular and thorough observation of plants.
* Spray infested areas with a firm jet of water.
* Spray with natural fatty acids, for example insecticidal soap.
* Netting and fleece can be used to stop the aphids spreading.
* For outdoor plants, aphid predators such as ladybirds, hoverflies, lacewing larvae and parasitic midges called aphidoletes, can be released onto affected plants.
* For greenhouse plants in a contained environment, parasitic wasps such as Aphidius colemani and Aphidius ervi can be used.

Preserving the harvest glut

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

It is approaching the time of year when the garden is overflowing with produce. If you can’t eat it all, you can freeze it, preserve/can it, or pickle it.

My particular glut is cherry tomatoes, which I make oven dried tomatoes from and then freeze. Cut them in half, put them cut side up on a cookie sheet, sprinkle olive oil, salt, crushed garlic on them, and put them in the oven on 100. I check them every half hour or so and pick out the ones that are ready (if they’re all about the same size they are all ready at once but often I have a mixed batch of all different sizes). They’re ready when they’re leathery but not crispy. I store them in ziploc bags in the freezer.

Chutney is also a good option.

I would love to know how to preserve – anyone know of a good course?

http://www.pickyourown.org/allaboutcanning.htm

What to plant when

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

The RHS does a veg calendar which shows when to sow and harvest veg:
http://www.rhs.org.uk/RHSWebsite/files/fb/fb14af03-f854-4cd6-8570-95b49c9e3451.pdf

Here’s another source of info:

http://www.thompson-morgan.com/sow-and-grow.html

London has a longer growing season than much of the UK so bear that in mind.

Watering guide

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

It is important not to water too much because:

  • Plants aren’t encouraged to grow strong root systems
  • Plants can drown
  • Water is a precious resource

It is important to water enough because:

  • Plants that receive the proper amount of water are likely to be healthy and productive
  • Plants can die quickly in hot weather if not watered enough.

General guidelines for the community garden:

  • It is important to keep the soil around the newly planted seeds moist.
  • water established plants deeply but less often
  • to tell if the soil is moist, stick your finger under the soil. the soil may be moist even if the surface looks dry
  • water the roots of the plant, not the leaves. ideally the soil will be slightly lower around the roots so the water doesn’t run away on the surface.
  • water in the morning or evening when the sun isn’t as hot. this means less water will evaporate. also, the very hot sun on water droplets on tender leaves can cause the leaves to burn.

The following is copied from Oregon State’s website:

How often to water

Regardless of the system you choose, the goal is the same: to deliver water to the roots of the plants at about the same rate that it is removed from the soil by the plants and evaporation. Consider your soil, your plants, and recent weather when determining how much and how often to water your garden. Sandy soil holds much less water than clay soils. Larger plants consume more water than seedlings. Hot, windy weather dries out the soil.

Instead of developing a watering schedule based on calculations and charts, monitor your garden to determine your watering needs throughout the growing season. Different plants in your garden may have different needs.

  • Germinating seeds and seedlings need to be kept uniformly moist without being washed away, so water them with a gentle spray every day or two.
  • Developing plants need to be watered deeply, but less often, to encourage deep root growth. Water to a depth of at least 6 inches and then let the surface inch or two completely dry out before watering again.
  • Crops such as lettuce, beets, green beans, and chard draw water from the top foot or less of soil. Thoroughly soak the rooting zone and then don’t water until the plants show signs of needing additional water such as turning a dark bluish green or wilting during the hottest part of the day.
  • Corn, tomatoes, asparagus, and rhubarb have deep root systems that allow them to draw water from the top 2 feet of soil. Deep-rooted plants need water less frequently, but need more water to reach the rooting depth.
  • As a general guideline, garden plants that have been watered properly, and therefore have developed deep roots, need a thorough watering every 5 to 7 days in hot weather.

Avoid these three common watering problems

  • Frequent, shallow watering promotes root development in the surface layers of the soil. Plants with shallow roots are very susceptible to drought
  • Overwatering can drown plants by filling up soil pores with water, leaving little or no oxygen for plant roots. Also, excessive watering leaches away nutrients and can contribute to groundwater contamination.
  • Postponing irrigation after plants show signs of needing water can damage plants very quickly in hot weather. Observe your plants every day or two and respond to their needs promptly.

Companion planting, crop rotation – from Growing Southwark

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Growing fruit and vegetables with nature

Four important parts of gardening organically and with nature can be found via permaculture and biodynamic methods: companion planting, crop rotation, a wild space and forest gardening. Here is a bit more information on these for you:

Companion Planting

CROP COMPANION PLANTS INCOMPATIBLE WITH
Asparagus Tomato, Parsley, Basil
Beans Most Vegetables & Herbs
Beans, Broad Potato, Cucumber, Maize, Strawberry, Celery, Summer Savory Onion
Beans, Runner Maize, Summer Savory, Radish Onion, Beets, Kohlrabi, Sunflower
Cabbage Family Aromatic Herbs, Celery, Beetroot, Onion Family, Chamomile, Spinach, Chard Dill, Strawberries, Runner Beans, Tomato
Carrots Pea, Lettuce, Rosemary, Onion Family, Sage, Tomato
Celery Onion & Cabbage Families, Tomato, Broad Beans, Nasturtium Dill
Cucumber Beans, Maize, Pea, Sunflowers, Radish Potato, Aromatic Herbs
Aubergine (Eggplant) Broad Beans, Marigold
Lettuce Carrot, Radish, Strawberry, Cucumber
Maize (Corn) Potato, Broad Beans, Pea, Pumpkin, Cucumber, Squash Tomato
Melon Maize, Nasturtium, Radish,
Onion Family Beetroot, Carrot, Lettuce, Cabbage Family Beans, Peas
Parsley Tomato, Asparagus
Peas Carrots, Radish, Turnip, Cucumber, Maize, Beans Onion Family, Gladiolus, Potato
Potato Beans, Maize, Cabbage Family, Marigolds, Horseradish Pumpkin, Squash, Tomato, Cucumber, Sunflower
Pumpkins Maize, Marigold Potato
Radish Pea, Nasturtium, Lettuce, Cucumber Hyssop
Spinach Strawberry, Cauliflower, Celery
Squash Nasturtium, Maize, Marigold Potato
Strawberry Broad Beans, Lettuce, Onion, Spinach Cabbage
Tomato Basil, Onion Family, Nasturtium, Marigold, Asparagus, Carrot, Parsley, Cucumber, Mint Potato, Fennel, Cabbage Family
Turnip Pea Potato

Vegetable Crop Rotation

For healthy soil and high yields, it’s a good idea to practise crop rotation. With crop rotation, vegetables in the same botanical family are grown in a different part of the garden each year. Rotation can also be practised when planting successive short-season crops in the same plot during a single growing season.

  1. Why Use Crop Rotation?

Crop rotation can improve soil fertility and structure; help manage diseases and insects that affect a specific plant family and aid in weed control.

Vegetables in the same botanical family have similar nutrient requirements. Some are “heavy feeders” and deplete more of the soil’s minerals, while others are “light feeders” using up fewer minerals. In addition, there are those plants that actually improve the soil and add nutrients. By alternating the planting of these three types of crops in a single plot, the health of the soil can be maintained. Heavy feeders include broccoli, sweet corn, and tomatoes. Light feeders include carrots, onions, peppers, and potatoes. Soil builders include legumes such as peas and beans. See Soil Amendments for Vegetables for details.

  1. The History of Crop Rotation

Before the 1950s, crop rotation was a common means of maintaining soil fertility. Once synthetic fertilisers came on the scene, however, farmers began practising monocropping – growing one type of crop – and relying on chemical fertilisers to replace soil nutrients. While this worked for a while, over time the practice took its toll on soil fertility. While most farmers rotate crops today, they still often only follow a short rotation of two or three years.

  1. Common Rotations

There are different systems of crop rotation. Although the common rotation is a 4-year plan, some experts advise a 3-year plan for home gardens. Here are some common rotations:

  • Potatoes, brassicas, legumes, and roots
  • Legumes; onions, carrots and tomatoes; and brassicas
  • Heavy feeders, light feeders, and soil builders
  • Roots, brassicas, and all other crops

In the first rotation above, for example, the first year plant potatoes in the bed. The next year, plant brassicas. The third year, plant legumes; and the fourth year, plant roots.One element common to virtually all rotations is to plant brassicas in a different spot each year. Brassicas are heavy feeders and are all susceptible to a fungal disease called clubroot. While clubroot can last for up to 20 years in the soil, crop rotation helps slow down the proliferation of club root spores. Brassicas include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, mustard, swedes and turnips. Also include natural growing fertilizers, e.g. clover-that can be dug in.

  1. Planning Your Rotations

It’s easier to rotate crops if you divide your garden into sections or beds that are roughly the same size. If you plan to use a 4-year rotation, divide the garden into beds that are a multiple of four; for a 3-year rotation, use multiples of three. Try to group plants of the same family, with the same growth requirements, in the same bed. If you don’t have enough of one crop to fill a section, combine crop groups with compatible needs. Leafy greens and shallow-rooted vegetables that don’t belong to the botanical families used in crop rotation can be planted to fill in spaces. Keep a record from year to year of your crop rotations.

  1. Keeping It Simple

You may be thinking: “My garden is too small to practise crop rotation.” While you may not be able to rotate crops on a grand scale, you can still use the principles behind crop rotation to improve your soil and your yields. Divide a smaller garden into smaller beds in order to rotate crops.

At first glance, crop rotation may seem too complicated or impractical for a home garden, but it doesn’t have to be. Basic crop rotation can be accomplished by remembering one simple rule: don’t plant the same crop in the same place two years in a row. Start with that premise and refine your crop rotation plans each year.

  1. Crop Rotating Tips

Here are a few rules of thumb for crop rotation:

  • Group crops according to which diseases they are susceptible to
  • Alternate root vegetables and vegetables with shallow roots: this will improve the soil structure
  • If you use interplanting (planting different vegetables together in the same bed), use the main crop in your rotation plan
  • Remember tomatoes and potatoes are both members of the nightshade family: don’t plant one to follow the other
  • Plant brassicas and leafy greens to follow legumes: they like the added nitrogen
  • Beware of planting carrots or beetroot in direct succession to a legume
  • To improve your chances of gardening success, try devising a simple crop rotation plan.


Useful wild plants – weeds no less!

Weeds are sometimes described as plants but just in the wrong place! For all fruit and vegetable growing spaces it is important to have a ‘wild space’-this may be in a designated area or where useful weeds just so happen to grow!

Here are a few wild plants that are very useful:

Nettles-bees and butterflies love them and used in biodynamic preparations;

Dandelions-young leaves are a great substitute for spinach-used in biodynamic preparations;

Chickweed-an avid grower-please encourage-again great as a substitute for spinach;

Yarrow-is used to give nutrients to the compost heap in a biodynamic preparation;

Forest gardening can be succinctly explained in the following diagram:

Information gathered from:

http://www.vegetableexpert.co.uk/VegetableCropRotation.html.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forest_gardening

http://www.spiralseed.co.uk/forestgarden/

http://www.i-sis.org.uk/biodynamicFarming.php

http://www.biodynamic.org.uk/about-bdaa/faq.html