Getting organized

There are a few things in the garden that truly require crop rotation, or at least the books and websites say they do. As I understand it, all the members of the pea family as well as potatoes benefit greatly from moving around from year to year. Carrots, too, are prone to bugs that can be escaped via smart rotation.

Along with that consideration, the sun in Montana is kind of fickle and thus sunlight needs to be planned around. The angle of the sun, our surrounding mountain tops, and the height of the mature plant all come together in a vegetable trigonometry which I take into account each year.

The first year we owned the house I planted willy-nilly in regard to height vs. sun direction. Corn grew tall and stunted the basil that struggled in its formidable eastern shadow, the squashes shaded themselves and only grew well in the first row, and the snow peas prevented the tomatoes from getting any sun in June. It wasn't a disaster, but it was utterly preventable and a very amateur mistake. I started a garden journal that year that has proven really helpful. It contains comments like, "The short blonde girl at the farmer's market had the best tomato starts. Buy at least two Sungolds next year" "Zucchini EAST of herbs, not west!" as well as "Corn; never again. Leave it to people in Kansas to grow that stuff."

Every year I sketch out a tentative plan in the notebook that puts the taller plants to the east, and the shorter ones to the west. I also carefully study the previous year's final garden drawing to make sure that my peas are living in new real estate to prevent some kind of pea rot that I don't even want to know about. And my husband (of Polish ancestry) always insists we plant more potatoes then last year, so I plot out a new stretch of garden for tubers. This year we might try purple Peruvians!

Then, I start planting. Rarely does my sketch directly correspond to the reality come August, but it is close. You can plant carrots to the east of tomatoes, it just does not seems like a terrific idea. And this year, I will do so, and we'll see how it goes. Maybe they will like some shading? I'll find out.

Also, I like to mark my rows with tidy little labels. Here is a tip for my fellow gardeners; cut little garden labels out of a sturdy plastic yogurt container, then use a sharpie marker to write on them. The marker will fade a bit with direct sunlight, but in general it is a great reuse for those yogurt containers that I know everyone has around the kitchen.


DaleA said...

Had to chuckle at the Kansas/corn comment. I'm actually putting in some corn this year for the first time, but am using it, oddly, more for bordering and decoration in an odd corner than for production. Any ears I harvest will just be a bonus.