Planning the Gardens

When we first expanded beyond one garden here, my rotation plan was simple. We used three gardens–one for legumes, one for everything else, and one to rest.  The non-legumes followed the legumes, which followed the rested garden.

Now we’re up to 18 gardens so it’s a little more complicated.

For planning I created a document, listing the gardens and what will grow in them this year.  Each year the crops slide down one garden on the list, so I can tell from looking at the document not only what will be in a particular garden this year, but also what will be in it every year after this one.

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I keep separate documents with garden notes, lessons learned, ideas to try, etc.  Cherie keeps spreadsheets (more sophisticated than my documents) tracking expenses, sales, seed inventory, etc.

We’re always tinkering with it, but the system works pretty well for us.

I’m looking forward to working on actual gardens soon, as opposed to pieces of paper.

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36 comments on “Planning the Gardens

  1. BeeHappee says:

    18 gardens and spreadsheets!! That does sound complicated. Where will it end? 🙂 Someone somewhere out there probably sells software to track garden rotation and all that relates to it. Good luck.

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    • Bill says:

      There is software and it might be worthwhile for keeping track of rotation patterns in a small area, but my primitive system works fine for me, since an entire garden is devoted to each crop or family. Because we don’t use any off-farm inputs it’s important that we track rotation carefully I think. With my system all I have to do each year is move the crop down to the garden below it on the list. So simple and no software or spreadsheets needed.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, yes, as the snow once again falls this morning, I am dreaming of spending Spring time in the garden. We are supposed to get another three inches of snow. I am happy to be getting the best moisture for soil on the planet. However, my neighbors do not share the joy of receiving the nitrogen rich snow. Of course I can stand in the front windows of the house and wave at them with a steaming cup of coffee in hand as they fight their way to work. It’s not blizzard conditions but still the snow is coming down at a pretty good rate. I’ll just have to be content with planting some onion seeds on the heat mat today.

    You are way more organized than me. I have a garden planner that I use on a national magazine’s website. It keeps track of the garden areas for each year and indicates the best areas for the plants. If a plant of the same family is planned for an area, the software will warn me that it isn’t a good idea to plant the same family in this area. Structures, irrigation, fences, etc. can all be a part of the plan. It’s a great digital plan for my small gardening endeavors. It could be a bit unwieldy for a large operation like yours but it works good for me.

    Have a great garden planning day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Actually I’m not very organized. The garden planner you’re using is much more sophisticated than my primitive chart. I’ve seen it and would probably try to use it myself if I was doing rotation within a single garden as opposed to among gardens.

      It was clear and in the 50s here today and is supposed to top 60 in a couple of days. It’s been a very mild winter. We are yet to see any snow–and that’s just fine by me. 🙂

      I hope you find some joy in the snowy weather. I’m sure you have some neighbors who are jealous of your ability to stay home and not have to go driving in it.

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  3. bobraxton says:

    Good working partners. Just learned today the writings of Ragan Sutterfield (SP?) – now studying at Virginia Theological Seminary – the Dean’s Commentary: http://www.vts.edu/podium/default.aspx?t=119017

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  4. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Patience, my son… (This too shall pass; )
    Nice system, btw: )

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  5. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Patience, my son… (This too shall pass; )
    Nice system, btw: ). You two are SO organised!

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  6. Sue says:

    I wish I kept better notes.
    I started to keep notes on my blog last year–and then publishing it once a month. I liked that method—and posting once a month worked better for me as well. I think I might be a tad lazy….

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    • Bill says:

      It was your blog post with your garden diagram that prompted me to do this one. I enjoyed yours so I thought I’d share what I do, for what it’s worth.

      Keeping notes isn’t easy for me. Some people carry a little pad and pencil with them, or take notes on their smart phones. I’ve found that the best way for me is to use the voice memos function on my phone. I just dictate messages to myself as I see something that needs to be noted, then type them up later when I have time.

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  7. Impressive, Bill. It’s a long ways from one crop farming. –Curt

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  8. avwalters says:

    I keep a garden book, one of those hardbound “idea” books. Each year I map out what goes where, and then keep notes through the season on progress, problems and points. At the end of the year I summarize the notes, to go into the plan for the next year. That way, I have a good record for plant rotation, plant selection (what worked, what didn’t, and what we liked!) and issues with pests and critters. This year, based on the tracks in the snow, I figure our biggest hurdle will be bunnies. Any suggestions?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

      Hi A. V. Bunnies don’t like blood meal…

      Liked by 1 person

    • bobraxton says:

      Eastern Cottontail Rabbit ?

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      • avwalters says:

        Don’t know yet, I’m going by the number of prints I see in the snow.

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      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        How big are the tracks – or their “bunny balls”? LOL

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      • avwalters says:

        They are all sizes. The property is criss-crossed with tracks of all kinds, but the bunnies are everywhere. From small tracks (bunny would fit in a generous salad bowl) to really gargantuan (size of a small/medium dog) bunnies. From all the tracks, I can see the problem in a heartbeat. No predators. We have deer (lots and lots of deer), squirrels, chipmunks, mice, porcupines, raccoons, turkeys (loads of turkeys), tons o’ bunnies, and, you name it. We’ve seen one coyote up the road, but no prints in the snow at our place. In the air there are many raptors (including eagles), so maybe they thin the rabbits. I’m excited to hear about the blood meal.

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    • Bill says:

      That seems like a good way to do it. I use a spiral bound notebook to keep track of planting dates, reminders of what varieties are planted in each row, estimated harvest dates, etc. I probably need to consolidate some. If I turned it all over to Cherie she would probably log it all onto a spreadsheet.

      As I mentioned above, I use the voice mail function on my phone to dictate notes to myself while I’m working. That helps keep me from forgetting and is easier for me than trying to write notes in the field.

      Bunnies. We have them but compared to deer and groundhogs they’re a minor nuisance, so we don’t worry with them too much. I kept them out of our lettuce last year with chicken wire, which is inexpensive and reusable, but probably not foolproof.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        You ever tried eating those ‘chucks or bunnies? Roasted woodchuck /groundhog is AMAZING (similar to, but even better than a roast of pork; ) and canned cottontail is a taste-memory from childhood – also amazing!: )

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      • Bill says:

        Being Southern, we batter and fry rabbit. That’s the only way I’ve ever had it (other than when traveling). I’ll be honest–a groundhog just doesn’t look appetizing to me (and this is coming from a man who ate a lot of squirrels when I was growing up). I’ve heard they’re good, but I’m not inclined to try one. 🙂

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      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        Well, if you’re interested, I know that our friend FarmGal does canned meat and spoke of rabbit a while back… Not sure if she’s ever done a post on (pressure) canning rabbit or not (but I’m sure she’d be willing to share; )
        As for Chucks, they are your own pasture-fed beasts and especially love clover. (I had an orphaned baby as a pet, when I was a kid.) I’ve never had squirrel – Lord knows there’s enough of them around here): but, alas there are too many houses to hunt here anymore (and snares are frowned upon; ) but I know that woodchuck’d take a lot less work to make a meal; ) and I figure, if you’re going to feed an animal, you should be able to eat it too! ; )

        Liked by 1 person

    • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

      Since Michigan is specifically mentioned in the description … http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_cottontail

      Liked by 1 person

  9. You do need a system for that many gardens. We’re in that moment of planning with no idea when we can start digging!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. If your system is simple, easy to use and you aren’t having any problems, than it is a success. I like working with software but sometimes it takes more time than it’s worth!
    For example – I was using Quicken for tracking my finances but saw that lots of farmers were using QuickBooks, so thought I better get ahead of the game and switch over so when we do have a real farm business I’ll be on top of it. Well, that hasn’t worked out so well. QuickBooks is way more complicated [to me] and doesn’t have that automated connection with my financial institutions that Quicken had. Now I have to enter all of the data manually where before it was done pretty much automatically. Needless to say I am way behind (my plan to do it at least once a month has failed) and it’s tax prep time and I have a years worth of data to enter. My failure to get on top of it weighs on me daily, but my point is “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it!”

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    • Bill says:

      Yes, it works for me–but I’m sure I could improve it. It’s better now than it used to be. Mainly I just need to reduce the number of separate records I think.

      As for bookkeeping, I’m embarrassed to admit that we’re still paying someone to do our taxes. It’s one of our biggest annual expenses and we’ve talked about the need to take that back. Our tax situation was pretty complicated for a while, but is simple enough now that we could probably do it ourselves. Cherie handles the day to day bookkeeping and I’m not sure what system she uses. I think she just manually enters the data onto spread sheets. In any event, I’m glad that’s not my job.

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  11. I cannot imagine doing a garden on such a big scale Bill. I love how organised you are. Must make life a lot easier too.
    Have a super day.
    🙂 Mandy xo

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    • Bill says:

      Thanks Mandy. But considering that this is our vocation, I don’t think I’m as organized as I should be. But it seems to be working OK, and I guess that’s what matters.

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