Planning Ahead

The seed catalogs have started to arrive. The days are short and unrushed. This is the time of year when we start imagining next years gardens.

In a little over a month we’ll have our annual all-day, end-of-year review. The biggest item on the agenda is whether to continue growing produce for sale. It’s been a fairly close call the last two years and it isn’t a foregone conclusion that we’ll continue. But for now I’m being optimistic and considering the changes we’ll make if we keep at it.

After seriously pondering things for the past couple of months, I’ve tentatively decided to retire seven of our larger gardens. And for rotation purposes I will consolidate four of our current gardens into two. The end result is that we’ll have a six-garden rotation in the future, rather than our current 16 garden rotation. Rather than limit all gardens to one crop per year, my tentative plan is to double crop two of the six, following Irish potatoes with fall brassicas and following spring crops with sweet potatoes and purple hull peas. We’ll continue using cover crops of course.

Under the new plan we’ll have less area to protect from deer and we can concentrate our nutrients more.

This is a compromise I made with myself. I was torn between continuing the status quo and going to a much smaller 3 garden system. The plan I came up with retains the original three garden rotation I’d been considering, but adds a second three garden rotation: watermelons, eggplant/acorn squash, onions/garlic. Eggplant and acorn squash may seem like an odd combination, especially since we don’t have much of a market for them. But as of now they’re the only things we grow, other than garlic, that deer don’t eat. So I’m going to grow a lot of them next year and if most end up at the food bank or in the compost pile, so be it. It’s an experiment.

If our year end analysis proves that we’re just wasting our time and losing money, then we’ll go back to concentrating on just growing food for ourselves. If that happens I’ll finally have time to do some of the other things I’d planned to do when we took up this lifestyle, but never seem to have time for these days.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying the seed catalogs and dreaming of next year’s beautiful gardens.