My 2017 March garden is different than any one I have done before. This year, I am working with plant families and planning on crop rotation in future years. Last year, I learned about companion plants and beneficial insects. This year in the March garden I will put my knowledge into practice.
The Garden Layout
This year’s garden layout is similar to last year‘s, in that I have small plots dedicated to certain crops. It is different in that I have planned for better water retention, and better use of vertical spaces.
This is the plot plan for my 2017 March garden. I realized that the water flow in my garden was from the bottom of the plan to the top, and there were low areas in the garden. To overcome this, I built berms perpendicular to the water flow, in order to slow the water down, and allow it to sink into the ground. I also built up the beds, so they were above the water, and the plants would not have soggy roots.
I still have the various plots, but this time, I have 19 different areas.
The first 4 plots are once again for herbs, positioned closest to the gate and easiest to get to. I have increased the planting of certain herbs at the request of my wife, and based on our usage of the herbs last year. For instance, we ran out of ginger, so I am planting twice as much this year. Another example is not planting Marjoram as a herb. I will plant it as a part of the vegetable garden, to increase pepper plant yields.
My plots are divided into Fallow, Leaf crops, Fruit crops, and Root crops. Each of these groups have similar requirements, so planning them this way will make it easier to decide what goes where. Also, I can rotate the whole plot to another plot next year, making that task easier also.
So, right now, I have one plot, number 9, in leaf crops that I planted last year. They are cold-hardy crops, and survived our little freeze in December.
I have also planted plot 13 and 5 in leaf crops, and they are in various stages of growth. I stagger planted them, so some are getting large, while others are just getting started. My main leaf crops are Kale, Lettuce, Spinach and Swiss Chard.
Plots 7 and 11 are dedicated to root crops. Plot 7 has beets and carrots, while plot 11 has potatoes. After the potatoes are done for the year, I will follow with sweet potatoes, more beets, onions and carrots. I’m sticking with the root crops in this plot for the year.
Tomato, Pepper and Eggplant are the main fruit crops I grow. They will be in Plot 14, 10 and 6. I also have extra space in plot 6, 17, and 18, where I am planting Pumpkin, Cantaloupe and Watermelon. have never tried Pumpkin, and the Watermelon and Cantaloupe have not been a great success in years past. Hopefully, I can use companion plantings to help them along, and attract beneficial insects to eat the bad bugs.
I am letting some plots rest for a year. Beans, peas and clover will be planted in the fallow plots in order to enrich the soil with nitrogen. They key to this is to not let the crops flower. You need to cut them back before they flower in order to keep the nitrogen in the roots system. Otherwise, the plants use the nitrogen for growing flowers and fruits.
During the winter, some plots were planted in clover, and I “chop and dropped” them several times. That means I cut them down, and left the clover tops to decay on the surface of the plot. This practice increases the nutrients available to other crops, earthworms and microbes, shades the soil, helps water retention and decreases ability of weeds to sprout. Plus, the clover grows back, and I can do it all again later.
Other crops in the March Garden
I also have a plot set aside for corn, and some areas for garlic and onions. The garlic and onions went in last year, and are in an out-of-the-way spot, because they will be growing for 6 months or so.
My garden is enclosed in a five-foot cattle panel fence, and I am planning to use the fence as a trellis. One side will have Malabar Spinach, which is already sprouting volunteer plants from last year. I will also plant cucumbers and pole beans and peas along the other sides of the garden.
I also have a trellis inside the garden. This year, I am trying to make the trellis at an angle. This will allow the fruit to hang free of the trellis, making them easier to pick. It will also shade the ground under it, which will allow me to grow shade-tolerant crops there, and hopefully, keep the temperature down.
All things subject to change
While I was writing this post, I realized my crop rotation plan was off. I have 2 Root plots following each other, and also 2 Fruit plots following each other. Back to the drawing board for the 2018 garden! I will also continue to build up the beds, so they stay above the water during the one or two big storms we get. Last year, the storms drowned my potatoes and some of the tomatoes.
So, that is my March garden. I put these monthly updates out so you can see what I am actually doing, in near real time. The garden is beginning to come together, and hopefully will be easier to manage this year and in the future. Gardening is always a work in progress, and an experience in continuing education. I will keep you informed of what works and doesn’t work as the gardening year progresses!