Planning The Patch!!!!

Prior to moving into our dream place I had plenty of time to wait. Waiting is about what I’m worst at, and so I used that time to plan. In particular, I researched and planned my veggie patch.

I’ve grown veggies a lot, but never on this scale.  I used my smaller-scale experience plus the interweb to work out the best approach.  I refined my requirements to be:

  • I wanted to do some staple crops in bulk. These would be things that:
    • We like and eat a lot of.
    • We could easily store and/or preserve.
    • I wanted to do crops that might have cross-over into stock food.
    • I wanted a rotation system. Because I wanted tomatoes and potatoes in my rotation, that meant a six-bed rotation system.
    • I wanted to grow enough to last us an entire year, through a combination of seasonal eating and preserving/storing.

I’ll include the original plan here, firstly because a lot of work went into it, it’s a solid plan, but alos because it would work well in that form still.  I’m writing this after our first full year here though, and if there’s one thing we’ve found, it’s that the plan is fluid .  I’ll note the things that we think we’ll change in the second year at the end.

THE PATCH PLAN (Year 1)

BED 1

Curcubits – pumpkin, cucumber, watermelon, rockmelon

  • Pumpkin:
    • Plant Sept – Dec
    • Harvest 15 to 20 weeks
  • Cucumber:
    • Plant Sept – Feb
    • Harvest 8 to 10 weeks
    • Can grow in with corn to save space       here
  • Watermelon:
    • Seed trays in August
    • Plant out Oct – Dec
    • Harvest 9 to 14 weeks
  • Rockmelon:
    • Seed trays Sept – Oct
    • Plant out Nov – Dec
    • Harvest 10 to 16 weeks

Summary:

  • Bed busy September to February
  • Can start most plants early in hothouse

Followed by:

  • umbrelliferous (carrots) – want first planting around April/May
  • allium (onions) – want first planting around April

Soil preparation for rotation:

  • Lime soil after harvest
  • Need to wait 4 weeks before manuring soil, otherwise lime will lock up the nutrients
  • May be able to grow green manure, but only a month or so probably means applying composted manures

 

BED 2

Solanaceous – tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant, chilli

Legumes – peas, broad beans, snow peas

Solanaceous:

  • Tomato:
    • Seed trays in Aug – Sept
    • Plant out Oct – Dec
    • Harvest 8 to 17 weeks
  • Capsicum:
    • Seed trays in Aug – Sept
    • Plant out Oct – Dec
    • Harvest 10 to 12 weeks
  • Eggplant:
    • Seed trays in Aug – Sept
    • Plant out Oct – Jan
    • Harvest 12 to 15 weeks
  • Chilli:
    • Seed trays in Aug – Sept
    • Plant out Oct – Dec
    • Harvest 8 to 17 weeks
    • Can grow in permanent beds, but I think I like the idea of keeping them annual

Legumes:

  • Peas:
    • Plant April – Sept
    • Harvest 9 to 11 weeks
  • Broad Beans:
    • Plant March – June
    • Harvest 12 to 22 weeks
  • Snow Peas:
    • Plant April – Sept
    • Harvest 12 to 14 weeks

Summary:

  • Solanaceous:
    • Bed busy October to March
    • Planting out October – December
    • Harvest around March
  • Legumes:
    • Bed busy March to September

Followed by:

  • Curcubits – pumpkin, cucumber, watermelon, rockmelon
  • Needs to be ready by around September
  • Several months of no activity
    • Either green manure, or
    • Legumes

Soil preparation for rotation:

  • Superphosphate – directly after legume harvest or green manure

BED 3

Crucifers – broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish, mustards, turnip

Chenopods – silver beet, spinach, beetroot

Crucifers:

  • Brocolli:
    • Seed trays in Feb
    • Plant out March – April
    • Seed trays in Sept
    • Plant out Oct – Nov
    • Harvest 10 to 16 weeks
  • Cauliflower:
    • Seed trays in Feb
    • Plant out April – May
    • Harvest 15 to 22 weeks
  • Cabbage:
    • Seed trays in March
    • Plant out April – June
    • Seed trays in Aug/Sept
    • Plant out Oct – Nov
    • Harvest 8 to 15 weeks
  • Horseradish:
    • Plant Sept – Nov
    • Harvest 16 to 24 weeks
  • Mustard Greens:
    • Anytime
  • Turnip:
    • Plant Sept – April
    • Harvest 6 to 9 weeks
    • Probably squeeze in 3 successive plantings
    • Can grow in bed 6 if necessary – bed 6 is mostly just carrots and so should always have space and it’s a full 3 years from this rotation.

Chenopods

  • Beetroot:
    • Plant July – April
    • Harvest 7 to 10 weeks
    • Probably squeeze in 2 or 3 successive plantings
  • Silver Beet
    • Plant Sept – May
    • Harvest 7 to 12 weeks
    • Probably squeeze in 2 or 3 successive plantings
  • Spinach
    • Plant March – May
    • Harvest 5 to 11 weeks
    • Probably not needed if we’re growing silver beet

Summary:

  • Crucifers
    • February – hothouse
    • March/April – plant out
    • August/September – hothouse
    • Oct/Nov – plant out
    • The main crucifers keep the bed busy for nearly 12 months
  • Chenopods
    • Busy from July to May
    • May have a month or two to green manure

Followed by:

  • Solanaceous – tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant, chilli
  • Needs to be ready by around October
    • This clashes with the second crucifer planting
      • May be able to have the second crucifer harvest early and a late tomato planting  – will need some experimentation
    • Can have the tomatoes etc ready ahead of time in the hothouse

Soil preparation for rotation:

  • Composted manure and lots of it
  • If the second crucifer planting is skipped, there should be a few weeks between the first harvest and the tomato etc planting

BED 4

Corn:

  • Plant Sept – Feb
  • Harvest 11 to 14 weeks
  • Start planting in Sept, have 5 or 6 successive plantings maybe 3 or 4 weeks apart
  • Grow cucumbers between the stalks
    • Cucumber:
      • Plant Sept – Feb
      • Harvest 8 to 10 weeks

Followed by:

  • Crucifers – broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish, mustards, turnip
    • Needs to be ready by around       March/April
  • Chenopods – silver beet, spinach, beetroot
    • Needs to be ready by around July

Soil preparation for rotation:

  • Composted manure
  • Should be a month or so downtime      before crucifers go in

BED 5

Potatoes:

  • Plant Aug – Oct
  • Harvest 15 to 20 weeks
  • Bed busy from August to March

Followed by:

  • Corn
    • Needs to be ready by around September
    • This clashes with the last onion planting, garlic, second leeks planting, and spring onions
    • The way around this is to leave the last onion planting, garlic, and leeks in until the last spud plantings.  Plant spud out in free parts, and progressively plant it as the alliums are harvested. This means we’ll have to be careful in what order we plant out the alliums – onion, garlic, and leeks in particular.

Soil preparation for rotation:

  • Composted manure and lots of it
  • Potash

BED 6

Umbelliferous – carrot, parsnip, celery AND lettuce and turnips

Allium – onions, garlic, chives AND Brussels sprouts

Umbelliferous

  • Carrot:
    • Plant Sept – May
    • Harvest 12 to 18 weeks
    • Probably squeeze in 3 successive plantings
  • Parsnip:
    • Plant Aug – Oct
    • Harvest 17 to 20 weeks
  • Celery:
    • Seed trays in Sept – Oct
    • Plant out Nov – Dec
  • Turnip:
    • Plant Sept – April
    • Harvest 6 to 9 weeks
    • Probably squeeze in 3 successive plantings
    • Can grow in bed 6 if necessary – bed 6 is mostly just carrots and so should always have space and it’s a full 3 years from this rotation.
  • Lettuce
    • Had been left out of rotation
    • There should be room in this bed

Allium

  • Onions:
    • Seed trays in Feb
    • Plant out April
    • Direct Sow May – Aug
    • Harvest 25 to 34 weeks
    • Planting
      • Seed tray, plant out April
      • Harvest around Oct/Nov
    • Planting 2
      • Direct sow May
      • Harvest around Nov/Dec
    • Planting 3
      • Direct sow Aug
      • Harvest around Feb/March
  • Garlic:
    • Plant April – June
    • Harvest 17 to 25 weeks
    • Plant shortest day, harvest longest day
  • Spring Onions:
    • Plant Aug – Oct
    • Harvest 8 to 12 weeks
  • Leeks:
    • Seed trays in Feb – March
    • Plant out April – May
    • Seed trays in Aug – Sept
    • Plant out Oct – Dec
    • Harvest 15 to 18 weeks
  • Chives
    • Grow pretty much whenever and can use to fill in around garlic and leeks
  • Brussel Sprouts
    • Seed trays in Feb – March
    • Plant out April – May
    • Not sure where to put them, but  they’re good with onions so this bed will probably work

Summary:

  • Can keep the bed going the entire year with just carrots and onions

Followed by:

  • Potatoes
    • Needs to be ready by around August

Soil preparation for rotation:

  • Composted manure and lots of it
  • Should have months in which to grow green manure

CHANGES AFTER YEAR 1

Strictly speaking, the above-described plan was revision 0.  The very first plan had a permanent bed running length-ways across the front.  However, starting in January and extending through to April we’d cleaned out a couple of horrible ornamental beds in the back-garden and turned them into productive areas.  They probably add up to 80 to 100 square metres, which is a decent size, and they are now our combined permanent and over-flow beds.

Some of the other changes we’re going to make include:

  • Our irrigation. The plan above doesn’t have the irrigation (that was hand-drawn on a hard-copy), but we’ve changed and rechanged that particular plan a few times.  I might make a separate post about that though.
  • We originally planned some cruciferous vegetables over the summer months (Bed 3). Experience has shown us that this is a little tough in The Patch, though it might work in the slightly more sheltered permanent beds.  This summer had some ridiculously hot days, and though we have plenty of wind-breaks to the north, the hot northerly winds still tore the leafy green veggies to bits.  Rather than battled with these over the hot months, we’ve found ways that we can easily freeze things like cauliflower and broccoli, in which case we’ll just grow more over the cool months.
  • This means that Bed 3 can lay fallow for much of the year, and potentially all of the year.  I like this plan, particularly because this is the bed that preceded the corn.  Corn is a very heavy feeder, so the corn (Bed 4) can always be preceded by some green manure.
  • We’ll grow all of our cucumber with the corn next year. We tried it as an experiment this year, and it works well.  We also grow peas along the fringe of the bed, using the corn as support.
  • We’ll change the corn bed a little, planting less densely, and leaving some rows free entirely so we can grow zucchini in between.  This will hopefully give us more ears per plant, and actually increase our harvest.
  • We were never entirely clear on how much of an particular thing we’d need to last us the year.  We now have a much better idea, and so will:
    • Grow more onion.
    • Grow more garlic.
    • Grow less cucumber.
    • Grow more pumpkin or melons in place of that cucumber.
    • Grow less chillies.  In fact, I’ll keep some plants in the permanent bed and not bother growing them annually in The Patch at all.
    • We’ve also been able to refine our timings:
      • I used to grow tomatoes starting in October at the earliest, and wouldn’t be planting probably even as late as January. However, we started some here in August/September, and I’ve found a late-harvest variety that we planted in February. This will have to change year-to-year depending on the soil temperature, but it has the potential to extend our tomato harvest to cover nearly half the year.
      • Similarly, we found that we could plant corn much later than we normally would, and can extend that harvest by a month or two.
      • I found that garlic here comes in a little early, probably due to the openness of the beds and the heat we get here.
      • I’d normally grow carrots 12 months of the year. However, the seeds are susceptible to drying out, which means growing them over the December to February timeframe is a little tougher.  Rather than starting them then, we’ll plant them out early and have them established well ahead of summer.  The beauty of carrots, and particularly the stump-rooted ones we use, is that they keep in the ground and don’t bolt. We literally pick them only as we need them, and use the store as our larder.
      • Most of our staple crops worked well, though not all as well as I’d like, and we can now try some things that we’ve not grown before. In particular, I want to try:
        • Brussel Sprouts.
        • Suede.
        • Turnips.
        • Sweet Potatoes.
        • Sprouting Broccolis.
        • All different kinds of legumes.
        • Potato Onions.

It’s now February, 2013, and we’re slowly coming into the transition from warm to cooler weather crops.  I’ll break the hothouse out again shortly, we’ve ripped the tomatoes up to hang, are harvesting and preserving corn like crazy, are nearly ready to harvest the potatoes, and we’re looking at preparing a couple of the beds for the cooler weather.  I’m quite keen to try out our plan changes, see how they go, and then further refine it for next year.

The Patch's rotation system in a picture!

The Patch’s rotation system in a picture!

2 thoughts on “Planning The Patch!!!!

  1. Pingback: So. Much. Heat! | The Atherton Farm Blog

  2. Helpful. Just moved to Barossa and planning veggie beds in our small yard. Was going to put Zucchini with Corn but Jackie French’s Companion Planting said not to put with tall plants as may be exposed to powdery mildew. Maybe, as you say, leave enough room between your rows.

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