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For more topics in
the series, click on Market Farming Basics in the left
column.What to plant where
Planning your field or garden
layout is one of the most challenging aspects of vegetable production
because multiple goals must be accommodated in the plan. Rotations,
planting dates, time to maturity, duration of harvest, and microclimates
are have to be considered. You also need to know recommended crop
spacing so you can calculate how many plants will fit. It's a
complicated exercise, especially considering that it should change every
year, so you need to design your next planting plan with an eye to the
Experienced growers find it helpful to divide their farms
into "management units" as a way of reducing the complexity. A
management unit on a large farm might be an entire field. On a small
farm, it could be a block of beds. In a garden, each bed might be
considered its own unit. The overall goal of your design should be to
reduce work and waste while providing the best possible growing
conditions for each crop. Here are some of the considerations that
should guide your planning:
Figure out how much you want to grow of each crop, based on your market
expectations and past experience. Then calculate how many plants you
need to produce that quantity and how much space you need for that
number of plants. Johnny's has several resources to expedite these
calculations, such as the yield chart in the catalog and a new seed
calculator onlineCrop rotations
over time are extremely important in vegetable production success.
Rotating crops breaks up insect, weed, and disease cycles and helps to
balance nutrients across the farm. The first element of a crop rotation
should be based on the botanical families of your crops. Don't grow
plants in the same family on the same piece of land for at least three
years; four or five years is better. Ideally, crops can be rotated
through your management units, so the best system is to have four or
five units for a long rotation.
Group crops by production
practices such as cultivation practices, row covering, days to maturity,
lines of drip tape needed, nutrient and water demand, and pest control.
Keeping crops with similar requirements together will expedite tasks
and give the field a neater appearance later in the season. For example,
it might be quickest to plant lettuce and onions in the same bed
because they can be planted at the same time in spring. But lettuce will
be harvested within 45 days, whereas storage onions might be in the
field for 100 days or more. The bed will need to be weeded and watered
for the onions long after the lettuce is gone. Try to group crops that
are planted and harvested at approximately the same time.
crops according to harvest requirements. Some crops such as watermelons
and sweet corn are so heavy you'll need a tractor or vehicle to move
them out of the field. Others such as salad mix can be carried in a tub.
Think about these and other access issues in planning your fields.
all these nuances in mind, you can start mapping. Some growers use
spreadsheets. Others use index cards, with one crop on each card. Others
map out the next season on graph paper, then cut the units apart and
reassemble them for the following season. However you do it, it takes
considerable skill and vision to create a multi-year planting plan. But
once accomplished, your plan will be a tremendous asset to your farm.• Subscribe to Growing for
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Reprinted from JSS Advantage December 2009