This is the fourth year that I have sat down and actually planned out our yearly vegetable garden on paper. Our 2012 vegetable garden layout takes into account crop rotation, the fact that we have some new garden space thanks to an expansion last fall and some new, hopefully fun, crops we want to try.
Crop rotation is always my number one priority when planning the vegetable garden. I have struggled with this for many years. Browse the internet and you find a potpourri of recommendations about plant families, companion crops and the like. Some are similar and others vastly different. My own thoughts are that you should plant vegetables from the same family together and them clump them into companionable groups that are roughly the same size. These groups can be rotated in your vegetable garden every 3 to 5 years. For me that meant finally settling on 5 different plant groupings:
- Potatoes (or roots) — potatoes stand alone as a group because we grow so many.
- Carrots & allium – grouped together because onions, garlic and carrots are good companion plants and collectively they form about one fifth of our garden. also included here are parsnip and celery, both in the carrot family.
- Beetroot, cabbage, greens & herbs – again beets do well with brassicas and I couldn’t find any references that indicated any of the greens or herbs I grow have any negative effect on either plant family.
- Legumes – a large group for our family this needed to be a stand alone section in our garden.
- Fruits (tomatoes, squash, peppers, cucumbers) – while tomatoes and peppers are actually in the same family as potatoes, lumping them with the potatoes made too large a grouping and made crop rotation difficult. I am careful however never to plant potatoes after tomatoes and peppers or vice versa.
This year we also are continuing in our mission of trying new crops. Growing our own dried beans last year was a great success and so we are adding even more legumes to the list this year with borlotti beans, lentils, edamame and peanuts. While we love peas, it is a challenge to grow them in a garden that has several resident chipmunks. We have tried fencing the peas in, covering them with netting all not highly successful. This year I found some seeds for Tall Telephone Peas. I am planning to put some kind of barrier at the bottom (like a squirrel baffle) to hopefully prevent these lovely critters from decimating our crop again this year.
Also new on the list — Quinoa. I have no idea how to grow this but life is all about the challenge, so why not.
I have also uploaded a pdf copy if you would like to see a larger view of my 2012 Vegetable Plan Layout.