Field Crops - The Main Vegetable Garden - Organic Gardening for Self Sufficiency - William Dire Wolff

The larger garden may be planted as row crops, instead of as fixed beds. Compost is spread on the garden in the fall. In the spring, a tractor is used to plow and disc the earth. Horses can be used to plow and disc, if you prefer to be more low tech. Often times, a local farmer can be hired to plow an acre of ground, if you don't have a tractor. Roto-tillers are another option, although a heavy duty machine will be needed. Once the soil is cultivated, seeds are planted according the package spacing instructions and/or according to the width of cultivation equipment, Row crops are planted to allow a tractor or person to walk down the rows between plants, in order to allow weeding and other plant maintenance. The garden must be weeded and watered, throughout the summer. Mulch can applied to reduce the weeds and retain soil moisture. Finally the garden is harvested and the produce is stored in autumn.

This is also a good place to use French Intensive Gardening techniques, such as French Intensive Bio-Dynamic Beds. French Intensive planting uses the least amount of space as possible, and does not require annual plowing and discing. A tractor equipped with a backhoe can reduce the time needed to dig the beds. Creating permanent French Intensive Bio-Dynamic Garden Beds require more work initially, but will be less work, in later years.

Regardless if you plant rows or make beds, you will still to water the plants. There are many options from rainbird sprinklers with movable pipes to fixed drip irrigation systems. Water can be moved downhill using gravity. Often time the water needs to be pumped from a well, pond, or stream using a gasoline motor. Windmills are also used to pump water from wells. Finding a water source, and getting the water to the plants is an essential key in planning your garden.

Annual plants (plants that live only one year) should be rotated to different beds, from year to year. The garden should receive full sunlight, for as many hours a day as possible. Garden soil needs good drainage. The plants must be kept weed free and watered. Using a garden hoe, chop the dirt around the vegetables. Chop up the weeds and till them into the earth, to compost. Chop dirt clods into as fine of particles, as possible.

Placing mulch around the plants helps keep down the weeds, and retains moisture in the soil. I prefer to mulch with newspaper and straw. After the plants have sprouted, lay newspaper around the seedlings. Lay the newspaper flat and tear holes around the plant stems. Throw a few dirt clogs on the paper to hold it sown in the wind. Then cover the newspaper with layer of straw. The straw and paper will compost into the soil during winter. I was told not to use color ink pages or the slick magazine pages. Place the mulch over the drip irrigation lines. The mulch will prevent most weeds from growing, and eliminate the need to hoe up the dirt clogs. Mulch can greater reduce garden maintenance, over the course of the summer.

The chart below shows a possible lay-out for a field Crops. There are many books and references for companion planting and seed spacing guidelines. Perennial plants (plants that live longer than two years) such as Grapes, Strawberries and Asparagus, can also be incorporated in the main vegetable garden. Perennials should be planted to the edges, where they will not be in the way of cultivation equipment.

Vegetables for the main garden
Corn Soy Beans Green Beans Pinto Beans
Lettuce Eggplant Green Onions Radishes
Garlic Onions Potatoes Tomatoes
Green Peppers Hot Peppers Cabbage Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts Cauliflower Chard Turnips
Beets Cucumber Squash Acorn Squash
Spaghetti Squash Zucchini Pumpkin Peas
Carrots Melons Basil Water Melons
Asparagus Mustard Grapes Strawberry
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