The Crop Rotation Plan

The following is a drawing I did just so that I could put my ideas on paper. It all looks perfect – in my head, so drawing it out like this helps me to bring fantasy into reality. (Yes, I Photoshopped some of the images out of other pics into my own, but how do you draw a corn stalk anyway?)

The brilliant idea behind the watering system came by accident when I was online one day searching for information on homemade chicken feed. This site has a ton of information for vegetable farmers in New South Whales, Australia and the first thing that I went to was their layout for a water recycling system for the farm. Yes, it is very cool and if it is possible we will copy it. So the farm should be on a gentle slope where the water runoff will end up in an artificial ‘wetlands’ area and then pumped back into the watering system. The slope must be ever so slight to avoid erosion. In the wetlands we can have a pond for raising ducks, bushes and grasses for filtering the water and an artificial creek at the end of it all where the pump will be. Brilliant.

A small driveway will allow my golf cart to maneuver around the planting areas and the pump shed.

There could be as many as three planting methods used: in-ground (the market garden), in raised beds (the personal, kitchen garden), and in a greenhouse (eventually… for starting seeds). I like the idea of the in-ground plantings being divided into three sections: a regular crop rotation area, an overflow area (in case we need to grow more of one particular thing), and an herb area. The rotation plan for the market garden works by moving one row of plantings to the next row each year. All of the information on crop rotation came from Farmer Fred. He resides and speaks for an area of California in which the climate and soils mimic the area we want to move to, so I will follow it carefully. And the Harvest to Table website is a ‘must visit’ for any gardener and has also helped me create this plan. I learned that each family of plants feed the soil what the next family of plants will need. Great! Here’s the plan:

Year #1

Row 1 – Fallow with oats and/or annual ryegrass (add extra compost prior to planting)
Row 2 – Tomato family – eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes (first year composting only)
Row 3 – Onion family – garlic, onions, leeks, shallots (first year composting only)
Row 4 – Legumes – beans and peas, clover, vetch (no extra compost needed)
Row 5 – Cabbage family – broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chinese cabbage, collards, cress, kale, kohlrabi, radishes, turnips (very light composting prior to planting)
Row 6 – Fallow with buckwheat and/or white clover (add extra compost prior to planting)
Row 7 – Lettuce and Beet family – artichokes, chicory, endive, lettuce, beets, spinach, Swiss chard (first year light composting only)
Row 8 – Legumes – beans and peas, clover, vetch (no extra compost needed)
Row 9 – Grass family – grains–corn, oats, rye, wheat (add extra compost prior to planting)
Row 10 – Tomato and/or Squash family – eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, melons, summer and winter squash, pumpkins, watermelon (light composting prior to planting)
Row 11 – Carrot family – carrots, celery, anise, coriander, dill, fennel, parsley (no extra compost needed)
Row 12 – Legumes (or) Onion family – beans and peas, clover, vetch (or) garlic, onions, leeks, shallots (no extra compost needed)

Year #2 (rows move over one space)

Row 1 – Tomato family – eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes (no extra compost needed)
Row 2 – Onion family – garlic, onions, leeks, shallots (no extra compost needed)
Row 3 – Legumes – beans and peas, clover, vetch (no extra compost needed)
Row 4 – Cabbage family – broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chinese cabbage, collards, cress, kale, kohlrabi, radishes, turnips (very light composting prior to planting)
Row 5 – Fallow with buckwheat and/or white clover (add extra compost prior to planting)
Row 6 – Lettuce and Beet family – artichokes, chicory, endive, lettuce, beets, spinach, Swiss chard (no extra compost needed)
Row 7 – Legumes – beans and peas, clover, vetch (no extra compost needed)
Row 8 – Grass family – grains–corn, oats, rye, wheat (add extra compost prior to planting)
Row 9 – Tomato and/or Squash family – eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, melons, summer and winter squash, pumpkins, watermelon (light composting prior to planting)
Row 10 – Carrot family – carrots, celery, anise, coriander, dill, fennel, parsley (no extra compost needed)
Row 11 – Legumes (or) Onion family – beans and peas, clover, vetch (or) garlic, onions, leeks, shallots (no extra compost needed)
Row 12 – Fallow with oats and/or annual ryegrass (add extra compost prior to planting)

And so on. With two rows of cover crops in the rotation, each row will benefit from nutrients being plowed right in, which should completely enrich and repair the soil.

The in-ground herb area will include: Cilantro, Parsley, Sage, Basil, Oregano, Rosemary, Marjoram and a few exotic herbs I’m eager to try. Chives will also be grown here and all will be grown in various places around the homestead and integrated into the landscaping. (Aah, I can smell it now.)

The kitchen garden will be a lot smaller and have a wood and wire/mesh structure built around it. This area will be for our personal use, the most vulnerable plantings (like heirlooms) and for testing what crops to grow in the market garden.

The greenhouse will be mostly experimental at first; I’ll try out things like seed saving, and perhaps aquaponics and raising fish, or growing tropical plant varieties that are used to warmer climates. I don’t know if I would need to use cold frames for the plants grown from seed to allow them to adapt before transplanting? Probably not even necessary in our climate. I’m pretty sure a greenhouse can be used for growing strawberries, since they take up so much space and are highly susceptible to disease or being eaten by critters; it may be easier to grow them vertically inside..? Oh well, they’re just ideas for now.

The size of the property will determine what else we do with it. Since this plan is based on 1 acre, which I am sure we’ll find, if we happen to find land that is more than an acre then we can grow much more like: Hay (grass or alfalfa), Wheat and Rye for mulching winter crops and making flours. If the land is larger still, then maybe we can raise and feed a cow or two. Cool! And I know I want to try growing feed for my chickens… it’s just healthier for them. I suppose quite a bit is riding on the land itself. Hmm…

Well folks, it’s all been worked out in my head and now on paper. I suppose we’ll see if it comes true! Stay tuned.