Plan Next Season's Garden Now

| 2/11/2014 10:29:00 AM

Tags: biointensive gardening, crop rotation, Erik Thiel, Pennsylvania,

winter gardenWinter down-time from the garden can be depressing. This I am learning. It also can be a great time for planning next season’s garden. I want to be ready this spring by knowing what I am planting and when. I want to have Romanesco seeds started in containers by April and ready to transplant by May, the same time I want to plant bush beans in containers and carrots in the ground. Once June is here I want to have potatoes in the ground with pole beans and corn there too. And I can’t forget about Winter Luxury pumpkins.

Headed into our fourth season, we have 3, 8-by-4 foot beds established and crop rotation is in effect. One bed is for roots, such as potatoes and carrots. A second is for legumes, such as beans and peas. And our third is for brassicas, such as broccolis and rutabagas. We also have a fourth bed started where winter rye was planted last fall. We will continue with cover crops here through the summer to build soil fertility and then we will add an allium bed into our crop rotation, starting with garlic. Until then, now is the time to form a general plan and begin ordering seeds, or organizing seeds, so we can be ready in just a few weeks.


I love broccoli. My girlfriend does not. Broccoli is one of those foods I consider a gardener’s delight. I can come home, still dirty from work and walk right into the garden where I’ll lose myself. I’m usually hungry, and there is broccoli. I can pick it, eat it, be satisfied and lose myself some more. If it was up to me, the whole 8-by-4 foot brassica bed would be a random mix of broccoli. But it’s not.

Last year we attempted to grow one, 8-foot row of Romanesco and did not have much luck. I think we got greedy and did not follow spacing requirements. Maybe we didn’t start them early enough. But we did harvest one. This year we will try again with another row.

The 8-by-4 foot garden bed where the brassicas will go this season is not really 8-by-4 feet. It’s mapped out to that size, but it’s next to a falling-apart concrete bench that shades out between 2-to-3 feet of the garden bed during the sunniest part of the afternoon. This year I think I can part with broccoli and hope the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) provides a lot. My neighbor also likes broccoli as much as I do. Hopefully he will like Romanesco even more. I know I do. And so does my girlfriend.

Another thing we grew last season that is making its second appearance are rutabagas. Joan rutabagas to be exact. At the store they come covered in wax and the CSA does not grow them. More reason to grow them here. Last season we had a great harvest, then we improperly stored them and did not get to bring them to Thanksgiving dinner. This year we know to store them in the refrigerator.

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