Our Market Garden Plot for 2018
Hello, friends! I hope you are excited for this post because I have been wanting to share our market garden plot plan for a while now. I actually have had this post drafted since February when I first started drawing up the plans, but so many things have changed since then. One of the bigger parts of that being that we added over 12,000 square feet from the original 6,500 square feet we originally thought we were working with. Our total square footage for the garden is 19,250 square feet as of today. That's just under half of an acre, which isn't that huge in comparison to other small farm scales, but it's a whole heck of a lot bigger than what we worked with last year. It's massive to me. Sometimes I look at it and think, "What did we just get ourselves into?" and other days I am so excited to have this gigantic field of potential. This fall we hope to take out the rest of the aronia bushes and turn that into more planting space including 2-3 high tunnels. That makes about 1.8 acres!
It's a work in progress. These photos were taken today at around 6 AM, while my dad and I weeded and mulched. I have written about the weeds in various places, so I apologize if I sound like a broken record! They are a bit of a battle right now, but it's something that we are about half way finished with. Woohoo! I took this before torching all of that green behind my dad. So that's done!
Today I am sharing our plot plan because I think it's important. When I first started planning out this year's garden I was incredibly anxious, confused, and doubtful. While the internet can be an extremely helpful place, especially on the topic of gardening, I was finding nothing on plotting a large scale garden. There's barely anything on plotting a normal sized garden for a family of 2-4 people! Garden plans are far and few to come by, and I am still trying to figure out why that is. As a small farmer I am finding it a little frustrating that so many other small farms do not share their plots... But I also get it. It's hard to reveal your work in case someone else takes it and runs with it. I get that. It's business.
Sharing my garden plot doesn't scare me at all, even if someone was to "steal" this plan. I am just going to change it next year. So who cares? That's the beauty of a garden plot. It changes every single season, if you practice crop rotation (which you should)! Besides, anyone can grow vegetables in any order they want. This is just how I chose to do it, and I thought that it might help you figure out how to organize a plot fore more efficient production.
The confusing parts for me were:
- SPACING. How do I space everything so that it looks uniform, creates beneficial health for the plants, and maximizes my yields? When it comes to vegetables, you have to somewhat follow the rules when it comes to spacing - flowers not so much.
Spacing tomatoes too close together when they are allowed to spread out in the open (AKA not on a trellis) means that touching plants can lead to disease. No good! I ended up going with a strict bed and row spacing. This didn't happen for my chard/arugula, carrots, broccoli, beets, radishes, kale, kohlrabi, and scallion beds because I didn't figure out the equation until after I had planted those. There's reality for you!
All of my beds (save for those) are 30 inches wide by 50 feet long. Why? It gives me enough room to fit at least 2 rows for plants with a lot of spread (i.e. tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, basil, etc) and at most 4-5 rows for plants that don't need much space (i.e. radishes, salad mix, carrots, arugula, etc). 50 feet long is the length of my soaker hoses. I didn't realize this until after planting again... so some rows are 70 feet long, and I have this huge gap down the center this year. My walking paths are 14 inches. Just enough room to walk and pick comfortably as well as maximizing space for plants.
- WHERE TO PUT EVERYTHING. Figuring out this garden was so different from my last because companion planting felt almost out of the question. This is not to say that companion planting cannot be done on a large scale like this - it can! I just didn't have the time to figure that out this year; I wanted production and efficiency. This garden didn't get to be whimsical and haphazard. My garden last year had beds with plants intermingling. This has very specific beds... Would that still effect companions and antagonists? I thought yes, in ways. I decided to plant things that definitely did not like each other far away from one another, but I did not interplant anything this year. The basil and tomatoes are close because they enjoy each other, peppers and eggplant are the same. Corn and beans can withstand each other's company and all of the greens are together to keep from fighting. If you need help with companion planting check out my companions and antagonists chart!
I think we came out okay in the end! Is it my perfect plot? Definitely not. The huge space going down the center of the main vegetable beds is a waste of space to me. I could have shortened the length of all of the beds on the far left to 50 feet, left a 4 foot walking path down the center, and everything would have shifted left leaving more room for pumpkins. That's probably my biggest mistake here.
My other mistakes are starting to come up... Weeds! I am learning which tools I will need for next year. This has been a major learning curve. I actually just got a new tool in the mail, a flame weeder, that I am excited to share with you here soon along with my other favorites for weeding!
If I could recommend anything to anyone looking to do high intensity small scale farming, do everything at the length of your hoses and fencing. Most fencing and hoses come in lengths of 50 feet, 75 feet, 100 feet, or 125 feet. Don't do 46 feet (I did this - duh). Just do 50 for everything, and your life will be much easier! Also, look into drip irrigation. It is saving my life, my time, and my energy.
Once vegetables are ready to harvest, I will be keeping them in the same beds for the length of the season. For example, when I harvest the radishes, more radishes will go there. All four rows are planted in succession (about a week apart), so row one will come out first, then row two, and so on. I will most likely be amending the soil with some compost and worm castings after each harvest to resupply nutrients. Once the growing season is over, I will amend with a cover crop to act as a green manure. Then next growing season, the rotation will begin!
If you have a question be sure to leave a comment or shoot me a message. I'd love to help you figure something out! Again, plots are important. A willy nilly garden can be beautiful, but not if you want maximum yields to sell to other people!