To the surprise of no one that knows me, the fact that I now have 10,000 sq feet of garden to plan has my gourd in overdrive. The bed layouts are set-the tractor that we are cutting the field with has a 48″ rototiller on it-add a 1′ path between each bed and that nets me 20 beds 4×100.
Let that sink in for a minute-I grew alot of food this year in my seven beds. We fed our family to a large part, canned gallons and gallons, and sold about $500 in surplus. Each of my beds is about 80 sq ft and 2 were fallow. So my working garden this past year was about 400 sq feet. That is equal to only one of the 20 beds I am planning next year. Odin’s Burning Beard that is alot of space!
The original plan was to plant only 3-4 of the beds and those only with crops that need little attention-like root crops that only need to be harvested once. The spirit of that is still alive, but I am expanding to fill the beds quickly. Here is my rough plan:
Actually it will be 3 spring and 3 summer, but it will take 6 total as the summer bed with have a spring legume crops, and the spring crop will have a winter cover of rye/vetch. This should net me about 2000+lbs of potatoes. I have about 1000lbs pre sold to friends and neighbors if the quality holds. Plans are for Purple Viking and Yukon Gold. Price of organic potatoes right now is about $1/lb, and my overhead for these beds will be about $400. You won’t get rich on potatoes (look at the Irish), but a 5:1 return ain’t bad either.
Only 2-3 of the beds will be for direct sale-looking to fully support one restaurant for at least a month with all their lettuce, tomato, and cucumber needs. This plan will be the first to be nixed if time is tight. The tomatoes will be a mix of Roma’s, Cherries, and a wonderful cultivar from Seed Savers called German Pink that was completely oblivious to drought, floods, and lack of calcium this year. We were getting $5/lb for our lettuce, $2-3/lb for our tomatoes, and about half that for the cucumbers. Overhead for these beds will be less than the potatoes, with a much better return. Of course you have to work them about 20x more…
We are starting a small informal partnership with a couple up the hill that also happens to have a root cellar and enjoys eating local, so in addition to 400 heads of garlic and the ton of potatoes, I will also put in a bed of dried beans trellised over carrots and beets, and another of winter squash. I think I can build a 100′ long (and 6′ high) gale proof trellis for 2 rows of beans for under $100 that involves alot of baling wire, jute twine and some 2×2 cedar. Expect a How To post next year!
In between each of the above beds (all of which will be under a cover crop when not in production) I will have a bed of buckwheat (6-7 total). Buckwheat attracts alot of beneficial insects, and also smothers quack grass effectively- and we are basically planting in a field of quack grass now so it will be needed to out complete the rhizomes. Plus I like to make pancakes!
I am still deluding myself that this is doable along with running a side business and working a full time job as an executive. It will mean alot of time weeding and harvesting with the kids after work, but it will also mean that I am living my dream. No doubt some of the above crops will fail due to neglect or farmer burnout, but I will learn an immense amount of hands on knowledge, build relationships with the owners and the local market gardening community, and all around get myself closer to our Someday where we are running a working farmette and deriving a significant amount of our income from it.
If I can break even I will be very pleased-if I can pay for some cool new tools I will be thrilled. But regardless, if I can pull it off I will have made a huge impact on the amount of food grown in our village and sold in our resturaunts.
Be the Change!