At the moment there’s a good layer of snow in our garden, so this is my time of the year to start with a blank sheet of paper and design this year’s vegetable garden! I love to think ahead about all meals we will have in the coming seasons, what ingredients we need & what extra’s would be nice. I like to fantasize about a 3D explosion of colors, scents and how to realize that.
To get inspiration, I like to browse around on Pinterest, and re-pin the pictures that inspire me for our own garden. You can have a look at my collection of nice garden pictures on http://www.pinterest.com/barbarascheltus/garden-inspiration/
Design starting points
When designing our garden I use a few “musts”. Everything in our garden must be:
3. harmonious, and
4. adding at least 3 benefits.
Those benefits can be: edible, bee or bird attracting, repelling bad bugs, good companion plant, adding nutrients to the soil, food for animals, nice to look at, nice to smell, providing shade, making good mulch…
It must be ecological because I love the earth and its beauty and I don’t want to destroy or interfere too much with artificial things. So that also explains why I want only decomposable materials. Wooden sticks for my peas to climb in, hemp rope where needed and no plastic will be seen in my garden.
Crop rotation at Bogata Suma
I start the design process with choosing a main vegetable family for each bed. You should know that my garden has many round patches where I grow many different plants together. So when I speak about my tomato bed, there is definitely also basil and parsley in it, carrots to loosen up the soil, chives, marigold flowers, and perhaps some lettuce in the shade.
This “ main vegetable” I choose according to my crop rotation system:
1st year bean family
2nd year tomato family
3rd year easy greens,
4th year cabbages.
If I would grow the same vegetables in the same spots every year, my soil would be depleted from nutrients. But with crop rotation, the previous crop could even provide the nutrients for the next one! Like legumes which fix nitrogen in the soil. I don’t pull these plants out, but snap them off so their roots stay there fixing nitrogen. And after these nitrogen fixers, I grow tomatoes in the same place. (more on crop rotation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crop_rotation)
Polyculture at Bogata Suma
Because we also do polyculture (multiple crops in the same bed), it is a bit difficult to be strict with crop rotation. So that’s why I always take a “main vegetable” around which I sow and plant companions in this bed.
Why polyculture? Because it makes bettter use of space (more 3D) and time (later crops germinate when the earlier ones are picked), because I like the abundance of colors and shapes, and I like to be surprised by lettuce under a big Swiss chard leaf. Or a surprise carrot in the shade of a tomato, that loosens up the soil under the tomato plant.
Another important (for us) benefit of polyculture: these surprises in the garden make us more creative in the kitchen! When I’m on the hunt for dinner vegetables, I find many useful herbs and ingredients that can go with it.
If you want to see or taste our garden yourself, you’re welcome at Bogata Suma!