Being a person who likes to plan, I love designing my gardens. I usually forgo the usual straight rows and go for larger beds with a mixture of vegetables and flowers.
In past years I’ve hand-drawn my garden plans, but this year I designed my garden using the trial version at GrowVeg.Com. (I am not being compensated for this review. I just thought the trial version was very useful). This program was great. It let me put in exact dimensions and would calculate for me that amount of plants that would fit in a certain space. The drawing below is the final product. I ended up changing things here and there once I planted the garden (ex: broccoli and cauliflower seedlings are sold in packs of four so I planted all eight plants instead of the six shown on the plan – same with the cabbage; I also decided that I would rather plant turnip than rutabaga), but it was a great planning tool.
Since this will be my vegetable garden for a long time, I could finally create a garden plan using crop rotation. Crop rotation has been used for centuries and helps to maximize productivity while minimizing pests and disease.
There are many rotation strategies that you can use, with different time frames. I decided to go with the four-year “Legume – Root – Leaf – Fruit” rotation which I read about at Better Hens and Gardens. This system separates crops into their different nutritional needs.
The Leaf group contains plants that need a lot of nitrogen to grow. In my garden this year this included broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, lettuce, kohlrabi, swiss chard, bok choi, and spinach.The Legume group fixes nitrogen. That is why they go before the leaf group in the rotation. In my garden this year this included sugar peas, snap peas, pole beans, and bush beans. Although they do not fix nitrogen and are root crops, potatoes are included in this group for the rotation as they are members of the nightshade family and can be affected by the same insects as tomatoes and peppers. It is better if the potatoes (which technically would be in the root group) do not follow tomatoes and peppers (fruit group).
The Root group needs potassium, but not much nitrogen. That is why it is okay to plant them at the point in the rotation where there is the least nitrogen available. In my garden this year, the root group included beets, onions, garlic, carrots, radishes, and turnip.
The Fruit group needs phosphorus to fruit, and not too much nitrogen or else the plants will be all leaves and no fruit. In my garden this year, the fruit group included tomatoes, zucchini (summer squash), winter squash, hot peppers, and cucumbers.
This winter I’m going to create a new garden design for next year as the beds are in permanent locations, but the plants are changing . I’m looking forward to it!
Does anyone else get super excited about designing their gardens?