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:
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.