1/10 Acre Veggie Garden

I’ve been dorking out on my new MacBook and the iWork software I bought with it. Thus far, despite complete ignorance of Macs, I have found the Pages and Numbers applications to be very intuitive and much slicker for my purposes than the Microsoft equivalents I use at work. Unfortunately, apparently only 4 other people in the world us them, so to share documents I export into PDF’s- a lot. Here is one:

1/10th Acre Sustainable Veggie Plot

At first blush there is a lot of wasted space. A 4000 sq ft garden with only 1000 sq ft of “productive” beds?! But 33% of the beds are designed to be under long season cover crop at all times- as I get more elegant with my rotations this may be overkill. There is also 1000 sq ft of perennial herb/flower beds to attract benificials that will also produce significant amounts of cut flowers and trace nutrients for the table. This is critical to the long term sustainability of the plot. Without attracting and keeping a strong population of beneficial insects, bacteria and fungus eventually the gardens will fal prey to overwhelming pest invasions. The paths may be overkill and could easily be trimmed from their current 2′ to as little as 1′ on every other path. I would keep the 5′ access path for harvesting the significant amounts of produce from this garden and for trucking in compost and mulch. The “wasted” space allows the soil to rest and recharge fertility after being “pulsed” with heavy feeding annual vegetable crops. The hope is that by incorporating so much cover crop and perrenials that the plot will add fertility over time without additional inputs.

Another specific goal I was trying to design into this layout was a rotation system to significantly reduce the pest pressures of conventional vegetable gardens. Circling the entire perimiter with a diverse mix of flowers designed to attract predatory insects will force any pests to run a gauntlet before reaching the crops. For the same reason every year, the rotation crosses a perenial bed to force any pests that over winter to search far and wide for their food-increasing the likelihood that they will become food themselves in turn. As the rotation crosses the flower bed, it “drops” one bed, once it reaches the “bottom” of its three bed section it will cross back to the top. I tried to show this in the PDF but it got wicked busy. I may try again as this description is rough too.

The Rotational system divides the crops into groups by Plant Family, allowing 2 beds per plant family per year. Following the rotation ensures that 6 years passed between each plant family residing in each bed. Added layers of biodiversity and productivity can be added by incorporating succesional plantings in each bed to get two crops, and/or preceding or succeeding each with a short season cover crop to rebuild soil structure.

This design can be cut in half or more by shortening the beds from 40′ to 20′, 10′ or less, and can be expanded indefinitely by stacking layouts next to each other. I also plan on making this a “no-till” using chicken “tractors” to incorporate cover crops and fertilize the beds after harvest and before plantings. By not breaking the soil surface you encourage immensely more productive and diverse soil ecosystems, and it also makes it Peak Proof by taking out the fossil fuels completely.

I have 3 more books on this subject in my Winter Reading queue which should help me fill in the holes of the successional plantings in each bed each year, and also to get more specific with the plants I will place in the Perennial Beneficial Beds. This will eventually be made into a “page” under sustainable ag as I fill in the gaps. I also fully intend on putting this design into practice at the Market Garden this year, and the learnings once I put spade to soil will be legion.



6 Responses

  1. Ah! A geek after my own heart. 🙂 I have my beds (about 100sf total) laid out in a very similar way: One each for nightshades, curcurbits, brassicas, alliums/greens/root veg, legumes, and grains (or more legumes). The legumes and grains are my cover crops, and the whole assemblage rotates one bed each year.

  2. Legumes as part of the cover crop rotation is a great idea!
    Also not mentioned is the heavy use of under cropping white dutch clover ala Fukuoka which I tried this past year and fell in love with.

  3. Do you find the clover gets in the way of smaller seeds like carrots? I’m always afraid if I let that get established, I’ll have to weed it out by hand if ever want to direct-seed in the garden again.

  4. quite audacious, I guess I’ll have to dig deeper into your archive to get your thoughts on no-till. There are different schools of thought.

  5. espringf – The perennial clovers were in use in tilled beds with Big Aggressive plants like broccoli and tomatoes. For carrots, etc I would not recommend the wdc as it would most likely out compete it.
    In this rotation the chickens should be able to scratch the soil clean before a planting of more vulnerable crops after a clover under planting. Using an annual red clover that winter kills would also work in the rotation. Much, much more to research and experiment on with this!

    Ed, my no till is purely arm chair stuff right now-but i have several posts on it. In my HOA beds I am only now, 3 years in, battling the quack grass to a standstill and seeking an armistice. Deep Mulching simply lets the rhizomes run amuck.

    My reading in Ecology, Permaculture, Fukuaoka, Ruth Stout, and my new books on soil fertility are driving me to the conclusions that Nature is the only way to develop long term fertility in our soils through the soil ecosystem processing high (6+%) organic matter soils. Tilling buggers up both the soil ecosystem and the organic matter by mxing the soil strata and driving excessive oxygen into the soil, which drives a significant pulse of availible nutrients as the soil ecosystem goes into hyperdrive, but doing so burns alot of organic matter in the process. My hope is that Chicken Tractors will provide a nice comprormise between Ruth Stout’s pure no till, and intensive market gardening ala Eliot Coleman.

    Finally look for a post in the near future about my concerns about the carbon emissions implications of tilling (more in Big Ag than Big Backyard) which is also playing into my no till leanings.

  6. I wanted to commend you on a job well done.
    Put down 5 people now who have Numbers and Pages. LOL 🙂 I just bought iWork and a new Imac 24 incher. I have had macs before but not a intel mac until now.
    I also have copefarms.com which has gone some new construction thanks to the Mac. iWeb is a joy to use. You may want to look into it. I was using another blog type of software and am slowly transferring over my old material to the new site.
    I love small farms like yours and that is what got me into farming myself.
    I had been on a farm tour with some friends of mine and they were visiting small organic farms around 0-15 acres or so. Many were 3-5 acres and making a good living from it. I couldnt believe that one this was a farm and two how small yet productive they were. I have 37 acres of land and I thought to myself if they can do this on this amll of a piece of land just look at what I could do. Of course not all of my land is farmable and I plan on keeping it that way. Most is woodland setting and I like that. I am trying to keep it as natural as possible while still allowing a farm setting within.
    Keep up the good work and look forward to reading more of your blog here.
    Thanks Michael Rutherford Farm Manager of COPE Farms Caretakers Of Planet Earth

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