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crop rotation

If your home kitchen garden is in a temperate zone of the northern hemisphere, your growing season is truly coming to a close. If your home kitchen garden is in a southern hemisphere temperate zone, you’ve probably already planted your cool-weather spring vegetables. Please refer to the box, Southern Spring Vegetables, for some thoughts especially for spring planting.

For you winter-bound northerners, I have an important recommendation: map your garden as you put it to bed for the winter.

Map Your Home Kitchen Garden?

An early map of my home kitchen garden back when I tried to cram as much as possible into a small space. Back then I allowed only 18 inches between rows.

By keeping track of where you’ve grown things this year, you’ll be prepared next season to plant the same vegetables in different locations.

Crop Rotation for Nutritional Balance

Farmers and long-time gardeners understand that it is crucial to rotate crops in any garden. For example, it’s standard practice to plant corn one season, and soy beans the next in the same field. The reason is simple: corn plants devour nitrogen; soy bean plants “fix” nitrogen into the soil. Each crop is happy to follow the other.

All plants you grow in your home kitchen garden have their own nutritional needs. Potatoes, for example, prefer acidic soil (low PH), but they don’t require a lot of humus (decayed plant matter). Tomatoes, on the other hand, enjoy acidic soil, and will grow pretty well on a compost heap—or even in soil containing 50% raw manure.

Crop Rotation Beats Disease and Pests

There is a disturbing number of diseases, insects, and other pests that want a part of your home kitchen garden. One simple and effective way to reduce the damage is to confuse the bugs by moving their favorite foods out from under them.

Consider: if your tomatoes contract blight one season, planting more in the same place next season increases the chance that the new year’s crop will also get blight. By planting at the opposite end of the garden, you put a buffer between where the blight was, and where it would do the most damage.

Southern Spring Vegetables

If any of you in the southern hemisphere are still getting around to planting, plant peas! Have you already planted your home kitchen garden without including peas? Then quickly find some space for peas, and then plant some!

Why am I encouraging you to plant peas? Many things you grow in a home kitchen garden are indistinguishable from the same items bought from local growers at farmers’ markets and roadside produce stands. I have never bought peas anywhere that were as good as the ones I grow at home. In fact, home-grown peas are so much better than any store-bought or locally-grown peas that my kids give me attitude about which ones they’ll eat and which ones they’d rather not.

When you grow your own peas, you obtain a crucial ingredient for a sublime springtime dinner experience. Each spring, this is the main event that gets me gardening—though I enjoy many other foods prepared from my garden crops, the one I anticipate most of all is a pot of creamed potatoes and peas. I’m sure there are many fine recipes for this dish under any of the names: creamed potatoes and peas, creamed peas and potatoes, new potatoes and peas, or new peas and potatoes.

In a few weeks, I’ll put together a “how-to” article so you can cook up your own pot of this delicacy when your spring peas are ready. Please don’t miss out: make sure you plant peas in your home kitchen garden as early in spring as possible.

Your Home Kitchen Garden Map

Mapping your home kitchen garden needn’t be a big chore. A rough sketch with labels or symbols marking the various crops is enough. In a fit of zealousness one year, I drew a map of my 15 foot by 15 foot raised bed garden on my computer. Each season, I printed the map and then wrote in the names of items I’d planted. I’ve scanned one of those early maps and included it in this post.

It’s crazy simple. The vertical lines in my map mark off one foot increments. You can see that I planted tomatoes that year six inches from the wood that holds in the soil of my raised bed… and a second row of tomatoes just two feet to the east of the first row.

I planted lettuce and spinach in the corner of the garden, figuring it’d be gone by the time my squash plants needed the space—and the squash row was right next to the lettuce and spinach. I also planted peas in a space convenient to the squash plants; peas are usually finished by early summer when squash is just getting going.

Anyway, the layout and rationale for one of my home kitchen garden plantings isn’t so important as it is that you map your own garden. Then, tuck that map where you’ll be able to find it when the ground starts to thaw. I kept mine on a clipboard that I stored under my workbench. Over the years, I never threw out a map; just added the new year’s map onto the stack. I’d have done just as well to store my garden maps in a folder in my filing cabinet.

Whatever you do, make sure you’ll know one year’s map from another’s. Looking at the one I posted here, it bothers me that I didn’t at least write the calendar year on it. Oh, well. You’ll do better.

Here are other articles with thoughts that may prove useful as you plan next year’s home kitchen garden:

  • Vegetable Garden Layout – Sprawling acres of land or just a deck or patio or containers, you can fulfill vegetable gardening desires. Here is comprehensive information for making a successful vegetable garden.

  • vegetable gardening – Ill briefly cover the basics of vegetable garden design, but you might also want to get some gardening books. Planning your garden is one of the most important parts of vegetable gardening, and its quite simple. …

  • Vegetable Garden Design Hinges On Chosen Crops – Image via Wikipedia Getting ready to put in a garden can be an exciting time in the spring and determining the vegetable garden design can be part of the process of planning what vegetables to plant where in the garden. …

  • Design The Perfect Vegetable Garden To Suit Your Dinner Table – When creating your vegetable garden design, you want to make sure that each seed is placed at least six inches apart. Any less than that and you risk overcrowding, which means that your vegetable garden may not produce as much as you …

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