It’s finally springtime! I’m so relieved and so excited about the growing season ahead.
In the winter, I feel like a little seed buried in the heavy soil, sitting in the dark alone, waiting for warmth and light. It’s hard to be motivated to do very much except hibernate. My body tells me to eat lots of warm, doughy foods and take lots of naps. By the time we reach the Spring Equinox, I’m doubting that I’ll ever have the energy to do more than my day job again.
But then it happens – the crocus emerge from the soil, soon followed by daffodils and then tulips. The trees blossom out with pink and white cherry blossoms, the dogwoods put on their brief little show and the forsythia explode bursts of bright, sunny yellow all over the neighborhood. The clouds part for a few glorious days, the sun comes beaming through and the soil begins to warm. And every year the little seed inside me sprouts too. Full of energy and enthusiasm about doing anything outside that will put dirt under my fingernails.
I’ve been thinking, plotting and planning this year’s garden all winter. I used my “Lessons learned in 2018” to make some adjustments this year and hope to improve some things that the garden struggled with last year.
Crop rotation is one of the most important keys to a healthy and productive garden. I’ve tried to group plants of the same genus so they can be rotated together through the beds. For example, I love Brassicas so I plant kale, cabbage, turnips, broccoli and bok choy in the same bed, and rotate which bed they are planted in each year. Of course, the beds are only so big so occasionally I have to put a Brassica in a bed with something else, but in general I try to follow this practice.
Crop rotation is important because plants of different genus absorb different nutrients from the soil. When growing plants to eat, it’s important that the soil have time to replenish those nutrients. If the same type of plant is planted in the same location year after year, the soil will become devoid of vitamins and minerals we need in our food. Crop rotation allows the soil to have time to replenish the nutrients from one year because the next type of plant will call for a different set of nutrients. It also helps reduce pests that can harm plants. Ideally, one area of the garden would be planted with a green manure crop and then allowed to rest for a season without having anything else planted in it. In my small garden, I am somewhat limited in my rotation abilities due to the solar path and number of beds I have. I do the best I can to keep similar plants together and always add fresh compost to amend the soil with nutrients at the beginning of the growing season.
I’ve grouped my Brassicas in Bed A. They will be sharing the bed with peas, spinach, lettuce and radishes. I figured this would be okay since those plants will be harvested first and then the bed can be just for kale, turnips and bok choy.
I will be planting tomatoes in Bed B this year, even though they were there last year. I have to do this because they need lots of hot sun at the end of the growing season. The plants work so hard all summer to grow fruit and then September and October are all about ripening. They do well up against the hot brick of our fireplace and that bed stays in the path of the sun all the way through the winter. I compensated for this lack of rotation by planting a green manure cover crop in the bed over the winter, hoping that would help to replenish some of what the tomatoes took last year.
Bed C is fairly stationary since it’s the strawberry bed. However, I will be adding some new herbs to the bed with milk jug collars to protect them from overly excited strawberry leaves.
Bed D will be tomatoes with cucumbers and onions.
Bed E will be squash and green beans again. I plan to do pole beans this year, rather than bush beans and I’m going to install an arbor between Bed A and E and let the beans climb up and over it. I think that will look pretty cool and will make picking green beans easier.
My pots will have bell peppers again but they’ll be in different pots than last year. I’ll also have potatoes in two of the pots for the first time this year.
Happy Spring Equinox! Leave me a comment and let me know how you’re feeling about spring. Will you be growing anything this year?